Tar Heels shut out Wolfpack to keep CWS title hunt alive

North Carolina got the last laugh against instate rival North Carolina State, sending the Wolfpack packing for home while the Tar Heels stayed alive in the College World Series.

Hobbs Johnson outpitched more-heralded Carlos Rodon as North Carolina defeated North Carolina State 7-0 on Thursday night in Omaha, Neb., to keep alive its shot at the College World Series championship series.

It was the first time all year that the Wolfpack (50-16) has been shut out. Johnson quietly kept the Wolfpack off balance, allowing only one runner to reach third base all night.

The Tar Heels (59-11) face UCLA on Friday night. If they win, a winner-take-all game will occur Saturday. A loss Friday would end the Tar Heels’ season.

Rodon, who started the first game of the College World Series for N.C, State on Sunday, was pitching on three days’ rest. The first batter he faced (Chas Frank) hit a single up the middle. But Rodon then struck out the next three batters, all swinging.

Rodon (10-3) showed no signs of fatigue through the first three innings. He struck out six of the first 10 batters he faced. But Johnson (5-1) was up to the task for North Carolina. He pitched 3 1/3 hitless innings to begin his start. He finished with no runs and five hits through 8 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out six in the longest outing of his career.

In the fourth, Rodon began to falter just slightly. He gave up a leadoff single to Colin Moran, who moved to second on a ground ball to the pitcher by Brian Holberton. Rodon was charged with an error on an attempted fielder’s choice at second. With runners on first and second and no outs, Rodon walked Cody Stubbs to load the bases. Skye Bolt grounded into a fielder’s choice that got Moran at the plate.

Michael Russell then hit a fly ball to medium depth in right. Jake Fincher made a perfect throw to home, but Holberton made an even better slide, reaching around the tag for the game’s first run.

Parks Jordan led off the fifth with a hit-by-pitchas Rodon reached the 70-pitch mark, the total that coach Elliott Avent said Rodon could pitch on three days’ rest. Frank sacrificed Jordan to second. Moran’s two-out single to center gave North Carolina a 2-0 lead. Rodon retired Holberton and the inning — and Rodon’s night — was done.

The two teams completed an extraordinary five-game season series. As ACC rivals, they played twice in the regular season and split. Then they met in the ACC postseason tournament, with North Carolina winning in 18 innings on the way to the tournament title. The fourth meeting was in the teams’ opening-round CWS game, with N.C. State winning 8-1.

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