RALEIGH, N.C. — Eighth-ranked NC State looked like anything but the eighth best college baseball team in the country Friday, dropping its 2013 season opener 6-3 to visiting Appalachian State.
All-America lefthander Carlos Rodon went six innings and served up three home runs in taking his first college loss and his first loss anywhere since May, 21, 2010, the final game of his junior year at Holly Springs High School. Rodon went 11-0 as a senior at Holly Springs, 9-0 as a college freshman for the Wolfpack a year ago, and 2-0 for USA Baseball last summer, a winning streak of 22 consecutive decisions, snapped by the Mountaineers.
Rodon’s biggest bugaboo was the long ball. He gave up three of them, two on very poorly located first-pitch fastballs. He wound up tossing six innings and allowing five runs, all on home runs. He allowed five hits, two singles and three homers. He struck out eight and walked one. It wasn't a great performance, but it was far from awful.
The Wolfpack’s problem was not the pitching, but the offense. It didn’t show up. Trea Turner had two of NC State’s four hits, one of them a double he legged out after hitting a Baltimore chopper over the third baseman’s head and into shallow left field. Aside from Turner, the Pack was a woeful 2-for-26 at the plate and made Mountaineers starter Jamie Nunn look like the All-American in the pitching matchup. Take nothing away from Nunn. He threw strikes, pitched ahead in the count and hit his spots. That said, the home team helped him out immensely with a poor approach at the plate, up and down the lineup.
Appalachian State freshman center fielder Jaylin Davis got the Mountaineer offense rolling by crushing the first college pitch he ever saw, a fastball up in the zone from Rodon, for a three-run homer. Davis also split the gap in right-center for a double in the ninth, and ran down a line drive in deep center field off the bat of Turner to end a sort-of Wolfpack rally in the fifth.
NC State got nice relief outings from senior Josh Easley and junior Andrew Woeck, both righthanders. Easley, returning to action for the first time after Tommy John surgery, pitched 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth before running into trouble in the ninth. Woeck followed Easley to the mound with runners on second and third and none out in the top of the ninth. He walked Preston Troutman to load the bases, then uncorked a wild pitch to score an unearned run. He recovered by retiring the next three batters, two of them on strikeouts. The wild pitch hurt, but Woeck still pitched out of serious trouble and allowed minimal damage.
Baseball America recently featured NC State on the cover of its annual college preview issue. The Pack did nothing to justify that on Friday. If anything, the State players looked as though they'd spent a little too much time reading about themselves and way too little time getting ready for the 2013 season. Coached by former NC State assistant Billy Jones, and with former Wolfpack players Michael Rogers and Matt Payne on the coaching staff, Appalachian State came ready to play, and it showed. The Mountaineers took it to the Pack from the first inning on.
Saturday’s weather forecast is not good. With rain and snow on the way, the game was moved from a 4 p.m. start time to 1 p.m., but that may be too late to miss the coming precipitation. And if it does snow and there’s any accumulation, the chances of playing Sunday will be in jeopardy. The Wolfpack needs to get back on the field to get the bad taste out of its mouth. The weatherman may not allow that.