CLEMSON — Tonight’s ACC baseball opener at No. 9 N.C. State (11-2) is unlikely to present a cure for Clemson’s offensive ailments.
Against the Atlantic Division favorites, Clemson (7-4) will face Wolfpack ace Carlos Rodon, who is projected to be the first pick in the major league draft once the sophomore is eligible in 2014.
The 6-3, 234-pound Rodon has an overpowering fastball-slider combination that allowed him to become the first ACC freshman to win pitcher or the year honors last season when he led the conference in ERA (1.57), innings (114.2) and batting average (.176). He also struck out 135 batters.
Rodon has picked up where he left off, striking out 38 batters in 20 innings this season, while allowing just seven hits and five walks date. Rodon struck out 16 Florida Atlantic batters in seven innings last weekend.
Oh, and he’s left-handed. Southpaw pitchers have given Clemson fits this year. holding the Tigers to just 21 hits in 37 1/3 innings. Rodon struck out 14 Tigers in eight innings last year, the toughest lefty Clemson faced since standing in against Chris Sale, now an ace with the White Sox, in 2010.
Clemson coach Jack Leggett said his team’s offensive approach must improve
“We are going to see some really good pitching this weekend.” Leggett said. “He’s a good pitcher. It will be a big challenge for us.”
N.C. State coach Elliott Avent was more effusive in his praise of Rodon when speaking with Baseball America.
“His demeanor and the way he goes about his business on the mound reminds me a lot of Bob Gibson,” Avent said. “He’s got two plus pitches with his fastball and his slider but that biggest thing that sells you on Rodon is his competitiveness. This is a guy that was diving head-first to beat out an infield single during fall practices.”