Scouting the Wolfpack

North Carolina State comes to Gainesville this weekend as one of the most complete teams in the country. The Wolfpack is riding an offense with speed at the top and power in the middle, while featuring one of the best starting pitchers in the country. Florida has spent the week preparing for a red hot North Carolina State team that starts play in Gainesville on Saturday at 2 p.m.

It all starts with left-hander Carlos Rodon. The freshman ace is 9-0 with a 1.61 ERA. In 111.2 innings pitched, Rodon has allowed 71 hits, 41 walks and struck out 132 batters. He has allowed just two home runs on the season and given up an average of .181 against him.

"6-4, 235, 92-97, aggressive and a strikeout slider," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said about what makes Rodon effective. "He's good. We've faced some other good pitchers this year—(LSU ace Kevin) Gausman, (Mississippi State ace Chris) Stratton, (Arkansas ace Ryne) Stanek, (Georgia ace) Alex Wood."

The Gators went 4-0 in games that those four pitchers started this season. Gausman and Stratton were first round picks earlier this week while Wood was a second round pick. Stanek is expected to be one of the top picks in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Florida has seen tough aces in SEC play all season, but none of them were nominated for the Golden Spikes Award like Rodon, who joined Florida catcher Mike Zunino and Stanford right-hander Mark Appel in that group.

"Rodon has got some great stuff," Florida right fielder Preston Tucker said. "We watched a couple videos and heard some things that he has outstanding pitches. He's a hard thrower. I'm excited to see him. We don't get to face many ACC teams, so I'm excited for some new competition."

North Carolina State head coach Elliott Avent has electing to save Rodon for Sunday's second game of the Super Regional. The Wolfpack will send junior right-hander Ethan Ogburn (5-3, 3.23) to the mound instead on Saturday.

The key for the Gators will be to get into the NC State bullpen. The unit has struggled at times. In 15 less innings, the Wolfpack pitching staff has walked 100 more batters than Florida.

At the plate, the Wolfpack has one of the best spark plugs in the country. Freshman third baseman Trea Turner bats leadoff and is hitting .344 with a .441 on-base percentage. He has scored a team-high 71 runs on five home runs.

The freshman makes his biggest impact on the base paths. Turner leads the country with 56 stolen bases on the season after being thrown out stealing just four times.

"I take it as a challenge, and so does our pitching staff," Florida catcher Mike Zunino said. "If he gets on, we'll try to hold him there while changing our looks up. We'll try to limit him as much as we can."

Florida's game plan to slow Turner is pretty basic.

"He can't steal bases if he doesn't get on," Florida starting pitcher Hudson Randall said with a laugh. "We have a great catcher behind the plate, and I definitely trust him. I just have to give him a shot to throw him out."

After Turner, Chris Diaz (.356, 1 HR, 55 RBI), Danny Canela (.342, 6 HR, 44 RBI) and Ryan Mathews (.336, 17 HR, 62 RBI) anchor the 2-4 spots in the order.

Mathews originally signed with Florida when Pat McMahon was the head coach and spent two semesters on campus in Gainesville. He followed by transferring to Santa Fe Community College, followed by Western Carolina before eventually ending up at NC State.

"Their lineup is good," O'Sullivan said. "They have power in the middle of the lineup and some guys at the top that make things go."

Fightin Gators Top Stories