JOHNSON: Run Support

OMAHA, Neb. -- Carlos Rodon has been dominant in four starts against North Carolina, but a lack of run support has left the Pack just 1-3 in those games.

We all know what Rodon has done against North Carolina in his career.

In 32.1 innings, Rodon has allowed just three earned runs (a 0.84 ERA), 19 hits and 10 walks, while striking out 43. By any definition, that's domination.

The issue for NC State, and the reason the Pack is just 1-3 in Rodon's starts against the Heels, is the Pack's inability to score against the Heels pitching. After sweeping the Heels in Raleigh in 2011, scoring 23 runs over three games, the Pack bats have gone cold against the Heels. In their seven meetings since Rodon joined the team, the Pack has scored just 19 runs (seven of which came in one game) which comes out to under three runs a game. For Rodon, the support has been even worse – five runs in four games.

So the question worth asking isn't whether Rodon can shut down the Heels for a fifth time – it's whether the Pack can get the bats going enough to win the game. They'll face North Carolina's ace on Sunday, Kent Emanuel. And while Emanuel has struggled in the NCAA tournament, especially since being brought out of the bullpen on two days rest against Florida Atlantic. But Emanuel closed out South Carolina in the Super Regional on Tuesday and didn't have to throw a lot of pitches, meaning he should be better rested for his match-up with the Pack.

Two-thirds of the Pack line-up has seen Emanuel multiple times since he began playing for North Carolina in 2011. Here's how each Pack starter has performed in their match-ups with Emanuel along with the Carolina starters line in each of his three starts.

Emanuel vs NC State
April 11, 2011 (ND) – 1.1 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 1 K
March 24, 2012 (L) – 6.2 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 2 BBs, 4 Ks
April 26, 2013 (W) – 8 IP, 7 hits, 1 run, 3 BBs, 9 Ks
Total – 16 IP, 17 hits, 6 runs, 6 BBs, 14 Ks

Pack Players vs Emanuel
Brett Williams 2-9, 2 runs, 1 RBI
Trea Turner 0-6, 3 BBs, 3 Ks
Brett Austin 3-8, 2 RBI, 1 K
Jake Fincher – 2-8, 2 runs, 1 RBI, 1 K
Logan Ratledge – 2-6, 1 run, 1 BB
Tarran Senay – 0-5, 1 K
Grant Clyde – 1-4, 2 Ks
Bryan Adametz – 2-4, 1 run, 1 K
Total – 12-50 (.240), 6 runs, 4 RBI, 4 BBs, 9 Ks

It's not as impressive as what Rodon has done, but there's also not a lot of success in the current line-up against Emanuel. Williams is the only player on the team who faced him in 2011, and he missed all of 2012 with an injury so no player has seen him more than twice. Turner is hitless in nine plate appearances though he has drawn three walks. Adametz got two hits in his only game against Emanuel earlier this season while Ratledge has hit safely both times he faced the Carolina ace.

Brett Austin, who hasn't hit safely since a 2-4 performance in the opening game of the Raleigh Regional, has had the most success against Emanuel. Austin came through with the game-winning hit against Emanuel last season, singling home two runs to break a 1-1 tie in the 7th inning and handing Emanuel his first loss of 2012. There'd be no better time than Sunday for Austin to break out of his slump and come through with another clutch hit for the Pack.

On Saturday, the Pack looked loose and at ease during practice. Avent roamed around the field chatting up various members of the 1968 team and provided a few suggestions to the guys taking batting practice. It was as casual as practices come, wrapping up early because of some inclement weather in the area. There's no indication – yet – that the stage will prove too big for the team making its first appearance in almost half a century.

One thing is certain - the Pack will be ready for North Carolina, and the Heels will also be ready for the Pack. The battle of Tobacco Road may have traveled over 1,000 miles west, but the intensity of the rivalry hasn't budged.

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