#1 North Carolina vs NC State, 8 PM, ESPN
In probably the most predictable occurrence so far in Omaha, UNC and NC State end up playing each other in an elimination game. This is a nightmare for both fan bases because if UNC wins, it will stick in the craw of Wolfpack fans. If NC State wins, that would be two straight losses to the Pack on baseball's biggest stage. Losing rivalry games is bad enough, losing them with the season on the line is a thousand times worse.
And the Tar Heels are plenty motivated after losing the first game in the CWS 8-1 to NC State which included another nine innings of dominance from Carlos Rodon. In theory, UNC won't have to worry about Rodon or at least a full game of him. With Rodon only on three days rest, NC State will use left hander Brad Stone against the Tar Heels left heavy lineup. Stone is 3-2 with a 5.28 ERA in 58 innings of work this season. He has not faced UNC this season. The numbers say UNC should be able to score off Stone, question remains is if they will given some of the batting issues the Heels have had in the postseason.
UNC will counter with Hobbs Johnson who has not pitched since struggling early versus South Carolina on June 9th. Johnson gave up five runs in just 1.2 innings as the Heels fell 8-0 in Game 2 of the Super Regional. Johnson will need to be as good as he was the last time he faced NC State which was in the infamous 18-inning ACC Tournament game. Johnson pitched 5.1 innings giving up one run and striking out nine. Something along those lines would be great but as is always the case with Johnson, the bullpen will be involved and without Trent Thornton. Johnson's outings are usually in the 5-7 innings range which means UNC will need help from some of the bullpen arms to survive another game.
It stands to reason that if UNC can get past NC State, they would have at least a fighting chance against a light hitting UCLA team despite needing to win two. As was the case against LSU, the Tar Heel bats need to be a factor, even more so than they were on Tuesday. Something along the lines of returning the favor from Sunday would be great and if Johnson can produce a quality start, it might save the bullpen a bit. If the game is tight late, the possibility of UNC seeing Rodon again increases. The best way to not see the Wolfpack sophomore until next year is to score early and often.