OMAHA, Neb. – It was another rough afternoon for ACC pitcher of the year Kent Emanuel.
North Carolina's ace failed to make it out of the third inning for a second straight start, and the Tar Heels lost 8-1 to North Carolina State in their College World Series opener Sunday.
"Just not making the pitches I need to," Emanuel said. "Basically, it's simple as that."
The Tar Heels (57-11) are in Omaha for the sixth time in eight years. They lost their first game at the CWS for the third straight time.
They'll play an elimination game Tuesday against UCLA or LSU. They haven't lost back to back games all season.
"You have to rely on the leaders on your team to rally, and they've been able to do that all year long," Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "It'll be another really good team, and we'll obviously have to play better. I have confidence in my guys. It's disappointing today. I have no doubt we'll be ready Tuesday."
North Carolina State's Carlos Rodon pitched eight shutout innings to continue his mastery of North Carolina. He held the No. 1 national seed Tar Heels hitless into the fifth inning. He allowed five hits and struck out eight.
It was the sophomore left-hander's second straight dominating performance against the Tar Heels. Three weeks ago he allowed one hit and struck out 14 in 10 innings but got no decision in a 2-1, 18-inning loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Brett Williams, Bryan Adametz and Logan Ratledge had two hits apiece for the Wolfpack (50-14), with Ratledge driving in two runs out of the No. 9 hole.
NC State and Carolina, whose campuses are 28 miles apart, were meeting for the 285th time in baseball but never on this big a stage.
Rodon thrived on it.
He opened by walking Chaz Frank on four pitches, then retired 14 straight batters before Brian Holberton singled up the middle on a first-pitch fastball with two out in the fifth inning.
Rodon (10-2) got help from a defense that turned double plays after the Tar Heels had men on base in the seventh and eighth innings.
The Tar Heels broke through in the ninth, with Frank singling leading off and Landon Lassiter following with an RBI double.
Emanuel (11-4) was nothing like he was two years ago at the CWS when he threw a four-hit shutout against Texas as a freshman.
Emanuel failed to make it out of the third inning for the second straight start, and the Tar Heels tied a CWS record by using eight pitchers.
The junior left-hander was down 5-0 when he was pulled Sunday after allowing two doubles and two singles to the final five batters he faced. He allowed five runs on six hits and a walk in 2 2-3 innings.
The Houston Astros' third-round pick has an 11.40 ERA in five NCAA tournament appearances, having given up 19 runs in 15 innings.
Emanuel had pitched at least into the seventh inning in 14 of his first 15 starts, and he has logged more career innings (340) than any junior in program history. Carolina coach Mike Fox has been criticized in some quarters for his handling of Emanuel in the NCAA tournament. He made a 51-pitch relief appearance in regionals two days after throwing 124 pitches in a start.
He was tagged for four runs on seven hits in 2 1-3 innings in the super-regional opener against South Carolina, and he got no decision in the Tar Heels' 6-5 win.
Fox said Emanuel has struggled recently with his off-speed pitches, which he typically can go to on any count.
"Hopefully, he's going to get another opportunity out here at some point," Fox said. "We would not be here without him. There's no question about that."