N.C. State's Rodon a tough test for Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida catcher Mike Zunino wasn’t quite sure how to pronounce N.C. State pitcher Carlos Rodon’s last name.

Row-dun or Roe-don?

Doesn’t really matter. That’s actually pretty far down on the list of things about Rodon that Zunino and the Gators have to worry about when the teams meet this weekend at McKethan Stadium for a best-of-three Super Regional -- well below Rodon’s 99-mph fastball, the other four pitches he throws for strikes, and the fact that teams are hitting less than .200 against the 6-foot-3, 234-pound lefty.

"He’s a great presence on the mound," Zunino said. "Obviously his numbers are great. He’s got a great arm so we’re going to have to come out here and battle and have good at-bats and see what happens."

Rodon -- who is scheduled to start Game 2 of the Super Regional -- is 9-0 with a 1.61 ERA and 132 strikeouts and 111.2 innings pitched this season. He was named the ACC’s Pitcher of the Year, a first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top player.

And he’s only a freshman.

"He’s got some great stuff," UF outfielder Preston Tucker said. "We watched a couple videos, heard some things, and he’s got outstanding pitches. He’s a hard thrower, and I’m excited to see him."

The top-seeded Gators (45-18) have faced some of the nation’s top pitchers this season, including two who were taken in the first round of the MLB draft earlier this week: LSU’s Kevin Gausman (fourth) and Mississippi State’s Chris Stratton (20th). They also faced Georgia’s Alex Wood, a second-round pick.

But no one like Rodon, who is third nationally in strikeouts, fifth nationally in ERA, and fifth nationally in hits per nine innings.

"He’s very good, and we’ll have to be on top of our game," UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.

UF and N.C. State (43-18) will play at 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday, and 1 p.m. Monday (if necessary). The winner of the Super Regional will advance to the College World Series. The Gators are trying to make the trip for the third year in a row.