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Woodard, UNC blank top seed Clemson on three-hitter

6/19/2006

OMAHA, Neb. -- For one night at least, a 46th-round draft
pick by the name of Robert Woodard commanded the spotlight usually
reserved for North Carolina's two better-known pitchers.

Robert Woodard threw a three-hitter and struck out seven to help
North Carolina beat top-seeded Clemson 2-0 in the College World
Series on Sunday night.

The junior had been overshadowed all season by first-rounders
Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard. But in his 130-pitch outing, Woodard
effectively mixed his fastball, slider and changeup to confuse
Clemson batters and put a stop to the Tigers' run of four straight
come-from-behind victories.

"Robert didn't pitch in the super regional, but he loves this
kind of environment, this kind of game," Carolina coach Mike Fox
said. "It was just masterful."

Woodard, who said he has been watching the CWS on television
since he was 6, made a point to drink in the atmosphere at
Rosenblatt Stadium and not concern himself with whisking the
attention from Miller and Bard.

"The stage itself is enough," said Woodard, taken on the
second day of the draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. "As far as
Miller and Bard, they deserve everything they get. I'm just glad to
be a part of the staff with those guys."

Clemson (53-15) was shut out for the first time since a 10-0
loss to East Carolina in February 2005. That's a span of 131 games.

Reid Fronk and Josh Horton had consecutive doubles in the third
inning to provide the only offense that the Tar Heels would need.

North Carolina (52-13) won its first two games at the CWS for
the first time in five visits to Omaha and now is in command of
Bracket 1. The Tar Heels play Wednesday against the winner of a
Tuesday elimination game between Clemson and Cal State Fullerton.
One win sends North Carolina to the best-of-three championship
series beginning Saturday.

"Fullerton or Clemson, they're going to do everything they can
to stay alive Tuesday, and we'll be ready," Fox said. "We know
how important those first two wins are. Somebody has to beat us
twice, and that's a good position to be in."

Woodard (7-1) threw his second shutout in five starts and the
first at the CWS since Fullerton's Jason Windsor blanked South
Carolina on June 19, 2004.

"The last couple of weeks, my arm has felt very good," Woodard
said. "Playing on this kind of stage, I told myself to slow
everything down mentally and physically and lock in on every single
pitch."

The right-hander retired the last seven Clemson batters. Woodard
opened the ninth striking out Tyler Colvin, who saw his 26-game
hitting streak end when he looked at strike three. Taylor Harbin
struck out for the second out.

Then Andy D'Alessio, whose three-run homer sparked an eight-run
eighth-inning rally in Friday's win over Georgia Tech, grounded out
to second to bring the Tar Heels out of their dugout in
celebration.

Even Tar Heels basketball coach Roy Williams got into the act,
slapping backs, shaking hands and posing for pictures with players
in front of the dugout.

Carolina's one burst of sustained offense produced the only runs
against an otherwise effective Stephen Faris (9-3), who scattered
seven hits, walked one and struck out five in eight innings.

Mike Cavasinni singled leading off the third, then Fronk and
Horton hit back-to-back doubles to make it 2-0.

The Tar Heels managed just one more hit.

The Tigers had runners in scoring position on three occasions,
but Woodard shut them down each time. The Tigers' three hits
matched their season low, set in a win over Elon in March.

Woodard credited pitching coach Scott Forbes, who relayed the
pitch calls to catcher Benji Johnson.

"I never shook him off once," Woodard said. "It's a great
tribute to coach Forbes and his preparation, and I'm happy for him
as well."

Clemson had won each of its previous four games after trailing
at some point after the sixth inning.

But there would be no comeback this night against a Carolina
team that is now 41-2 when leading after the sixth.

"We still had the confidence that in the fifth, sixth, seventh
inning, if we could get the leadoff man on and get something going,
we would have an opportunity," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said.
"It just seems like we were trying to get a man on base with one
or two outs and battle from the back side of the inning rather than
the front side of the inning."

It was the first meeting of the season between the Atlantic
Coast Conference rivals because of a new scheduling format adopted
when the league expanded to 12 teams.