THE GAME AT A GLANCE
Turning Point: Mike Cavasinni singled to lead off the second inning, and then Reid Fronk and Josh Horton smacked consecutive RBI doubles to drive in all the runs North Carolina needed.
The Hero: Righthander Robert Woodard threw nine sterling innings to hold Clemson scoreless for the first time in 130 games, dating to Feb. 20, 2005 against East Carolina. The junior upstaged both first-round picks in North Carolina's rotation by allowing three hits and two walks while recording six strikeouts.
You May Not Have Noticed: Clemson's junior righthander, Stephen Faris, threw nearly as strong a game as Woodard. He held a team averaging more than 10 runs per game in the NCAA tournament to two runs on seven hits in throwing an eight-inning complete game. He made two bad pitches all night, leaving a fastball out over the plate to Fronk and hanging a slider to Horton. Faris walked one and struck out five.
But people will remember Woodard now.
Tar Heels coach Mike Fox turned to the 46th-round pick Woodard, and not the flamethrowing Bard, in UNC’s second College World Series game Sunday, and the crafty righthander rewarded his coach with a masterful, three-hit, complete-game shutout of No. 1 national seed Clemson. Consecutive RBI doubles by Reid Fronk and Josh Horton in the third inning gave Woodard all the support he would need in a 2-0 win.
With the win, North Carolina improved to 52-13 and set a school record for victories in a season. More importantly, it kept the Tar Heels in the winner's bracket, where they await the winner of Tuesday's Cal State Fullerton-Clemson elimination game.
"That's about as well-pitched a game as I think you’ll ever see," Fox said. "Robert didn't pitch in the super-regionals, and I don't think he really liked his outing in the regionals at home (4 1/3 innings, seven hits, four earned runs against Maine), so coming up here he's kind of had this built up inside him for a couple of weeks now. He loves this kind of environment and this big of game, and he's about as big a competitor as I think I've ever coached. You saw that tonight--he was just masterful against a really, really good Clemson team."
It took Woodard 130 pitches to shut out that potent Tigers lineup, which hadn't been shut out in its previous 130 games. And he did it with a fastball that sat in the 83-85 mph range, topping out at 87. But Woodard kept the Tigers (53-15) off balance with his slider and changeup, and his herky-jerky delivery gives his stuff plenty of deception.
"It's difficult. I felt like every at-bat I was all over a
lot of pitches," said Clemson leadoff man Herman Demmink, who went 0-for-4. "I
didn't notice a whole lot of movement, and I spoke to
Woodard (7-1) prides himself on his preparation, so naturally he and UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes worked hard to develop a game plan for Clemson. Forbes called all of the pitches through catcher Benji Johnson, and Woodard said he didn't shake off one call.
"(The plan was to) pound the strike zone, work down," Woodard said. "Clemson's a very aggressive team, so my job was really to focus on the sink of the ball, keep it down. If I was going to miss, miss below the knees. Every single pitch, I just told myself that, and I reminded myself that constantly throughout the game."
Woodard's success comes as no surprise to the
"What separates Woodard is when he's pitching his bullpen or
on flat ground, in his mind, he's pitching in
Clemson might feel the same way about him now.