North Carolina 2, Clemson 0

College World Series Game Six; Winner’s Bracket

See also: Box Score


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.


OMAHA–It’s easy
to forget about Robert Woodard. He’s the other
in a North Carolina
rotation that features two first-round draft picks in Andrew Miller and Daniel

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 Taylor
(Harbin) after the game and I guess
we both felt like we were all over it. There must be some really late movement
on some of his pitches. It does make it frustrating, because to an outsider it
doesn’t look like his stuff is really that electric, but he does a very good
job of hitting spots, keeping the ball low, and keeping hitters off balance.”

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 North
coaching staff, of course. Woodard’™s intense
work ethic and competitiveness even made him stand out above his high-profile
rotationmates a year ago, when Woodard went 8-0, 2.11 and became UNC’™s Friday
starter by the end of the season.

“What separates Woodard is when he’s pitching his bullpen or
on flat ground, in his mind, he’s pitching in Omaha,”
Forbes said before this season started. “He’s just one of those kids that has
such a high concentration level during his practice, his work, and he just
competes. I really think Rob Woodard feels like he’s going to succeed and win
every time he comes on the mound.”

Clemson might feel the same way about him now.