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Sunday, June 18, 2006
Woodard, UNC blank top seed Clemson on three-hitter

Associated Press

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.