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Tar Heels close out baseball season with Boston College

Posted Thursday, May 18, 2006

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Carolina battling for seeding for ACC tourney against Eagles.

Chapel Hill, NC - Seeding for next week's Atlantic Coast Conference Championship is on the line for No. 5 North Carolina as it hosts league newcomer Boston College for the final three games of the regular season beginning Thursday at Boshamer Stadium. The Tar Heels (42-11, 19-8 ACC) and Eagles (28-22-1, 9-18 ACC) will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday and Noon Saturday.

Carolina holds a one-game lead in the ACC's Coastal Division and could be seeded anywhere between first and fifth in the tourney, which opens May 24 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

Jones Angell and Adam Lucas have the call of all three games for the Tar Heels Sports Network. An audio broadcast will be available on AM-1360 WCHL in Chapel Hill and online at TarHeelBlue.com.

SERIES BREAKDOWN
Game Time UNC Starter/BC Starter
Thurs., 6 p.m. Andrew Miller (10-1, 1.87)/Dan Houston (2-6, 5.19)
Fri., 7 p.m. Robert Woodard (6-1, 2.98)/Terry Doyle (5-4, 3.28)
Sat., Noon Daniel Bard (6-3, 3.75)/Nate Jeanes (2-4, 5.46)

All-Time Series Record: First ever meeting
Fast Fact: The Tar Heels will set a school record for home victories with just one more win at Boshamer Stadium. Carolina has won 90 games at home over the last three seasons.

TAR HEELS AT A GLANCE
• The Tar Heels' 42-11 mark after 53 games ranks as their best since holding the same record heading into the final regular season series in 2000. The first team in the nation to reach 40 victories, Carolina has a school-record five straight 40-win seasons. The 42 victories share the national lead with Rice and Virginia.
• Currently ranked No. 5 in three of the four major polls, Carolina reached the top spot in the rankings for the first time in program history this season. The Tar Heels were ranked No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball from April 17 to May 8 and were first in the NCBWA Poll April 10.
• Through games of May 14, the Tar Heels were ranked ninth nationally in ERA at 3.27 but their school-record eighth shutout of the season Tuesday lowered that mark to 3.21.
Carolina pitching sports a 2.45 ERA over the last 20 games and has allowed more than three earned runs just three times over the last 18 games. • With two home runs Tuesday, Carolina pushed its season total to 62 and needs just one more long ball to match its season total of 2005. Conversely, UNC's pitching staff has surrendered only 19 homers all season, including just one over the last 19 games.
• UNC has already surpassed its 2005 stolen base total with 74 through 53 games. With a pair of outstanding catchers, Carolina has allowed just 31 steals on the year - an average of just over one every two games.
• Six potential starters are batting over .290 for the Tar Heels, including Josh Horton (.407), Jay Cox (.380) and Chad Flack (.366), who all rank among the top six hitters in the ACC.
• Carolina's weekend starting rotation of Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller and Robert Woodard is 22-5 (.815) this season and 67-23 (.744) over the last three years. The Tar Heels have three 20-game winners on their roster for the first time in program history.
• Thanks in large part to reliable middle relievers Jonathan Hovis and Matt Danford and closer Andrew Carignan, Carolina is 33-2 this season when leading after six innings and 37-0 when ahead after seven.

SCOUTING THE EAGLES
Winners of back-to-back ACC series, Boston College enters the weekend with a 28-22-1 overall record and a 9-18 mark in conference play. BC is hitting .286 as a team and is led by sophomore Johnny Ayers, who checks in at .353 with 20 RBI. The Eagles have hit just 25 home runs but have swiped 108 bases in 135 attempts. On the mound, the Eagles own a 4.50 staff ERA led by Friday starter Terry Doyle (5-4, 3.28). Freshman righty Dan Houston (2-6, 5.19) is slated to start Thursday with left-hander Nate Jeanes (2-4, 5.46) set to close out the series Saturday.

NOTING THE CAROLINA STARTERS
THURSDAY: Andrew Miller (Jr., LHP): One of the most dominant starters in the nation, Miller is 6-1 and has allowed just 10 earned runs over 48.2 innings since moving into the Friday slot in Carolina's rotation seven weeks ago. Miller owns a 1.85 ERA over this stretch, which includes wins over nationally-ranked foes Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and NC State. Miller suffered his first loss of the season at Virginia in his last start but allowed just one earned run and struck out eight. Currently fourth on the Tar Heels' career victory list with 24, Miller is Carolina's first 10-game winner since Ryan Snare in 2000. No UNC pitcher has won more than 10 games since Sean Murphy won 11 in 1995. Miller has recorded 10 or more strikeouts three times this season and has 87 on the year and 279 in his career, which is good for third on the Tar Heels' all-time list. He will set a new school record with just 11 more. Miller has worked at least six innings in 11 of his 12 starts (including the last seven) and has gone at least seven in seven of his last 11 outings. On the season, Miller has allowed just 17 earned runs and sports a career-low 1.87 ERA, which ranks among the ACC's best. He has not allowed an earned run in six of his 12 starts and has given up less than two earned runs in nine of 12 starts. Miller also owns four shutout performances of at least six innings. Extra-base hits have been hard to come by against Miller, who has allowed just three doubles and one home run in 300 official at-bats this season. He has allowed only one extra-base hit over his last four starts - a span of 28.2 innings.

FRIDAY: Robert Woodard (Jr., RHP): A winner of 17 of his last 18 decisions, Woodard has allowed just four earned runs over his last four starts (31 innings) for a 1.14 ERA. He has struck out 14 and walked just three over this stretch, which includes victories over Virginia Tech, Duke and then-No. 9 Virginia. Woodard also carried a no-hitter into the fifth in an April 22 no-decision against NC State. Last time out he picked up his first career shutout on a six-hitter against the Cavaliers. Woodard is 6-1 this season with a 2.85 ERA over a team-high 82 innings. He has 38 strikeouts and has issued just 15 walks. Woodard had a run of 18.2 innings without a walk snapped against NC State and has issued just one free pass over his last 17 innings. One of the most consistent hurlers in the ACC, Woodard has lasted six innings or more in 10 of his 12 starts and has gone at least seven innings in five of his last six starts, including complete game victories over top-10 opponents Virginia and Florida State. He has also allowed three earned runs or less in 10 of 12 starts and nine of his last 10 appearances. Woodard's win at Virginia pushed his career record to 22-3, which is good for a tie for eighth on the Tar Heels' career victory list.

SATURDAY: Daniel Bard (Jr., RHP): Bard has been brilliant over his last five appearances (four starts), allowing just four earned runs over 26.2 innings for a 1.35 ERA. He has fanned 24 and walked just 10 over this stretch, which includes wins over Virginia Tech, NC State and Duke. Bard allowed two earned runs over 3.2 innings in a loss at Virginia in his last start. Bard had what head coach Mike Fox described as his best career outing in a complete game, four-hit shutout of NC State April 23. He struck out eight and did not walk a batter over his fourth career complete game and third shutout. With five or more strikeouts in 10 of his 12 starts, Bard is among the ACC's leaders in strikeouts per nine innings. He surpassed the 200-strikeout mark against the Hokies and fanned a career-high 13 in a complete game versus Purdue March 4. Bard now has 223 strikeouts in his career and has fanned a single-season career-best 78 batters this season. On the year, Bard is 6-3 with 78 strikeouts to 29 walks in 72 innings. He is holding opponents to a .220 average. His 3.75 ERA is a career-best mark.

HORTON HUNTS .400, ACC BATTING TITLE
Sophomore shortstop Josh Horton carries a .407 average into the weekend series with Boston College and is aiming to become the first Tar Heel to hit over .400 since Jeremy Cleveland batted .410 in 2003. Only four Tar Heels have hit over .400 for an entire season: Cleveland, current Baltimore Oriole Brian Roberts (1997), Jim Mooring (1961) and B.J. Surhoff (1984). Roberts and Mooring share the Carolina single-season record at .427. Horton leads the ACC in hitting by 14 points over NC State's Matt Camp, who is batting .393. Cleveland is the only Tar Heel since 1979 to win the league batting crown, and only five Carolina players have won the title since the formation of the league in 1954. Horton's .378 career average through 110 games is third in UNC history behind Surhoff and Roberts, two of the program's all-time greats.

CLOSING IN ON HOME WINS RECORD
With 32 home victories, Carolina matched its school record for wins at Boshamer Stadium Tuesday against UNC Greensboro. The Tar Heels were 32-5 year ago and stand 32-4 this season with three games to play against Boston College. UNC has won 90 games at home over the last three seasons.

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS
Seeding for next week's ACC Championships remains up the air heading into the final series of the regular season. The Tar Heels hold a one-game lead over Virginia in the Coastal Division, while Clemson has a two-game lead on Carolina for the overall best record. UNC controls its own destiny in the division, as a sweep of Boston College will give it the Coastal title and one of the top two seeds in the eight-team tourney. Virginia hosts Virginia Tech, Clemson hosts Wake Forest and Georgia Tech hosts Miami in key series opening Thursday.

BIG THREE COMING UP BIG
Junior starters Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller and Robert Woodard are living up to their preseason hype in 2006. The trio of preseason All-Americas is a combined 22-5 with a 2.59 earned run average and has struck out a combined 203 batters in 235.2 innings, while walking just 67. The trio enter this weekend's series with 67 of the Tar Heels' 126 wins over the last three seasons. Since settling on a weekend rotation of Miller, Woodard and Bard against Florida State, the Tar Heels have posted a stellar 2.74 ERA in weekend series and have won five of the six series played.

SENIOR DAY FOR HOVIS
Carolina's lone senior, ace reliever Jonathan Hovis, will be honored prior to the start of Saturday's game on Senior Day at Boshamer Stadium. With a team-high 28 appearances through 53 games, Hovis has been the Tar Heels' most reliable reliever this season. He also has 96 career appearances, which ranks sixth all-time at Carolina and 18th in the ACC record book. Hovis should become just the fifth Tar Heel with 100 or more appearances by the end of the season. He is 6-2 with two saves and has allowed just nine earned runs on 35 hits in 52.2 innings of work for a career-low 1.54 ERA. Hovis has six appearances of three or more innings, including a trio of four-inning outings, which produced two victories. He allowed just one hit over 3.1 scoreless innings to earn a win in the series clincher at Miami and tossed four shutout frames in the 14-inning win over NC State April 22. Over his last 10 outings, Hovis has allowed just two earned runs in 22.1 innings for a 0.81 ERA.

UNC SETS SCHOOL MARK FOR ACC WINS
The Tar Heels might be playing more ACC games than ever these days but they still managed to set a program record for league victories with 19 with three more games to go against Boston College. This year's 19-8 mark surpasses 17-win seasons in 1990, 2002 and 2005. UNC is in search of its first regular season ACC title since the 1990 squad went 17-4 and went on to win the Tar Heels' most recent tournament title.

TAR HEELS REACH 40 ONCE AGAIN
The May 9 win over Campbell gave Carolina its fifth straight 40-win season - a program first. The Tar Heels have had 14 40-win seasons since 1983 with seven coming in the last eight years under head coach Mike Fox. UNC's school record for victories is 51 set in 1990, and it won 46 games in 2000 for its highest total under Fox. The Tar Heels 42 regular season wins mark their most since winning 43 before the start of postseason play in 2000. Carolina also won 43 games before the start of the ACC tourney in 1990.

UNC DOMINATES ACC PITCHING HONORS
After firing his first-ever complete game shutout at Virginia last Saturday, junior right-hander Robert Woodard was named Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career Monday. The Tar Heels' weekend rotation has now combined to win the league's weekly pitching honor five times in 13 weeks this season. Woodard, who needed just 94 pitches over nine innings to notch his third career complete game and second of the season, allowed just six hits, did not walk a batter and struck out two. After pitching out of a fourth-inning jam, the Charlotte Myers Park product retired 15 consecutive Cavalier batters before allowing a two-out single in the ninth. The shutout is the seventh of the year for the Tar Heels and was the first thrown against Virginia since May 14, 2005, when the Cavaliers were blanked by Miami. Woodard now joins Daniel Bard (March 6, April 24) and Andrew Miller (March 27, April 3) as Pitcher of the Week winners. No other staff has more than three selections.

POWER SURGE BY JOHNSON
Sophomore catcher/DH Benji Johnson has put up some big power numbers of late to take over the team lead with 12 home runs, which is tied for third in the ACC. The Pittsboro product has six home runs over the last 10 games, including his first career multi-homer game at Duke April 28. Johnson saw a career-best nine-game hitting streak snapped in the series finale at Virginia but came back to hit his 12th homer of the year against UNC Greensboro Tuesday.

40-RBI CLUB
After having just three players drive in 40 or more runs a year ago, the Tar Heels already have had four players reach that mark this season - Chad Flack (47), Josh Horton (47), Tim Federowicz (46) and Jay Cox (42). Reid Fronk (36) and Benji Johnson (34) have already driven in 30-plus runs, while Matt Spencer is knocking on the door with 27. Carolina had six players drive in 40 runs in 2003, including three with at least 50 that season.

HORTON'S HIT STREAKS
Sophomore shortstop Josh Horton is currently on his third hitting streak of 12 or more games this season and has hit safely in a career-best 15 consecutive games. Horton's current streak is the longest by a Tar Heel since Chris Iannetta hit in 23 straight games in 2004. The longest streak for UNC a year ago was a 14-game run by Seth Williams. Horton also recorded a pair of 12-game streaks earlier in the season and has hit safely in 46 of 52 games played. Horton leads the Tar Heels with a .407 average and is batting .452 (28-62) over his current 15-game hit streak.

WOODARD'S A WINNER
After an 8-0 season in 2005, junior righty Robert Woodard had a 13-game winning streak snapped by a tough-luck loss at Georgia Tech March 26. The Charlotte native had not dropped a decision since a May 11, 2004, start against South Carolina at Knights Castle in Ft. Mill, S.C. Woodard rebounded with a complete game victory over No. 1 Florida State April 1 and has not looked back, posting a 2.34 ERA and three wins in his last five starts. He has been particularly outstanding over the last four starts, which have produced three victories and a sparkling 1.16 ERA in 31 innings. Woodard has run his career record to 22-3, good for an .880 winning percentage, which is second in program history behind Scott Bankhead (.889). Woodard is also a perfect 13-0 at Boshamer Stadium over the last three seasons and will go for win No. 14 against Boston College Friday.

NOTING THE `PEN
Prior to the May 10 loss to Winthrop, the Tar Heels' three main relievers - set-up men Matt Danford and Jonathan Hovis and closer Andrew Carignan - had been lights out over the last month. In a combined 24 appearances between the April 8 loss at Miami and the May 10 loss to the Eagles, Danford, Hovis and Carignan did not allowed an earned run. But against Winthrop and Virginia, the usually reliable backbone of the pitching staff allowed a combined 12 earned runs in just 9.2 innings. Hovis and Danford each gave up two runs, but Carignan allowed a career-high four earned runs in back-to-back appearances after allowing just one earned run over his first 22 appearances.

FLACK ATTACK IS BACK
First baseman Chad Flack might be off his home run pace of a year ago, but he been the Tar Heels' top run producer down the stretch with 28 RBI in the last 20 games to take a share of the team lead with 47. With a .387 average over the last 20 games, Flack has hit safely in 18 games over this stretch and ranks sixth in the ACC with a .366 average. Flack leads the Tar Heels with 27 multi-hit games and now has 48 for his career, which ranks second on the current squad behind Jay Cox's 50.

MILLER BEST IN BIG GAMES
In six games against nationally-ranked opponents, lefty Andrew Miller has been at his best this season. Against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, NC State and Virginia, the Tar Heels' ace is 5-1 with a miniscule 1.27 ERA in 42.2 innings. Three of the six earned runs Miller has allowed against ranked opponents came in 8.1 innings April 21 against NC State - the ACC's top hitting team. Miller is holding the opposition to a .182 average and has 43 strikeouts to just 13 walks in these games. According to Mark Ethridge of SEBaseball.com, "If he is on, Miller is scary good. If he is not on, he is still the best pitcher in the ACC."

WINNINGEST STAFF IN PROGRAM HISTORY
Carolina has three 20-game winners on its pitching staff for the first time in program history this season in juniors Andrew Miller, Daniel Bard and Robert Woodard. Bard and Woodard reached the 21-win mark against Duke, giving the Tar Heels three of the 10 winningest pitchers in the history of Carolina baseball on the staff at one time. Miller moved into a tie for fourth on the all-time list with a win over Duke, while Woodard moved into eighth on the list with his shutout at Virginia. Bard sits ninth with 21 wins.

CARIGNAN MOVING UP SAVES LIST
Sophomore Andrew Carignan has 12 saves in 24 appearances this season and is already tied for second on the Tar Heels' single-season saves list. The Norwich, Conn., product can move into second on his own with just one more save. Thad Crismon owns Carolina's single-season record with 18 saves in 1993. On the year, Carignan has allowed just nine earned runs in 26.2 innings for a 3.04 ERA. He has 32 strikeouts and just 12 walks and is holding opponents to a miniscule .143 average. Carignan has also proven to be durable with three two-inning saves in ACC play. Carignan held a 0.38 ERA heading into his last two appearances but has allowed eight runs over his last two innings.

PUTKONEN PICKING IT UP
Redshirt freshman right-hander Luke Putkonen is back at full strength in 2006 after sitting out last season following Tommy John surgery and he continues to improve as the Tar Heels' primary weekday starter. He is 6-0 on the year with a 3.13 ERA and carried a no-hitter into the eighth in Tuesday's win over UNC Greensboro. He has struck out 35 batters and walked 22 in 60.1 innings. In an April 25 win over VCU, Putkonen did not allow an earned run over seven innings and struck out seven. He has allowed just four earned runs over his last four starts for a 1.54 record over this stretch. The Carolina coaching staff has brought Putkonen along slowly due to his injury, but he has gone over seven innings in two of his last three starts - a key note as the Tar Heels head into postseason play where pitching is at a premium.

SHELTON ADDS VERSATILITY
Infielder/outfielder Kyle Shelton has proven himself a valuable utility player this season, seeing time at second, third, shortstop, in the outfield and at designated hitter. He has also been handy with the bat to the tune of a .333 average (32-96). The South Mecklenburg High School product has already quadrupled his hit total of a year ago. Shelton has 32 hits this season, including four in three starts at Virginia, after recording just seven in 2005. He has been the Tar Heels' top pinch hitter this season with a .500 average (3-6).

FRONK FINDS A WAY
Third baseman Reid Fronk might be hitting just .212 over the last 20 games, but whether or not he is hitting, Fronk has found a way to help the Tar Heels this season. He leads the squad with 33 walks and has been hit by a pitch 17 times this season - 11 more than any other Tar Heel. This translates to a .435 on-base percentage and a team-high 52 runs scored. Fronk has reached base in 49 of the 50 games he has started this season.

 
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Tar Heels close out baseball season with Boston College
Pittsboro's Benji Johnson, sophomore catcher/DH, leads UNC with 12 home runs.
photo by Gene Galin
 
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