Tar Heels eager to make up for last year’s mistakes in Omaha

Published 7:19 am Friday, June 15, 2007

By Staff
By JOEDY McCREARY, AP Sports Writer
CHAPEL HILL — When Tim Federowicz watches replays of the error that cost North Carolina last year’s College World Series championship, he laughs.
Maybe that’s because he knows the Tar Heels are in position to make up for it.
A year after North Carolina threw away its first national championship in baseball by playing terrible defense in the title game, the Tar Heels are headed back to Rosenblatt Stadium. Beginning with their opener Friday against Mississippi State, they hope to accomplish what they couldn’t last June.
North Carolina (53-13) has drawn a season’s worth of motivation from the mistake-filled way its last trip to Omaha, Neb., ended.
The Tar Heels committed four errors in the winner-take-all title game against Oregon State, and none were more costly than backup second baseman Bryan Steed’s.
With the score tied at 2 and two outs in the eighth, Steed fielded a routine grounder and threw wide to first. Federowicz, a catcher-turned-first baseman, couldn’t come up with it, and that allowed Bill Rowe to score the go-ahead run from second.
Having one more chance at a title was a big reason why Robert Woodard returned to the Tar Heels.
Woodard was selected in the late rounds by the St. Louis Cardinals, and he seriously contemplated going pro and joining fellow weekend starters Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard — picked in the first round by Detroit and Boston, respectively.
North Carolina has successfully advanced through each stage of the season with a sense of purpose, moving within one victory of tying the school record of 54 wins, a mark set last year.
These are heady times for the Tar Heels — who entered the NCAA tournament after winning their first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship since 1990, were rewarded with the No. 3 national seed and hosted both a four-team regional and two-team super regional.
The secret of North Carolina’s success this postseason has been timely hitting and exceptional efforts from two relievers.
The Tar Heels have come from behind in four of their five postseason victories, and during the three-game super regional series against South Carolina, they outscored the Gamecocks 21-4 in innings 5-9.
Rob Wooten has pitched in each of North Carolina’s six postseason games, winning three and allowing no earned runs in 9 2-3 innings.
And the team has rallied around closer Andrew Carignan, who tied a career high by pitching four scoreless innings in the decisive third game against South Carolina.
Carignan’s childhood home in Norwich, Conn., burned down in an electrical fire last month. Killed were his two cats and his golden retriever — whose name, ‘‘Maddie Baby,’’ is written under the bill of his cap.
Among the items lost in the fire was a ball signed by Babe Ruth for Carignan’s great-grandfather Gus Dugas, who played four major league seasons in the 1930s, and a scrapbook from the game in which Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-games streak.
His teammates have dedicated themselves to presenting Carignan with a meaningful memento to replace what he’s lost, and what he wants most is a College World Series championship ring.