In a clubhouse filled with All-Americans and pro draft picks, backup infielder Thomas Woodruff has found a way to make some Virginia baseball history at the College World Series.
"Wouldn't you know it, in our first two wins this year in Omaha, he's scored the winning run," said UVa head coach Brian O'Connor. "And he deserves that."
Woodruff has come off the bench to serve as a pinch-runner in both of the Cavaliers' games in Omaha. On Sunday night, Mike Papi drove Woodruff home with his walk-off double to the warning track that beat Ole Miss 2-1. On Tuesday, Woodruff tagged up to score the winning run in the Wahoos' 15-inning 3-2 win against TCU.
"You know, honestly, I never would have expected it," Woodruff said. "I knew, I talked to my dad before the first game and he was like, "Just keep your legs loose." And I was like, "Absolutely. I'm ready for it." I never would have guessed this would have happened."
In both pinch-running spots, Woodruff replaced junior catcher Nate Irving, who led of Sunday's ninth inning with a walk, and doubled to start the 15th and Tuesday.
"It's great to see him get that opportunity," Irving said. "I'm glad I could be a part of it, and help get him out there."
Woodruff arrived in Omaha a week ago with only two runs scored all season. He had only appeared in nine games before the College World Series.
But the junior walk-on says he hasn't been intimidated by the biggest stage in college baseball.
"Some people might think that you're nervous. That things are running through your head that you normally don't feel," he said. "But honestly, we're out there every day at practice, and you go through that. You get those reps. And as long as you take them as game-like reps, then you're ready to go, no matter what the stage."
"He's one of the hardest-nosed, and hard-working, and best teammates we have," said Irving. "He would do anything. He would lay down in front of a train track for anyone in this clubhouse."
"Everybody loves Thomas Woodruff. He's a guy that does everything the right way," said O'Connor. "We'll see how this thing ends up playing out, and what other opportunities he has. But certainly, winning two games in a walk-off fashion, and him scoring the winning run is really neat."
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