OMAHA, Neb. – At some point in Thursday’s College World Series elimination game between South Carolina and Kent State, Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner called down to his bullpen.
He didn’t get the response he was looking for at first but he found out why later.
Turns out the USC relievers knew their day didn’t figure to be too busy. Not with senior Michael Roth dealing the way he was.
Roth took the CWS stage again and perhaps for the final time in a game pushed back 28 hours by rain and was spectacular in a 4-1 Gamecocks’ victory.
In a dominant complete-game effort, Roth allowed only two Golden Flashes hits and faced just one hitter over the minimum, retiring the final 22 hitters in a row.
Sparked by Roth’s performance, a pair or timely RBI singles and LB Dantzler’s no-doubt two-run home run, Carolina (47-18) moves into the semifinal round for the third year in a row with fellow SEC foe Arkansas (46-20) waiting at 8 p.m.
The season is over for Kent State (47-20) after a magical run through regional and Super Regional play and then a 5-4 stay-alive win against top-seeded Florida.
And the main reason the Flashes’ unprecedented season is finished is Roth.
The left-hander was so good that when Tanner called the bullpen and asked relievers Matt Price and Tyler Webb to start loosening up.
Not a whole lot happened. Later he asked his two pitchers why they hadn’t jumped into action.
“They told me ‘Roth was on the mound, so why do we need to be in a hurry,’ ” Tanner said with a smile.
|Kyle Martin and Evan Marzilli celebrate South Carolina’s second run in the second inning|
Kent State actually drew first blood against Roth in the second inning when George Roberts led off with a single, T.J. Sutton chopped out to third base and Sawyer Polen poked a base hit into left field that sent Roberts scurrying home.
Roth extinguished the threat when he got Nick Hamilton to roll into a 6-4-3 double play, the first of those 22 consecutive outs.
“Once we scored, it’s almost like we made him mad we scored that run in the second inning and he said ‘That’s not happening anymore,’ ” Flashes coach Scott Stricklin said. “He was outstanding.”
The fact that Roth was on the mound at all was a bit of a surprise and a benefit of the game being rained out on Wednesday.
Tanner had announced Jordan Montgomery as the starter vs. Kent State – he’ll be on the mound vs. Arkansas instead. But when rain persisted Wednesday, and when Tanner spoke to Roth about pitching Thursday’s first game, the decision was easy.
“He got an extra day's rest because of the rain, and you go,” Tanner said. “ He's going to give us a chance.
“The only question I had was not if he's going to pitch, if he's 100%, and that's the only thing I asked him. He said I'm 100%, and I said that's good enough for me. Let's try to get back in this thing.”
Once Roth got honed in, the South Carolina offense kicked into gear just long enough to give him plenty of support.
With one out in the Gamecocks’ second inning, Adam Matthews dumped a base hit to right field and Kyle Martin jabbed a single through the middle.
Kent State pitcher Tyler Skulina recorded one of his nine strikeouts for the second out, but Grayson Greiner hammered a ball to the left side of the infield that Polen dove for but it caromed off his glove. Matthews motored around third base and beat the throw to the plate for the Gamecocks’ first run and a tie game.
Chase Vergason extended the lead when he rammed a base hit to right field to give USC and Roth the lead, 2-1.
|LJ Dantzler rounds the bases after he hammered a two-run home run|
That would’ve been plenty, but the Gamecocks’ two biggest run producers combined to give Roth a little more breathing room the next inning.
With two outs, Christian Walker pumped a double to right-center field and Dantzler followed with a two-run bomb into the right-field bullpen.
From there, Roth barely blinked the rest of the game.
Mixing his pitches well and getting weak contact when Kent State’s hitter connected, Roth was masterful. He logged seven of his eight strikeouts after the Flashes scored their run and had them swinging at his pitches.
Kent State didn’t leave a runner on base in nine innings, mainly because the only two who reached were the two base hits in the second inning – one who scored, one who was erased on a double play.
“I was able to hit the strike zone with pretty much every pitch I threw,” Roth said after improving his three-year CWS record to 4-0 and his four-year NCAA Tournament mark to 8-0. “That helped me a lot. I didn't have any walks (Thursday), which when there are base runners and you can stay on that roll, that I haven't really been able to get into this season much. So, it was nice to be able to throw everything for strikes.
|Michael Roth: CG 2-hitter, 8 Ks, 0 BB on the way to his 8th win and 4th CWS win of his career|
“You just try to go out there and keep filling it up. It can always switch on you. At the drop of a hat, you can walk a guy or have a bloop or something like that. And next thing you know you've got men on first and second.”
The Flashes never got that next thing after the second inning.
Stricklin said he wasn’t surprised to see Roth listed as the starter once Wednesday’s rainout became official and said he understood Tanner’s thinking.
“That they really wanted to win,” Stricklin said. “Nothing against Montgomery, he's very good. But you could argue Michael Roth is the best pitcher in the country. He's 8 1, and spent three years in the College World Series. I talked to Coach Tanner before the game and, you know, Roth was campaigning to pitch last night.
“That's what you want out of your senior and your best guy. He wanted the ball. He wanted to be on the mound. And I don't blame Coach Tanner one bit. When your senior says give me the ball, you've got to give it to him.”
Roth got it and he was as good as he’s ever been.
ON DECK: CWS Day 7
Roth leads Gamecocks past Kent State