South Carolina beats Kent State 4-1 to stay alive at College World Series
OMAHA, Neb. Ė South Carolina stayed alive in the College World Series on Thursday, using two-out hitting and a masterful performance by its best pitcher to beat Kent State 4-1. The Gamecocks will face Arkansas tonight at 9 on ESPN2. If USC beats Arkansas, the teams will play at 9 p.m. Friday on ESPN.
USC is trying to win three games in two days and advance to the best-of-three final, which begins Sunday. The Gamecocks are also trying to become the second team to ever win three consecutive national championships.
Freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery will start tonight for USC and make his first start in Omaha, while junior lefty Randall Fant will throw for Arkansas.
Montgomery was supposed to start Wednesday night against Kent State, but the game was postponed to Thursday at noon because of rain, and USC coach Ray Tanner decided to go with his most experienced pitcher, senior lefty Michael Roth, with the season on the line.
In what could be his final college start, Roth did not disappoint and showed why he is one of the most successful College World Series pitchers of all time.
He threw a complete game and allowed two hits. He walked nobody and struck out eight. He threw 106 pitches, 70 for strikes, and retired the last 22 batters in order. His career earned-run average in Omaha is now 1.51.
Rothís outing Thursday was USCís first complete game of the season and third of Rothís career (second in the World Series). Roth had USCís only complete game last season, in the regular season.
USC must make the championship series in order for Roth to start again in this World Series. He could start Mondayís Game 2 of the championship series, on three days of rest. Tanner opted to not start Roth on three days of rest Wednesday, but his strategy likely would be different in the championship series, especially if USC lost Sundayís Game 1.
Montgomery struggled against Arkansas in the regular season, allowing nine hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 7-6 USC loss -- the second of three consecutive poor starts for Montgomery.
He rebounded to allow seven hits and three earned runs combined over 11 2/3 innings in his past two starts, in the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments. He hasnít thrown since the Regional-clinching win over Clemson on June 3.
In Fantís only start against USC this year, the game Montgomery started, he gave up no hits and a run (earned), along with three walks and two strikeouts, in 2 1/3 innings. That was the middle game of the teamsí three-game series in Fayetteville. USC won the series, two games to one.
Now, USC will become the first team to play two complete games in one day in Omaha since 1980. Kent State was trying to become the third team in World Series history to knock out the defending champion in its first trip to Omaha. The last time it happened: 1964.
Kent State took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when a single scored a runner from second. It marked the third time in three games in this World Series that USCís opponent has scored first. But the Gamecocks responded once again. In the second inning, they took a 2-1 lead on back-to-back, two-out, run-scoring singles by Grayson Greiner and Chase Vergason.
Greiner was making his first start of the NCAA tournament. He played in the first two World Series games, his first action of the tournament after returning from a left knee injury. Vergason hit .232 with five runs batted-in during the regular season, but entered Thursday hitting 8 for 20 (.400) with six RBI in the NCAA tournament.
USC extended its lead to 4-1 in the third, when LB Dantzler smacked a two-run home run, also with two outs, over the right field wall. It was his 10th homer of the season, one behind Christian Walker for the team lead.
Kent Stateís starter, Tyler Skulina, entered Thursday having won nine straight decisions dating to March 11. Over his previous seven starts, he had a 2.33 ERA, while walking an average of 2.53 batters per inning, compared to 4.55 in his 10 starts before that.
Also over his previous seven starts, Skulina hadnít allowed a run in more than one inning. He had pitched in parts of 49 innings during that stretch and held opponents scoreless in 43 of them. The Golden Flashes had won each of Skulinaís last 12 starts.
Skulina couldnít continue that success Thursday. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing six hits, four runs (all earned), while striking out nine and walking four.
Rothís start for USC marked his seventh career start in Omaha, tied with Miamiís J.D. Arteaga (1994-97) for most all-time. After three innings, Roth broke the record for most career innings thrown in the World Series, 47, shared by Steve Arlin of Ohio State (1965-66) and Greg Swindell of Texas (1984-85).
Roth won his fourth career game in Omaha, tying the record. He is the first pitcher in that four-win group with at least one win in three different years. In 11 career NCAA tournament starts, Roth is 8-0 with at least five innings pitched in every game. He has never allowed more than three earned runs in an NCAA tournament game. He entered Thursday with a 1.61 career ERA in Omaha, sixth-best all time.
USCís potential starters for Friday are Colby Holmes or Forrest Koumas.
Holmes threw just 53 pitches in his start Monday against Arkansas, as USC lost. Koumas hasnít pitched since May 25, when he aggravated an elbow injury that sidelined him from March 31 to May 2. But USC pitching coach Jerry Meyers said Koumas is a candidate to start if USC keeps advancing. Holmes would be throwing on three days of rest on Friday, but he didnít have a big workload on Monday.