South Carolinas College World Series game against Kent State moved to noon today
OMAHA, Neb. — South Carolina’s loss to Arkansas on Monday night in the College World Series meant the Gamecocks would have to win three games in three days in order to advance to the best-of-three final.
Now, they must win three games in two days, as they try to become the second team to ever win three straight national championships. But they now will start their best and most experienced pitcher, senior left-hander Michael Roth, in the first game with the season on the line.
USC’s elimination game on Wednesday night against Kent State was postponed by rain until today at noon on ESPN2. The winner will play Arkansas today at 9 p.m. as scheduled on ESPN2. If USC wins twice today, it plays Arkansas again Friday night.
USC coach Ray Tanner planned to start freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery against Kent State on Wednesday. It was going to be Montgomery’s first College World Series start. The postponement meant Tanner could opt for Roth against Kent State. And that’s what Tanner decided to do. Montgomery will start against Arkansas if USC beats Kent State.
Roth has started six games in the World Series, one behind the all-time record. Roth’s career World Series ERA is 1.61, fifth-best all-time. For the Wednesday game, Tanner had decided to start Montgomery over Roth, who would have been throwing on three days of rest. Roth started USC’s World Series-opening win over Florida on Saturday. Montgomery last pitched on June 3.
If USC beat Kent State with Montgomery on Wednesday, Tanner planned to start Roth against Arkansas tonight, provided Roth didn’t make a relief appearance against Kent State. He was going to be available to do that. But those plans were washed out.
Immediately after the game was postponed, Tanner wasn’t sure which pitcher would start against Kent State. He planned to return to the team hotel and discuss his plans with pitching coach Jerry Meyers. Those discussions led to Roth starting, though Montgomery remains in the mix.
“If we’re going to be able to stay here and advance, Montgomery has got to pitch,” Tanner said. “So we’ve got to make a decision (about) when we pitch him.”
Montgomery struggled in his lone regular season start against Arkansas, allowing nine hits and five runs in 51/3 innings for his only loss to date. But Meyers said Tuesday that the original plan to start Montgomery against Kent State and Roth against Arkansas, if USC got that far, had nothing to do with Montgomery’s struggles against Arkansas.
Kent State announced it will stick with righty Tyler Skulina for today’s game. He was scheduled to throw Wednesday. That means USC likely will have catcher Grayson Greiner and designated hitter Kyle Martin, both freshmen, in the lineup today, as they were before the postponement.
Greiner played in the first two World Series games, but on Wednesday he was starting for the first time in the NCAA tournament. He had been sidelined with a knee injury.
Martin, a left-handed power hitter, was making just his fifth start since April 13. He played in two NCAA tournament games, both in the regional, and started one. He went 1 for 3 with a single in those games, and it was a big single in the first regional game against Clemson, a 5-4 USC win in 12 innings. Martin pinch hit to lead off the ninth inning and singled. He was replaced by pinch runner T.J. Costen, who later scored to tie the game at 4.
Despite his lack of starts recently, Martin still led the team with 14 starts at designated hitter heading into Wednesday’s game. Martin has played in 35 games this season, with 18 starts, and is hitting .323, with a .446 slugging percentage, five doubles, a home run and 11 RBIs.
“I guess at the end of the year sometimes you’ll go back and say you would’ve, could’ve, should’ve or maybe we could have stayed with this guy longer,” Tanner said. “He’s fared pretty good against right-handers, so he were going to put him in there (Wednesday) against a righty.”
Tanner said the extra day of rest doesn’t mean setup reliever Tyler Webb will be available today. He threw 82 pitches in relief Monday, so he is likely out until Friday.
If the Gamecocks are still alive by then, they will have navigated an exhausting Thursday, but Tanner downplayed having to play two games in a day.
“I don’t think it matters,” Tanner said. “I was in the room there were the radar with the all NCAA people and I think (Kent State) coach (Scott) Stricklin and I are very comfortable that this was the best decision we could make. Whoever wins our game will have a little momentum going into the night game.”