OMAHA, Neb. – At the end of six innings, Arizona leads South Carolina 1-0 in the second game of the best-of-three College World Series finals. If Arizona wins, it wins the national championship. If USC wins, the teams play again at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Sophomore right-hander James Farris, who hadn’t pitched since June 3 in the Regional clincher, is dominating in his first appearance ever in Omaha. He has allowed just one hit. USC lefty Michael Roth, the Gamecocks’ senior ace, is doing everything he can to keep them in the game – his final time on the mound. Arizona has just two hits.
Arizona is aiming for its first championship since 1986, while USC is trying to become the second team to win three straight titles.
*** At the end of three innings, Arizona leads South Carolina 1-0 in the second game of the best-of-three College World Series finals. If Arizona wins, it wins the national championship. If USC wins, the teams play again at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
USC starting pitcher Michael Roth retired 28 consecutive batters, including the final 22 of Thursday’s complete game against Kent State, before Joseph Maggi’s no-out double in the third inning Monday. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a ground-out to second. The Wildcats led 1-0 in the middle of the third.
It was the sixth time in seven USC games at this World Series that the Gamecocks’ opponent scored first. USC won three of the previous five, but lost Sunday 5-1 after Arizona jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the fifth inning. USC’s wins came after they trailed Arkansas 2-0 in the middle of the fifth, Kent State 1-0 in the middle of the second and Florida 2-0 at the end of the fourth.
Since beating Florida 7-3 in their World Series opener, the Gamecocks had scored one, four, two, three and one runs entering Monday’s game. They batted .197 in those games.
For what it’s worth, USC had history on its side Monday. The Gamecocks were 15-2 in World Series elimination games and had won seven straight, including three in two days last week, as they tried to become just the second team to ever win three straight national titles.
*** Arizona did not receive one of the top eight national seeds in the NCAA tournament. But the Wildcats were good enough to host a Regional, and lately, nobody in college baseball has performed better than them.
Tonight at 8, the Wildcats will try to win their fourth national championship and first since 1986. They beat South Carolina 5-1 on Sunday in Game 1 of the College World Series’ best-of-three finals, and they have now out-scored their opponents 84-27 in the NCAA tournament.
They are 9-0 in the tournament and haven’t lost back-to-back games since April 14-17, when they dropped two in a row to UCLA, then lost to Arizona State. Arizona is 23-5 since then.
The Gamecocks must beat Arizona tonight and Tuesday at 8 in order to become the second team to ever win three consecutive national titles.
The College World Series went to a best-of-three championship series format in 2003. Since then, just two teams have lost twice in a World Series and still won the championship – Oregon State in 2006 and Fresno State in 2008. USC is trying to become the third team to do it.
Arizona is trying to become the second team since 2001 to go through the NCAA tournament undefeated. USC did it last year.
Tonight, the Gamecocks will face Arizona’s No. 3 starter, sophomore right-hander James Farris. Wildcats coach Andy Lopez decided to start Farris rather than his ace, junior righty Kurt Heyer, who would have been throwing on three days of rest.
Farris will be opposed by USC’s ace, senior lefty Michael Roth, who will set the World Series record by starting his eighth career game and will try to tie current USC closer Matt Price’s record of five career wins in Omaha.
Farris is 7-3 in 16 starts, with a 4.18 earned-run average, 69 strikeouts and 18 walks in 99 innings. He has three complete games and a 1.25 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched).
He hasn’t pitched since the June 3 Regional-clinching win over Louisville, in which he threw a complete game while allowing 12 hits and three runs (two earned), with a walk and seven strikeouts.
Roth is 9-1 in 19 starts, with a 2.49 ERA, 90 strikeouts and 40 walks in 130 1/3 innings. He has one complete game (in his last outing, Thursday against Kent State) and a 1.06 WHIP. Roth’s 1.34 career ERA in Omaha is sixth-best all-time among pitchers with at least 30 innings.
Tonight will be his final start for USC, and if USC wins, it will likely turn to freshman lefty Jordan Montgomery to pitch the title-clinching game, as Roth did the past two years. Junior righty Colby Holmes is also an option, but Montgomery has performed better lately.
Sunday’s loss ended USC’s streak of 19 consecutive games in Omaha with four runs or fewer allowed. The only team with a longer streak is Arizona State – 22 games from 1965-1973. USC hadn’t allowed more than four since 2004.
USC is not an offensive juggernaut (.267 team batting average) and has had to manufacture offense all season (68 sacrifice bunts). While Farris doesn’t seem as imposing as Heyer, and Roth is really good in Omaha, USC coach Ray Tanner knows the Gamecocks probably can’t get away with just playing small ball against the Wildcats tonight.
“I don’t know if you manufacture, that that’ll be enough,” he said. “I think we have to do more than manufacture. I think that’s a part of it. We have to make something happen, but we have to hit a couple doubles too. We’ve got to get some runs because they’re offensive. They can throw some runs on the board.”