Can’t ask for anything better.
Michael Roth made his name on the national scene against Clemson in 2010. A situational reliever with a boatload of appearances, then a sophomore, Roth took the ball in Omaha, Neb. in the College World Series for his third career start. It was a bold move, a decision spearheaded by then-pitching coach Mark Calvi, and a decision that has helped to define Roth’s South Carolina career.
Roth carved up Clemson hitters dancing his changeup and attacking with fastballs. He’d drop his arm slot occasionally and the Tigers just couldn’t size him up.
And the Tigers haven’t been able to size him up for four years now.
A Greer native, just a short drive away from the upstate rival’s campus, Roth has eight career appearances against the Tigers. Rarely has he been touched. In 28.1 innings, he has allowed just three earned runs on 15 hits with 18 strikeouts.
“You feel like you’re giving it your best shot,” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “What Michael has done in his career, if you can line him up, that’s as good as it gets. Win, lose or draw, we’re sending your best guy out there with toughness and poise and he’ll give you a chance. That’s all you can ask.”
Roth had 50 career appearances, four of which were against the Tigers, in his first two seasons at South Carolina before getting the ball in the College World Series. He was just a situational southpaw, called on in big positions to get top left-handed hitters out.
He stared elite hitter Zack Cox, who is already on the St. Louis 40-man roster in year three, in the face in a critical situation at Arkansas as a sophomore and struck him out. It was his only batter faced of the game, but he did his job. In 50 appearances, he amassed a whopping 2-2 career record.
Roth wasn’t a guy who would factor in to a lot of decisions as he wouldn’t face a lot of hitters.
Senior Michael Roth has allowed just three earned runs in 28.1 innings against Clemson
After his start against Clemson, in fact, he sat at the press conference table and asked what “BF” on the stat sheet stood for. Batters faced, everyone answered, prompting a bright smile across Roth’s face, who noted it’s always been a much smaller number than the 33 he went against that day.
The Gamecocks had to play out of the losers bracket in 2010 and the pitching was stretched. Tanner needed an arm that could navigate his team past Clemson in the first game of what he hoped would be a two-game mini-series against the rivals in Omaha.
He turned to Roth, who had a career long outing of 4.1 innings in one of his two starts as a freshman. It was a bold move, but Roth showed he might be able to give a few innings after 3.1 innings of clean work with five strikeouts against Bucknell in the Regional.
On June 25, 2010, Roth became a Tiger Tamer, a Clemson Killer, or whatever kind of cutesy nickname that Gamecock fans adore and Clemson fans shudder to think about.
Complete game, one run, three hits, one walk, and four strikeouts added up to victory number two of the season for Roth. He became an instant legend and his star has skyrocketed ever since.
That start vaulted him into the rotation for both his junior and senior seasons at South Carolina. In two starts against the Tigers since that 2010 season, Roth is 1-0 pitching 14.1 innings and allowing one earned run on seven hits.
“We’ve got the matchup that everyone will be looking at (Saturday), not only in South Carolina but across the country as well,” Tanner said. “It’s great for college baseball and having Michael Roth out there, you feel like you have a chance. No guarantees, of course, we’re playing an excellent team and a lot of good athletes at Clemson, but you feel good about having him out there.”
South Carolina and Clemson will take the field today at 4 p.m. broadcast to a national television audience on ESPNU. The teams, with Roth on the mound, have met on the biggest of stages, the College World Series, but today’s game may have an even more electric feel.
Playing at home in the Palmetto State, fans of the Gamecocks and Tigers will climb the trees that line Carolina Stadium trying to get a better view of the action. Every one of the 8,242 fans will have a rooting interest in the Garnet or the Orange. Every fan will hang on every pitch.
This isn’t the College World Series, but it’s at home.
“Who are we kidding? It’s big. It’s a rivalry situation,” Tanner said. “It’s more than just the second round of the NCAAs. It’s Clemson. We’re playing Clemson.”
And Roth knows what to do and how to do it.
This is truly as good as it gets.
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