One win away. With South Carolina’s 5-0 victory over Oklahoma on Saturday night, the two-time defending national champions are just one victory away from the College World Series.
Senior Michael Roth capped his Carolina Stadium career with a 5-0 victory over Oklahoma in the Super Regional
On the back of senior Michael Roth, who was making his final start at Carolina Stadium, the Gamecocks (44-17) were able to cruise to an opening-game victory in Game 1 of Super Regional action.
It was Roth’s night. Even though he may not have been as sharp as he would have wanted, he got the job done.
“Michael Roth, you know what, there’s a lot of things you can do over a course of a career,” Oklahoma head coach Sunny Golloway said. “I still think, as much as we wanted to win, it’s poetic justice to have that kind of outing. We had designs to not let his night be that good, but as a baseball fan and somebody that really loves the game, it was poetic justice.”
After hitting the ball hard in the first inning without anything to show for it, the Gamecocks put up three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Senior Adam Matthews worked a leadoff walk and moved to third on a single by sophomore Erik Payne, who was making his third start as the designated hitter in three games.
Matthews scored on an RBI double by junior LB Dantzler, who registered his 45th RBI of the season. Payne came home on a wild pitch from Oklahoma starter Jordan John. Dantzler tagged and scored on a sacrifice fly by junior Chase Vergason and just like that, the Gamecocks were up by a field goal.
“It’s the kind of game you almost expected from the two of us,” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “Runs and hits were hard to come by.”
Sensing the game could get out of hand, Sooners head coach Sunny Golloway called in reliever, and potential Game 3 starter, Dillon Overton to try to stop the bleeding. John allowed three runs on two hits and a walk in 2.0 innings throwing 40 pitches.
Much like Clemson last week, Oklahoma had some chances to get to Roth early in the game. The senior allowed at least one runner in each of the first five innings but the Sooners were unable to find a way to get a run across.
“We had guys on all night but didn’t get the hit at the right time,” Oklahoma shortstop Caleb Bushyhead said. “We just didn’t come through in the clutch. He threw a great game, clearly, because we didn’t score any runs.”
Roth’s first perfect inning didn’t come until the sixth when he registered a pair of ground balls and a fly out bringing his pitch count to 87 on the evening. He allowed only five hits and had just one strikeout in the game with nine outs still to play with for the visitors.
The Gamecocks, which have now won an NCAA-best 20 games in a row in the tournament, had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the sixth when juniors Evan Marzilli and Christian Walker began the inning with back-to-back singles, which were the first hits off of Overton.
The southpaw, after a visit from Golloway, retired the next three hitters in order to keep his team close.
“They’re really good on the mound. Overton came in and really had some good stuff,” Tanner said. “He gave them a chance to come back. They’re ready to go on the mound. We have some fresh guys. They have guys rested as well.”
The next inning, though, the Gamecocks would add to their lead with a pair of insurance runs. With two outs freshman Joey Pankake and Walker both registered RBI singles.
That was plenty for Roth, who motored through the seventh inning after a leadoff walk. He picked up the first two outs of the eighth inning before a single by Evan Mistich ended his night and his Carolina Stadium career on the mound.
Roth tossed 7.2 scoreless innings allowing six hits and two walks. He struck out three on 126 pitches and sprinted off the mound in typical Roth fashion. A slow walk would have been nice but Roth peered his head from the dugout and stood on the top step to acknowledge the capacity crowd.
“I’d be lying to you if I tried to tell you it was just another game for me,” Roth said. “I just tried to go out there and there was something special about tonight. I’m glad to leave on a high note at this stadium for me, personally.”
Roth moved his record to 7-1 on the season as his ERA dropped to 2.50 in his 17 starts. In 115.0 innings pitched, he has allowed 89 hits and 37 walks while striking out a team-high 79.
His numbers weren’t gaudy on Saturday night, but it was a typical Roth-like performance. He got into some trouble, but he worked his way out. He did more than keep his team in position to win.
“Roth, he was like he has been in his entire career,” Tanner said. “He got a couple of runners on a couple of times but was able to get out of the innings.”
When asked if Roth would DH on Sunday, Tanner quipped, “If he wants to.” He’ll want to, but Saturday night was a fitting way to end his Carolina Stadium career.
South Carolina will send junior Colby Holmes to the mound on Sunday looking to punch the Gamecocks’ ticket to the College World Series. South Carolina will be the visiting team in Sunday’s game. Oklahoma will send right-handed pitcher Jonathan Gray on Sunday.
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