OMAHA, Neb. -- South Carolina left-hander Michael Roth bumped into coach Ray Tanner near the elevator at the team hotel on Friday and told him he would pitch against Clemson until his arm falls off.
"He asked me if that was one inning," a smiling Roth said.
Roth lasted one inning, all right, and eight more.
A situational reliever who had logged more than three innings just twice in 48 career appearances, Roth pitched a three-hitter in his first start in 14 months -- a performance that carried the Gamecocks to a 5-1 College World Series victory over Clemson.
Their win forced a second Bracket 2 final. South Carolina (51-16) and Clemson (45-24) meet again Saturday, with the winner advancing to the best-of-three championship round that starts Monday.
Roth was efficient, throwing 109 pitches and getting 16 groundball outs. He allowed a double to Richie Shaffer leading off the third, then retired 15 of the next 17 before Wilson Boyd reached on an error.
After Clemson's Brad Miller singled to right with two outs in the ninth, Roth struck out John Hinson. He pounded his glove with his left hand as he walked off the mound, high-fived a teammate and chest-bumped another.
"For me, it's hard to imagine, under those circumstances. ... Not expecting it to be the performance that he got, it was most impressive," Tanner said. "I can't say enough great things about Michael Roth and what he did for us tonight."
Roth struck out four, walked one and hit two batters. The only run scored on Kyle Enders' passed ball in the third.
"I didn't expect to go nine innings," said Roth, his left arm packed in ice. "I really expected to at least go five and after that take it one inning at a time. My arm is sore. Hopefully I can bounce back quick -- not tomorrow. We train hard and I think anybody in the bullpen is ready to go out there and throw as many as they can. Adrenaline did help."
Enders hit his third homer and had an RBI single, and Jackie Bradley drove in two runs for the Gamecocks, who have staved off elimination in three straight games.
Clemson starter Dominic Leone (3-2) took the loss, allowing three runs, four hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings.
Roth was making his first start after pitching 26 1/3 innings over 35 relief appearances this season. Last year he started nonconference games against Georgia Southern and College of Charleston.
Before Friday, his longest career outing was 4 1/3 innings against College of Charleston. This year his longest outing was 3 1/3 innings of relief against Bucknell in regionals. Roth pitched South Carolina's first complete game at the CWS since Steve Bondurant beat Clemson 10-2 in 2002.
"I didn't really think when the game started that they were going to ride him that long," Tigers coach Jack Leggett said. "But he was having success, and he was throwing strikes, and he was getting quick outs and his pitch count wasn't up very much. Once he got rolling there, I knew we were having a little bit of trouble."
South Carolina pitching coach Mark Calvi lobbied for Roth to get the start, and Tanner liked the matchup as well as the left-hander's makeup.
"He's pitched all year under circumstances that are not comfortable, with his role out of the bullpen," Tanner said. "Now, for me to think it was going to be a complete game ... I thought he'd give us three or four quality innings and we'd have to figure it out from there."
South Carolina is one win from playing for a national title. After losing its CWS opener, the Gamecocks have eliminated No. 1 national seed Arizona State, come from behind to beat Oklahoma in 12 innings after being down to their last strike and gotten an improbable complete game from a career reliever.
"That was one of the most impressive performances I've ever had a young man pitch for me," Tanner said. "That was certainly one for the record books, as far as I'm concerned."