Defending champs South Carolina one win from returning to World Series
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina's Michael Roth has been matched up against college baseball's best pitchers all season long, so one more in Connecticut ace Matt Barnes wasn't going to bother him much.
Roth worked into the ninth, allowing six hits, and Scott Wingo had two RBIs as the Gamecocks defeated the Huskies 5-1 in the NCAA super regional on Saturday night. Defending national champion South Carolina (49-14) won its 10th straight NCAA tournament game and is a win away from a return trip to the College World Series.Roth is a big reason why. The Gamecocks junior was a situational reliever a season ago, setting the table for star closer Matt Price. But Roth became one of the South Carolina's biggest standouts during last year's CWS title run. He shut down Clemson with a complete-game three-hitter, then had a quality start in the Gamecocks' championship clincher against UCLA.Roth's toughness earned him a spot in South Carolina's rotation this year -- and he's delivered more than anyone imagined. "I thought he'd be special, but not like this," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said.Roth (13-3) entered the weekend second in the country in ERA and came up big once more, holding Connecticut to an unearned run in 8 1/3 innings. The Huskies' run came after a first-inning error, so Roth lowered his earned-run average from 1.10 to 1.02. And he did it against Barnes, a fireballing righty picked in the first round, No. 19 overall, on Monday by the Boston Red Sox.Roth was selected in the 31st round by Cleveland -- two days and 919 places -- after Barnes. Roth got stronger as the game progressed, notching his first two strikeouts on UConn stars George Springer and Mike Nemeth in the eighth inning, long after Barnes had been pulled."I don't think I needed any extra motivation to come out and help us win a game," Roth said.Roth finally left with one out in the ninth to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 8,242 at Carolina Stadium."Hopefully, if we're lucky and do what we're doing, we'll face a couple of more first rounders," Roth said.Connecticut came in with momentum after winning two straight at Clemson to capture last week's NCAA regional and two first-round MLB draft picks in center fielder Springer and Barnes. Early on, the Huskies were every bit the match for the defending national champions. Springer singled and scored on Nemeth's hit for a 1-0 lead. Then Barnes showed off his power arm, hitting 97 mph at times and striking out the side to quiet the large crowd.Connecticut had the chance to add to its lead in the second when shortstop Peter Mooney threw wild into the dugout to put Nick Ahmed on second. When Nick Friel walked it left runners on the corners with one out. But Billy Ferriter's bunt up the first base line went right to South Carolina's Christian Walker, who cut down Ahmed at home. LJ Mazzilli flied out to center to end the threat."We tried a safety squeeze there, but we probably should've let Billy hit there with a 2-0 count," Connecticut coach Jim Penders said.South Carolina tied the game in the third on Marzilli's two-out double and Wingo's RBI single. The Gamecocks moved in front for good in fourth, helped by a tiring Barnes. Jake Williams worked a two-out walk and Mooney singled him to third. Then Barnes let loose with a pitch wide of catcher Doug Elliott and Williams scored easily.South Carolina put it away and chased Barnes with a three-run fifth. Steven Neff led off with a double and Wingo singled him home. Another Barnes wild pitch moved Wingo to third before consecutive hits by Brady Thomas and Adrian Morales made it 5-1.Barnes was hit hard in Connecticut's opening NCAA tournament game last week, a 12-6 loss to Coastal Carolina. "He's proved that he's human the last couple of games, that's all," Penders said.Roth didn't have many problems after Connecticut's first two innings. He gave up a hit to start the third that was quickly erased on a double play and then didn't allow another hit until the seventh, when UConn had runners on first and third. Again, though, Roth pitched out of trouble when John Andreoli grounded out to second.Roth got a big cheer when he ran out to the mound for the ninth. Roth didn't last, though, pulled with a one out and a runner on first.John Taylor got the last two outs for the Gamecocks, who will try and reach their fifth CWS since 2002 when these teams take the field on Sunday.Connecticut is playing in its first super regional series as it tries for its first trip to Omaha since 1979. Nemeth said the Huskies are accustomed to battling back. "I feel good," he said. "We've been in this situation so many times."
M Nemeth singled to left, G Springer scored.
S Wingo singled to shallow right, E Marzilli scored.
J Williams scored, P Mooney to second on wild pitch by M Barnes.
S Wingo singled to center, S Neff scored.
C Walker singled to right, S Wingo scored.
B Thomas singled to center, C Walker scored, B Thomas to second on throwing error by center fielder G Springer.