South Carolina staved off elimination from the College World Series in impressive fashion on Thursday. The Gamecocks became just the third team in CWS History to beat two different teams on the same day when they knocked off Kent State 4-1 and Arkansas 2-0
Stopping the two-time defending champions from adding a third consecutive CWS crown is going to be a tall task for either Arkansas or Arizona, if the Gamecocks should advance. South Carolina is using the best weapon in its arsenal to stay alive in Omaha. Since seeing its record 22-game winning streak in the NCAA tournament snapped in a 2-1 loss to Arkansas on Monday, the Gamecocks have locked down their opponents on the mound.
Michael Roth took over against Kent State. Roth threw a complete game and allowed just two hits. He retired the last 22 batters he faced to put an end to the Golden Flashes' Cinderella season. Roth, who also pitched in South Carolina's win over Florida, threw 70 strikes on a total of 106 pitches. He tied a College World Series record with his fourth career victory and set a record for most innings pitched with 53 2/3 innings. Roth has never lost a game in nine appearances at Omaha and he has a sparkling 1.34 earned run average.
Jordan Montgomery echoed Roth's performance when he dominated against Arkansas later in the day. Montgomery struck out six batters and walked one to gain his sixth victory of the season. His efficiency from the mound against the Razorbacks was quite impressive. The freshman had 89 pitches in eight innings and threw 52 strikes during that span.
Coincidentally, Arkansas was the team to hand Montgomery his only loss of the season. The Razorbacks edged South Carolina 7-6 on May 5 when Montgomery gave up five earned runs on nine hits.
None of the Gamecocks' pitchers are likely to surrender those types of numbers against either Arkansas, or Arizona, if South Carolina advances to the best-of-three final on Sunday. The Gamecocks have allowed four runs or fewer in 18 consecutive CWS games dating back to 2004. They have not allowed more than four runs in any of their eight NCAA tournament games this season.
If South Carolina does claim the CWS title for a third consecutive season, pitching will be the tool that gets the Gamecocks there once again.
John Coon has covered baseball at the high school, collegiate and professional levels as a sports reporter. He is also a third generation Yankees fan who lives to see New York win another World Series title each fall.