By Eric Olson/The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — Michael Roth offered yet another example of why he’s one of the most dominant pitchers ever at the College World Series.
Roth tossed a two-hitter, retiring the last 22 batters he faced, and two-time defending national champion South Carolina eliminated Kent State from the College World Series with a 4-1 victory Thursday.
“He is the biggest superstar our game has,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “He throws 85 mph. He just knows how to pitch. He does everything the right way. Great student. I’ve got a ton of respect for him. I’ve enjoyed watching him on TV. I did not enjoy watching him today.”
Roth’s performance advanced the Gamecocks (47-18) to a game against Arkansas on Thursday night. They need two wins over the Razorbacks to advance to the championship round that starts Sunday.
The game against Kent State was postponed by rain Wednesday, which gave Roth a fourth day of rest since his win over Florida on Saturday. It wasn’t a difficult decision to give the ball to Roth rather than Jordan Montgomery, who had been the scheduled starter Wednesday.
“Our season was on the line just like it is from here on out, so to not throw Mike against a quality team as Kent State is … it would be real tough to live with if we didn’t win that game,” pitching coach Jerry Meyers said.
Grayson Greiner and Chase Vergason hit consecutive RBI singles in the second inning to erase Kent State’s 1-0 lead. LB Dantzler homered in the third against Tyler Skulina.
Kent State (47-20) finished 1-2 in its first CWS appearance.
Roth (9-1) struck out eight and walked none. He was perfect after giving up Sawyer Polen’s RBI single in the second inning.
“Once we scored, it’s almost like we made him mad and he said that’s not happening anymore,” Stricklin said.
Roth, a senior left-hander, became the first CWS pitcher to throw a complete game with two hits or fewer since June 6, 1993, when Mike Fontana of Long Beach State threw a two-hitter against Kansas.
Roth also became the CWS’ all-time leader in innings pitched, with 53 2-3 over three years, and tied a CWS career record for starts with his seventh.
“I don’t really think about the past too much. Maybe you can draw from it,” he said. “It’s been nice to have the opportunity to pitch here for three years, and I just really don’t take that for granted.”
Roth threw 106 pitches, 70 for strikes.
“I was able to hit the strike zone with pretty much every pitch I threw,” Roth said. “That helped me a lot. I didn’t have any walks today. When there aren’t baserunners, you can stay on that roll.”
The second was the only inning in which Roth allowed a man on base. After Polen’s single, he got Nick Hamilton to hit into a double play.
“Roth was very special today. He has been many, many times,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. “Last night I told him we need you to stay out there for a long time. He picked a great time to give us a complete game and gave us a chance to rest the bullpen.”
The game lasted just 2 hours, 7 minutes, making it the shortest at the CWS since 2003 when Rice and Missouri State played in 2:02.
Kent State had entered the game having won each of Skulina’s last 12 starts. Skulina (11-3) left with two out in the sixth after allowing four runs on six hits and four walks. He struck out nine.
Roth earned his second win of the CWS. He pitched 6 1-3 innings in a 7-3 victory over the Seminoles on Saturday.
In 11 career NCAA tournament starts, Roth is 8-0, pitching at least five innings each time and never allowing more than three earned runs.
“I talked to coach Tanner before the game, and Roth was campaigning to pitch last night,” Stricklin said. “He said after the game was cancelled that Roth came up to him and said you can’t hold me out now. He wanted to be on the mound. I don’t blame coach Tanner one bit. When your senior says give me the ball, you’ve got to give it to him.”
Kent State shut down South Carolina’s offense after Dantzler hit his 10th homer of the year in the third. Skulina, Casey Wilson and Brian Clark held the Gamecocks to one hit the rest of the way.
South Carolina will become the first team since Georgia in 1987 to play all or part of two games in the same day at the CWS. The last team to play two full games on the same day was Michigan, on June 2, 1980.
Roth needs the Gamecocks to get to the finals to get one more start at the CWS.
“Before the game you think this could potentially be my last game or my last start ever,” he said. “But while you’re getting ready to pitch, you’re focusing on that game and where your pitches are going and how you’re feeling. … You just try to hope that role continues, and I was able to do that today.”