Gamecocks stay alive twice with doubleheader sweep

After having its record 12-game College World Series winning streak snapped earlier this week, South Carolina simply started a new one by winning a doubleheader over Kent State and Arkansas on Thursday.

Wednesday’s rainout forced the Gamecocks to play two on Thursday, but it was better than the alternative of not playing at all. USC faced elimination in both games but defeated Kent State 4-1 in the afternoon and knocked off Arkansas 2-0 in the nightcap.

The Gamecocks got two outstanding pitching performances from starters Michael Roth and Jordan Montgomery, who combined to face only three batters more than the minimum. Roth went the distance in beating the Golden Flashes while Montgomery threw eight shutout innings of three-hit ball. He struck out six and walked only one.

Former St. James standout Tanner English played a role in both Gamecock runs in the second inning. He ripped an RBI double to left field to score Erik Payne, then scored on Chase Vargeson’s double to center to give Montgomery all the offensive support he needed. Matt Price came in to close out the Razorbacks in the ninth.

The win over Arkansas set up a final showdown between the SEC rivals Friday night at 9 p.m., with the winner advancing to face Arizona in the CWS championship series. South Carolina is likely to start former Conway High right-hander Colby Holmes, who suffered the 2-1 loss to the Razorbacks in the first winners’ bracket game.

Roth, who tied the NCAA records for career starts at the College World Series with seven and wins with four, and established a record with the most innings pitched in College World Series history, improved his record to 9-1 on the season. He went the distance, allowing two hits and one run with no walks and eight strikeouts while throwing 106 pitches. He retired the final 22 batters he faced in order.

The Golden Flashes (47-20) broke out on top with a run in the top of the second inning. George Roberts led off with a single to right, advanced to second on a groundout and scored on Sawyer Polen’s single to left. Those would be the only two baserunners of the game for Kent State.

The Gamecocks came right back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Adam Matthews and Kyle Martin stroked back-to-back singles. After Tanner English struck out, Grayson Greiner singled off the glove of Polen behind the third base bag. When the ball rolled away into foul territory, Matthews was able to beat the throw to the plate to tie the score at one. Chase Vergason followed with a single to right, plating Martin with the Gamecocks’ second run.

Carolina increased its lead in the bottom of the third inning. After Christian Walker belted a two-out double into the right-centerfield alley, LB Dantzler crushed a two-run homer over the rightfield bullpen, his 10th round tripper of the season, giving the Gamecocks a 4-1 advantage.

The Gamecocks finished the game with seven hits and left seven runners on base.

Kent State starter Tyler Skulina (11-3) was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs on six hits with four walks and nine strikeouts over 5.2 innings of work.

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