• Box Score: South Carolina 4, Kent State 1
• Photo Showcase: South Carolina vs. Kent State
• Postgame press conference audio: Kent State, South Carolina
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The evidence is mounting that South Carolina pitcher Michael Roth is the ultimate mound warrior in College World Series history.
Roth set one career record, tied another and sent Kent State packing Thursday in the Gamecocks' 4-1 victory. Roth pitched the first complete-game two-hitter in Omaha since 1993, retiring the final 22 batters he faced to extend South Carolina's season by at least a game.
“Today he was very special, but he's been very good a lot,'' South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. “He's had a lot of good ones, but this was probably the most critical game he's pitched for us.
“He was good, and he gave us nine innings. You can't go into a game against Arkansas without feeling like you have a pretty good staff ready to go. He gave us a chance today.''
South Carolina's win at TD Ameritrade Park advanced the Gamecocks into the Bracket Two championship game later Thursday against Arkansas. Kent State and South Carolina originally were scheduled to play Wednesday, but the game was pushed back a day by rain.
That gave Roth a chance to pitch against the Golden Flashes. He beat Florida in South Carolina's opener Saturday.
“Coach came to me and asked if I was 100 percent,'' Roth said. “I said yes, and he said, ‘You're getting the ball.' I was looking forward to it.''
Roth needed only 106 pitches to chew through the Kent State lineup. He went to three-ball counts just twice. He struck out eight and faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum.
“He commanded the game, and that's why he's an All-American,'' Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “He's the biggest superstar in our game, and he throws 85 miles an hour. He just knows how to pitch.''
The complete game boosted Roth's CWS innings pitched over the past three seasons to 53 23, breaking the career record of 47 that had been shared by Ohio State's Steve Arlin and Texas' Greg Swindell.
The win was Roth's fourth in Omaha, making him the 12th pitcher to accomplish that feat. One victory came in 2010, when he threw a complete game over Clemson to stave off elimination. He won once last season in South Carolina's run to a second straight national title and is 2-0 in Omaha this season.
Roth sidestepped a question of whether Thursday's win was his biggest at the CWS.
“To me, they've all been important games here,'' he said. “I just try to go out there and give the team a chance to win.”
Kent State got its only hits off Roth in the second, putting him in a 1-0 hole. George Roberts led off the inning with a single, moved to second on an infield out and scored on Sawyer Polen's single. Roth then got Nick Hamilton to hit into a double play, and the Golden Flashes never had another base runner.
“He just kept pumping the strikes,'' Roberts said.
Roth's teammates got him the lead in South Carolina's half of the second as Grayson Greiner and Chase Vergason had two-out RBI singles off losing pitcher Tyler Skulina (11-3). The Gamecocks added two more runs in the third, again with two outs, when LB Dantzler followed Christian Walker's double with his 10th homer.
“I thought it was going to be a pitching duel until the end,'' Tanner said. “We were fortunate to get those two-out runs.''
And the Gamecocks were equally fortunate to have Roth on the mound to protect them. As good as Roth has been throughout his career, he has been unbeatable in the postseason.
Thursday's game was Roth's 17th in the NCAA tournament. He's pitched 88 13 innings, allowing just 53 hits and 13 earned runs. That gives him a 1.32 postseason ERA and an 8-0 record.
“He's a guy that straps it on for you,'' Tanner said. “He's going to give you a great effort, even if it's not what he thinks is a best effort. As a staff, we feel good about having him out there.
“He's going to give you a chance.''
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