Friday night’s baseball game between South Carolina and Clemson wasn’t played in Omaha.
But the results were the same. And so were the heroes.
USC left-hander Michael Roth pitched seven strong innings, first baseman Christian
Walker drilled the go-ahead home run, and closer Matt Price finished off the Tigers in a 6-3 victory before a sellout crowd of 8,242 at Carolina Stadium.
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The No. 4 Gamecocks (8-0) and the No. 12 Tigers (6-2) provided the requisite drama that comes with the rivalry, but USC’s players made more key plays when it counted most.
“They’re going to battle, we’re going to battle,” USC coach Ray Tanner said. “Those kinds of games can go either way. Our guys were able to make a couple of big pitches and get a couple of big hits from the middle innings on.”
Roth (3-0) scattered seven hits over seven innings while walking three and striking out six. The three runs he allowed in the second inning were unearned. Price pitched the final 1 2/3 innings to record his third save. Roth induced a double-play grounder to end the seventh, while Price did the same in the eighth. Price then struck out the side in the ninth.
Tanner pointed to Roth’s gritty performance as evidence of why he was installed as the No. 1 starter.
“You always feel like you’ve got a chance with him on the mound. He’s going to do his best to give our team a chance to win,” Tanner said.
Despite having to shake off a fender-bender on his way to the ballpark, Roth maintained his usual poise on the mound. He refused to dwell on his complete-game victory over the Tigers in the College World Series last summer.
“They’ve got the same guys, but it’s still a different team,” he said. “I just tried to get out there and pitch the way I know how to pitch. I’m not going to change anything.”
The Gamecocks took a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning when Walker drilled a two-out, two-run homer onto the concourse in left-center off Clemson starter Scott Weismann (2-1). The bomb scored Evan Marzilli, who singled to lead off the inning.
Second baseman Scott Wingo hit a two-run homer in the eighth for a pair of insurance runs in the victory, USC’s third straight over the Tigers dating back to last season, when the Gamecocks eliminated them in Omaha with back-to-back 5-1 and 4-3 wins.
Wingo also insisted the Gamecocks were looking forward.
“It’s a new year. They’re always a good team so I don’t think we felt that really,” Wingo said.
Price liked Wingo’s new-season heroics that provided him with a three-run lead in the ninth.
“It puts a little breathing room in your system,” Price said. “Wingo goes up there and hits a home run. You’re in the dugout taking a deep breath and then go, ‘Alright, you just got to go out there and do your job.’”
Roth worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth when he struck out Jason Stolz to end the inning. Richie Shaffer led off the frame with a single after an amazing 14-pitch at-bat. A one-out single by Spencer Kieboom and two-out intentional walk brought up Stolz, who fanned on a 3-2 pitch.
“It was a grind all game, and I was able to come through with a big pitch when I needed it,” Roth said.
Clemson coach Jack Leggett saluted Roth’s outing.
“Roth did a good job,” Leggett said. “We had a little bit better idea about what to do this time around than last time we saw him. I thought we did a pretty good job with him, but we just couldn’t get to the point where we could grab a lead.”
The Tigers did jump out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning off Roth on Phil Pohl’s two-out, two-run double down the left-field line. Stolz followed with an RBI single up the middle. All the runs were unearned after USC shortstop Peter Mooney made his first error of the season on John Hinson’s slow roller, which got the rally started by putting runners on first and second with no outs.
USC answered back in its half of the inning when Brady Thomas blasted a two-run homer, his first of the season, to right-field off Weismann, who hit Walker with a pitch to start the inning. That cut Clemson’s lead to 3-2.
“Brady got us back in it with one swing of the bat, and we battled back from there,” said Tanner.
He was pleased to see three two-run homers.
“I didn’t expect it so much. It doesn’t seem to be a part of the game right now, but it came up big for us tonight,” he said.
Leggett called the three homers the difference, but he wasn’t disappointed by his team’s play.
“We’ve got a long season to go. One game doesn’t make a season for us,” Leggett said. “We’d love to have won the ballgame. But our kids played good. It just wasn’t good enough tonight.”
And Roth wasn’t going to let a minor car accident ruin his day either.
“I was a little upset and not happy (by the wreck), but overall it’s a great day because we beat Clemson in the end,” he said.
The Gamecocks play the Tigers at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in the second game of the series at Fluor Field in Greenville. USC left-hander Tyler Webb (2-0) will face Clemson right-hander Kevin Brady (2-0).
Michael Roth, Brady Thomas and Christian Walker
|Chris Epps rf||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||0||1|
|Brad Miller ss||3||0||0||0||1||1||1||0||0|
|Jeff Schaus lf||4||0||1||0||0||1||6||0||2|
|Richie Shaffer 1b||2||1||1||0||1||0||8||1||0|
|John Hinson 3b||4||1||0||0||0||1||0||1||0|
|Spencer Kieboom c||3||0||1||0||0||0||5||0||0|
|Will Lamb cf||4||0||0||0||0||3||0||0||0|
|Phil Pohl dh||3||1||2||2||1||1||0||0||0|
|Jason Stolz 2b||3||0||1||1||0||1||1||2||3|
|Dominic Attanasio ph||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Scott Weismann p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Scott Firth p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Alex Frederick p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Joseph Moorefield p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Evan Marzilli lf||5||1||2||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Adam Matthews rf||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jackie Bradley Jr. cf||5||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||3|
|Christian Walker 1b||3||2||2||2||0||0||9||2||0|
|Brady Thomas c||4||1||2||2||0||0||10||0||2|
|Adrian Morales 3b||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||1||0|
|Peter Mooney ss||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||4||2|
|Jake Williams dh||3||1||2||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|Scott Wingo 2b||3||1||1||2||1||0||0||4||2|
|Michael Roth p||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||2||0|
|John Taylor p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Bryan Harper p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Matt Price p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
E - HINSON(5); Mooney(1). DP - S. Carolina 2. LOB - CU 6; S. Carolina 9. 2B - POHL 2(4); Williams(1). HR - Walker(3); Thomas(1); Wingo(2). HBP - SHAFFER; Matthews 2; Walker. SH - KIEBOOM(1); Matthews(3). CS - SCHAUS(3).
|Scott Weismann L,2-1||5.0||6||4||4||1||3||0||0||2||0||21||25||8||4||98|
|Michael Roth W,3-0||7.0||7||3||0||3||6||0||0||0||1||26||30||4||9||105|
|Matt Price S,3||1.2||0||0||0||0||3||0||0||0||0||4||4||0||1||21|
Win - Roth (3-0). Loss - WEISMANN (2-1). Save - Price (3). HBP - by WEISMANN (Walker); by WEISMANN (Matthews); by FIRTH (Matthews); by Taylor (SHAFFER). Pitches/strikes: WEISMANN 98/65; FIRTH 52/31; FREDERICK 3/2; MOOREFIELD 1/1; Roth 105/70; Taylor 7/3; Harper 5/3; Price 21/14.
Umpires - HP: Tony Walsh 1B: Scott Erby 2B: Randy Harvey 3B: Troy Fullwood
Start: 7:00 pm
Taylor faced 1 batter in the 8th.