In a matchup of aces Friday night at Carolina Stadium, South Carolina played its trump card.
USC left-hander Michael Roth outdueled hard-throwing Kentucky right-hander Alex Meyer for a 3-1 victory in the opener of a three-game SEC series. The third-ranked Gamecocks improved to 20-5 overall and 5-2 in the SEC, while the Wildcats dropped to 15-12 and 2-5.
Roth (6-1) allowed one run on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts over eight innings. The crafty junior hit his spots and kept the Wildcats off balance as he lowered his ERA to 1.44 and continued to establish himself as one of the top pitchers in the SEC.
“He knows how to pitch,” Tanner said. “His velocity is better than maybe in years past. He’ll get up to 87-88 sometimes. Just when you’re looking for a slider or a changeup, he’ll sneak one in on you, and it seems to have more velocity than it really does. You have to set up pitches, and he does a good job with that. I’m certainly ecstatic with what he’s been able to do for us.”
Roth downplayed any discussion of a duel with Meyer (3-4), who allowed three runs on six hits with five walks and six strikeouts in eight innings.
“I came out here like I do every Friday night trying to get a win. Roth said. “I don’t try to pattern myself after anyone. I try to throw my game and do what I do. So far it’s worked out well for me.”
The Gamecocks jumped on Meyer for two runs in the first inning. Meyer walked Peter Mooney and hit Scott Wingo with a pitch to start the game. Jackie Bradley followed with an RBI single to left-center, then Christian Walker made it 2-0 with a run-scoring groundout.
“It was very important,” Bradley said of USC’s fast start. “He’s a great pitcher. We all knew coming in here that he’s a flamethrower. We all wanted to sit on his fastball and adjust to his curve. He had some nasty stuff off-speed-wise. Sometimes he wasn’t able to locate it, but he began to settle down. We had a good approach against him, and we got some runs early.”
Kentucky got a run back in the third inning. Roth gave up a leadoff walk and a two-out RBI single to Chad Wright.
“We’re real confident when Michael Roth even approaches the mound,” Bradley said. “You know you’re going to have a quality start out of him. He’s a great pitcher who has a lot of composure. I feel like every time he steps on the mound he’s going to get it done.”
Peter Mooney hit the first home run of his USC career to lead off the fifth inning. The 5-foot-8 shortstop turned on a 92-mph fastball from the 6-foot-9 Meyer and launched it over the right-field fence to give USC a 3-1 lead.
Mooney, a junior-college transfer who hit leadoff because Adam Matthews was out with a hamstring injury, scored two runs. He also made several standout plays in the field and appears to be out of the hitting and fielding slumps that plagued him earlier in the season.
“It’s just a matter of being relaxed,” Mooney said. “I’m seeing the ball really good lately.”
Tanner agreed with his shortstop’s assessment.
“What you’re seeing now is the guy we thought we were going to have the entire year. He’s been solid for us,” Tanner said. “Early on he was trying to do too much, and now he’s comfortable.”
But this night was all about Roth’s performance. In a team-high 50 innings this season, he has allowed 40 hits and 12 walks while striking out 50.
Tanner knew Roth had courage and a cool demeanor after watching him deliver two huge spot starts last June in Omaha at the College World Series, but he’s seeing a true Friday night ace now.
“Not only has he been a winner for us, but he’s been eating innings. God knows we need that right now,” Tanner said, referring to the rash of injuries that has struck his pitching staff. “We’re a little bit thin, and we need somebody to take out some innings on the weekend.”
Matt Price pitched the ninth for his seventh save.
The teams play the second game of the series Saturday at 4:30 p.m. USC right-hander Colby Holmes (4-0, 4.00) will face Kentucky left-hander Corey Littrell (4-1, 5.17).
|Lucas Witt rf||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||0||0|
|Chad Wright lf||4||0||1||1||0||1||1||0||1|
|Taylor Black ss||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||1|
|Thomas McCarthy 3b||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||2||0|
|Braden Kapteyn dh||2||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|J.T. Riddle 2b||3||0||0||0||0||1||2||2||1|
|Luke Maile 1b||3||0||0||0||0||1||6||1||2|
|Michael Williams c||2||1||0||0||1||1||8||0||0|
|Brian Adams cf||2||0||1||0||0||1||2||0||0|
|Alex Meyer p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Peter Mooney ss||2||2||1||1||1||1||1||4||0|
|Scott Wingo 2b||3||1||1||0||0||1||1||1||0|
|Jackie Bradley Jr. cf||3||0||2||1||1||0||1||0||3|
|Christian Walker 1b||4||0||1||1||0||0||14||0||2|
|Adrian Morales 3b||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||6||1|
|Jake Williams dh||4||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||1|
|Brady Thomas c||2||0||0||0||2||1||6||0||0|
|Robert Beary lf||4||0||0||0||0||2||1||0||1|
|Evan Marzilli rf||2||0||1||0||1||1||2||0||0|
|Michael Roth p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|Matt Price p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
E - L. Maile(1). LOB - UK 5; S. Carolina 8. 2B - B. Adams(7); Bradley Jr.(8). HR - Mooney(1). HBP - B. Kapteyn 2; Wingo. SH - J.T. Riddle(5); B. Adams(5); Mooney(3). SB - Thomas(1).
|Alex Meyer L,3-4||8.0||6||3||3||5||8||1||0||1||1||28||35||9||6||127|
|Michael Roth W,6-1||8.0||3||1||1||1||6||0||0||2||0||24||29||5||12||101|
|Matt Price S,7||1.0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4||4||3||0||11|
Win - Roth (6-1). Loss - A. Meyer (3-4). Save - Price (7). WP - A. Meyer(6). HBP - by A. Meyer (Wingo); by Roth (B. Kapteyn); by Roth (B. Kapteyn). Pitches/strikes: A. Meyer 127/70; Roth 101/65; Price 11/5.
Umpires - HP: Scott Erby 1B: David Savage 3B: Danny Everett
Start: 7:06 pm