The book on Michael Roth’s pitching exploits gained another chapter Friday night.
South Carolina’s senior left-hander struck out a career-high 10 batters in a 2-1 win over Princeton at Carolina Stadium to start a three-game series.
Roth (2-0) pitched 8 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and no walks, although the Tigers got to him for their lone run in the ninth inning. His ERA stands at 0.93 over his first four starts of the season.
Princeton coach Scott Bradley, who played in the major leagues for nine seasons, came away impressed with the USC ace after seeing him in person. The Tigers (2-3) had prepared for this game by watching a lot of archived online footage of Roth from his outings that were televised.
“He just stays out of patterns. We make our hitters aware of the changeup, but he throws enough fastballs on both sides of the plate to keep you sped up,” Bradley said. “My whole philosophy is that good pitchers can speed hitters up and slow people down, and he’s got a real sense for how to do that.”
Bradley watched Roth, a first-team All-American last season with a 14-3 record and 1.06 ERA, strike out the final batter to end six different innings, mixing his fastball with tight breaking balls and his changeup.
“He makes the ball do different things. And the changeup is such a good pitch,” Bradley said. “It’s deception. Everything comes out of his hand and looks the same. He’s a special competitor and a special kid on the mound.”
The teams play the second game of the series today at 4 p.m. USC right-hander Matt Price will face Princeton right-hander Mike Ford.
Freshman right-hander Evan Beal struck out Princeton pinch-hitter Ryan Albert for the final out to record his first save of the season after Roth allowed an RBI groundout to Ford following a pair of singles.
USC coach Ray Tanner never stops being amazed by Roth’s mastery of opposing teams.
“It’s very impressive, it really is. You really feel like, when he’s on the mound, you have a pretty good chance to win if you play catch and get a few runs,” Tanner said. “Tonight, he was sharp, and he was focused. He threw some cutters for strikes, his fastball was pretty good and his changeup was darting all over the place and hard to hit.”
Roth, who threw a season-high 113 pitches, said that he tries to avoid being predictable by using scouting reports and studying what the hitters are doing during the game. That worked well for him against the Tigers.
“Normally on nights like this, my changeup gets better the later I go into the games. That’s the pitch that I pitch off of,” Roth said. “I felt like I had command of most of my pitches. I missed some spots here and there, but it didn’t hurt me too bad.”
Junior right-hander Evan Marzilli, who tied a school single-game record with three doubles, said the Gamecocks have complete faith in Roth.
“He comes out every Friday, and you know you’re going to get a great start out of him. He’s consistent, and that’s what we love about him,” Marzilli said.
The Gamecocks (11-1) took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when freshman designated hitter Kyle Martin lined a home run over the right-field fence, the first of his USC career. That broke up a scoreless pitchers’ duel between Roth and Princeton right-hander Zak Hermans, who worked his way out of trouble in the first, second and fifth innings, when the Gamecocks stranded seven runners.
USC upped the lead to 2-0 off reliever Kevin Link in the sixth on Connor Bright’s one-out RBI single, which followed singles by Adam Matthews and Martin to start the inning. It was Martin’s second three-hit game of the season, a feat that upped his batting average to .476.
“I’m really happy with the progress he has made in a short period of time,” Tanner said.
But Tanner, who won his 700th game in his 16th season as the South Carolina coach, is less pleased with the inconsistency of his middle infield. The Gamecocks used their fourth player to start at second base in sophomore Erik Payne, who has primarily served as a third baseman in his career.
Chase Vergason, T.J. Costen and Bright also have started at second this season. Bright started his second consecutive game at shortstop in place of fellow freshman Joey Pankake, who struggled defensively in the Clemson series last weekend. Tanner stated the issue remains far from settled.
“It hasn’t been a situation we’ve been real comfortable with. We just have to fight through it,” he said. “It is what it is. We’ve got to deal with it, and hopefully we can continue to find a way to win.”
That task becomes easier when Roth is pitching.
|Bowman, Matt ss||4||1||2||0||0||0||2||4||0|
|Mishu, John rf||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Mulroy, Sam c||4||0||1||0||0||0||10||0||1|
|Ford, Mike 1b||4||0||1||1||0||2||8||0||1|
|York, Jonathan 3b||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Albert, Ryan ph||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1|
|Servais, Tyler dh||3||0||1||0||0||2||0||0||0|
|Flink, Alex 2b||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||3||0|
|Baird, Nate lf||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||1|
|Owens, Peter cf||3||0||0||0||0||3||2||0||0|
|Hermans, Zak p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||2||0|
|Link, Kevin p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Evan Marzilli cf||4||0||3||0||1||0||2||0||0|
|Tanner English lf||5||0||0||0||0||3||3||0||4|
|Christian Walker 1b||4||0||1||0||1||0||5||0||2|
|LB Dantzler 3b||3||0||0||0||1||1||1||1||0|
|Grayson Greiner c||3||0||1||0||1||2||11||0||2|
|Adam Matthews rf||4||1||1||0||0||1||2||0||3|
|Kyle Martin dh||4||1||3||1||0||0||0||0||2|
|Erik Payne 2b||3||0||0||0||0||2||2||1||0|
|Connor Bright ss||3||0||1||1||1||1||0||3||0|
|Michael Roth p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Evan Beal p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
DP - S. Carolina 1. LOB - PRIN 4; S. Carolina 13. 2B - Mishu(3); Marzilli 3(4). HR - Martin(1). SH - Payne(1). SB - Marzilli(5).
|Hermans, Zak L,1-1||5.0||5||1||1||3||6||0||0||0||0||19||23||4||5||101|
|Michael Roth W,2-0||8.2||6||1||1||0||10||1||0||0||0||31||31||9||6||113|
|Evan Beal S,1||0.1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||5|
Win - Roth (2-0). Loss - Hermans (1-1). Save - Beal (1). WP - Roth(2). PB - Mulroy(1). Pitches/strikes: Hermans 101/62; Link 49/29; Roth 113/77; Beal 5/3.
Umpires - HP: Gary Swanson 1B: Richie Tallent 3B: Perry Ramicone
Start: 7:01 pm