Notebook: CWS Day 2 is a wrap
Gamecocks extend record streak; Kent State falls in CWS debut
OMAHA, Neb. -- South Carolina’s 22nd consecutive NCAA tournament win didn’t seem like such a lock for almost half of Saturday night’s game against Florida. Trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning against SEC-foe Florida, the Gamecocks did what they’ve done so many times during the stretch -- went to work.
After going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position through the first four innings, the first five South Carolina batters in the fifth inning reached base and wound up scoring to give starting pitcher Michael Roth a lead he wouldn’t relinquish in a 7-3 victory. After all, this is Omaha. All the senior does is win here.
“Obviously I'd like to be a little bit better, of course,” Roth said. “But you just have to go out there and grind it out and Florida's a great hitting team. Just need try to keep them off balance.”
After giving up three earned runs in 6.1 innings, Roth's ERA fell to fifth all-time at the College World Series. The lefthander has allowed eight earned runs in 44.2 innings for a 1.61 ERA. Roth made his sixth-career CWS start, second-most only to Miami’s J.D. Arteaga who started seven times.
With the victory, Roth became just the fourth pitcher in history with a CWS win in three different years -- 2010-2012. Roth was the victor in the 2011 championship game and in South Carolina’s 5-1 win against Clemson in 2010. The others to accomplish the feat are Carl Thomas of Arizona (1954-56), Greg Widman of Southern California (1970-72) and Allan Westfall of Miami (1994-96).
It was sophomore Erik Payne who delivered the big blow in that inning. Payne had made just 28 starts before Saturday, but his third triple of the season cleared the bases to give the Gamecocks the lead. That’s the way this South Carolina team does things. It’s not always the names.
Payne's drive was the fourth three-run triple in the last seven years at the CWS with his hit to the right-center field gap. The other three-run triples in Omaha since 2006 were by Texas A&M’s Brandon Wood on June 19, 2011 (first inning against South Carolina), TCU’s Taylor Featherston on June 21, 2010 (seventh inning against UCLA) and Miami’s Jon Jay on June 17, 2006 (eighth innings against Oregon State).
Not bad for a guy that is in and out of the lineup.
“You just got to practice and take batting practice every day like you're going to be playing,” Payne said. “You just got to try to stay sharp. You keep on the same routine. And hopefully when you get the opportunity, you're successful.”
“[Payne] was a freshman last year, had a tough time, didn't get much playing time,” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “It was a tough adjustment for him. But he’s so much better a year later. He's bigger, stronger. He's developed a lot more. And still hasn't got 250 at-bats -- closer to 100. But those guys know when you get a crack, you gotta be able to go out there and fight. And they've learned that from the older guys. We've got some guys that can play those roles.”
So now the Gamecocks are in a familiar spot. Staring at a game between opening game winners in Omaha, just like last season. This time they’ll face another SEC team in Arkansas, riding not only that 22 game streak but a 12-game win streak at the College World Series -- also an NCAA record.
LET IT RIDE: Kent State’s defensive play was definitely the highlight of its performance against Arkansas on Saturday as the Golden Flashes turned a season-high four double plays – one shy of the College World Series record.
Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider led the charge in the field for the Golden Flashes, collecting seven assists and taking part in all four double plays. Rider has been solid all season for Kent State, committing just seven errors with a .978 fielding percentage.
“Jimmy Rider, that’s what he does,” Kent State head coach Scott Stricklin said. “I’ve had the privilege of watching that for four years. I said before the game, when people Jimmy Rider play, they’re really going to appreciate how good of a player he is. He’s fun to watch. He’s the best shortstop I’ve ever had and makes every single play look easy, and when it’s hit to shortstop, we know it’s an out.”
Rider also contributed offensively, belting his sixth home run of the season in the sixth inning to score Kent State’s lone run. Rider ranks second among all active Division I players in hits (351). He has driven in 22 runs in his last 15 games dating back to May 15.
IN MEMORIAM: Thoughts and prayers go out to Kent State junior Jason Bagoly, whose mother Cheryl McHenry passed away suddenly on Friday morning of natural causes.
The Golden Flashes are wearing stickers on their helmets and hats with the initials “CM” to honor McHenry, and are dedicating their College World Series run to her memory. Bagoly, a backup first baseman, has decided to remain with the team for the rest of their time in Omaha.
On Thursday, Bagoly was honored for having the top grade-point average on the Kent State team, which posted the highest GPA (3.093) of the eight-team field in the 2012 CWS.
BACK IN SADDLE: South Carolina freshman catcher Grayson Greiner saw his first game action since the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday night in the game against Florida after tearing the lateral meniscus in his left knee in practice two days before the NCAA Columbia Regional.
Greiner, a homegrown player from Columbia, S.C., underwent arthroscopic surgery less than 24 hours after the injury, and missed the regional to rehabilitate the knee. The Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America pick was cleared to play against Oklahoma in the Super Regional, but did not see any action.
According to the Charleston Post-Courier, Greiner declared himself ready to play in the CWS after doing crouching drills at the Gamecocks’ practice on Friday.
In the fourth inning against the Gators, Greiner pinch hit for starting catch Dante Rosenberg, and then entered the game defensively in the bottom of the inning. Greiner entered the game batting .236 with six homers and 31 RBI on the season.
However, facing live pitching on college baseball’s biggest stage may take a little getting used to for Greiner. He struck out three times in his first three at bats, and walked in his final plate appearance in the ninth inning.
QUICK HITS: The last time the two teams in the championship the preceding year met in the opening round of the College World Series was 1960. Oklahoma State beat Arizona 5-3 for the 1959 title, and the Wildcats edged the Cowboys 2-1 in the opening game of the 1960 CWS … South Carolina closer Matt Price picked up the 42nd save of his career – a SEC record – and his 12th of the season. He also moved into eighth place on the NCAA Division I all-time saves list … Florida’s Preston Tucker added two RBIs on a double in the third inning, giving him 258 career RBIs, the most among all active Division I players … Florida tied a season-high with three errors, the most the Gators have committed since a 2-1 win against Mississippi State on May 13.