By: Eric SanInocencio
SEC Digital Network
Birmingham, Ala. -- South Carolina's season is on the line. After dropping the first game of the College World Series Title matchup to Arizona 5-1 on Sunday night, the Gamecocks are down to one final chance.
History is at stake for the defending two-time National Champions on Monday, after having battled to win three games in 36 hours just to get to this point. Ray Tanner's team has one contest standing between them and the possible end of one of the greatest runs in college baseball history.
With all that riding on tonight's outcome, who would you want on the mound? For every South Carolina fan, that's an easy answer.
Roth, who will likely go down in Gamecock annals as one of the program's best pitchers, takes to the hill tonight in hopes of keeping USC's shot at history alive. After a career filled with transcendent victories, perhaps the senior from Greer, South Carolina should be used to it by now.
For Roth, Omaha has become a second home. The key cog in South Carolina's last two championship teams, it is impossible to scan through the pitching record books at the College World Series and not see his name. The left-hander has a 1.17 ERA in his Omaha career, a mark that ranks second all-time at the event (minimum 30 innings). With his appearance in tonight's game, he will become the first pitcher to ever start eight games at the CWS.
It was on this very stage where Roth first became a household name. After getting limited time on the hill during his sophomore year in 2010, the lefty hurled two gems in the span of a week, helping South Carolina bring home its first ever National Championship. In his first start of the season that year, he pitched a complete game in a 5-1 win over Clemson. Four days later he was at it again, this time holding UCLA to one run as the Gamecocks won the National Title.
After those two performances, the legend of Michael Roth was born.
The 2011 season was even more magical, as the side-winding left-hander captured numerous awards en route to another trip to Omaha. Roth went 14-3 on the bump, and was named a consensus All-American by six different publications. As he had done the year before, Roth clinched a title for South Carolina, this time dealing for over seven innings against SEC rival Florida to capture the hardware.
This year has been no different. Roth once again headlined South Carolina's pitching staff, turning in a 9-1 mark in over 130 innings pitched. Two of those wins have come in his final trip to Omaha, as he bested top seed Florida and dispatched of upstart Kent State. Off the field he's shined as well, as the senior captured the prestigious Boyd-McWhorter Award, given out annually to the SEC's top student-athlete.
What perhaps amazes most about Roth's big-game success is the unorthodox manner in which he achieves it. Armed with a fastball that rarely cracks over 86 miles per hour, he has found ways to achieve greatness without the "stuff" normally associated with it. A cerebral pitcher, Roth attacks from different angles and speeds, using deception and creativity to get hitters out. Despite the lack of a "power" arsenal, the senior has punched out 265 hitters in his career.
No matter what happens tonight, Michael Roth's legacy at South Carolina is intact. He will go down as a Gamecock great, someone who contributed to USC's phenomenal run of championships. But, rarely does a player get to "finish" what he "started", and the senior has that chance against Arizona tonight in Omaha.
For South Carolina fans, they wouldn't have it any other way.