Gamecocks take game one in SEC Tournament

HOOVER, Ala. -- South Carolina left-hander Michael Roth wasn't even supposed to be on the mound. Head coach Ray Tanner had said he may go with Steven Neff or Forrest Koumas on the mound in the Gamecocks' SEC Tournament opener against Auburn.

Tanner is probably pretty glad he let Roth change his mind.

The Gamecocks' top starter all season along, Roth -- who improves to 11-3 on the season with the 7-3 USC victory -- allowed three unearned runs in the first inning but didn't give up another run all game as he settled in an pitched the Gamecocks' first complete game of the season and giving them their first win at the SEC Tournament since 2009.

Tanner had wanted to get Roth, who had lost his last two starts, some extra rest much like he did last season with Friday starter Blake Cooper.

But Roth was having none of it. And citing Roth's 3.9 GPA, Tanner let his Academic All-American make the final decision.

"Over the years, I've always listened to players," Tanner said. "Sometimes you have to really evaluate what you're hearing. ... Ever since Michael Roth has been in the program, he's been candid and honest and tells exactly how he feels.

"I said, 'alright big guy, as long as you're solid in your information, let's go.'"

After giving up three hits in a row at one point in the first inning, Roth settled in and gave up just three hits the rest of the game eventually sitting down the final 13 batters he faced.

Roth said he didn't make any changes after the first inning but did make some adjustments before the game after receiving some advice from an unlikely source.

"A lot of times you don't want to listen to your parents but I actually got a lot of stuff from my mom," Roth said. "Weirdly enough she was at the Alabama game, and she was like, 'You know what, you're working a lot slower than I like for you to work.' She was like, 'I want for you pick up the pace,' and looking back on the last couple of games that's probably the best piece of advice I could have gotten."

After a 1-2-3 first inning at the plate, the Gamecocks fired back and quickly erased the deficit with a three-run second inning.

"When you're down a couple of runs you always just try to piece the game back together one run at a time," center fielder Evan Marzilli said. "You cant go out there swinging for the fences because you can't win it in one swing really. So we just came out and tried to put some runs up every inning and we were able to do that."

Marzilli continued the torrid pace he's been on recently going 2-for-2 with two RBIs and two runs scored. After an Adrian Morales RBI double made it 3-1 in the second, it was Marzilli's ground-rule double that bounced over the left-center wall that tied the game.

South Carolina took the lead in the third on a Jake Williams RBI single to laeft and added another run on a Peter Mooney double in the fourth.

The Gamecocks stretched the lead to 7-3 in the sixth on a DeSean Anderson RBI single up the middle and a Mooney sacrifice fly to center field.

By that time, Roth had settled in on the mound as he avoided major trouble through the middle innings and was dominant in the final three innings.

"The arm felt great," Roth said. "I just started spotting up a little bit better I think. The change-up wasn't there as well as it normally is in the early innings. I guess I got a little bit tired and started coming over and I started staying back a little bit on the pitches."

Roth only struck out two while walking two and felt confident in letting his defense work behind him.

Marzilli wasn't only effective at the plate but tracked down eight fly balls including several that could have gone for extra bases.

"I told Coach (John) Pawlowski at the end of the game, I said, 'you guys squared up some balls really good to center field today that could have been a little bit different,' and Marzilli made some really good plays out there that kept the game in check."

That was enough for the Gamecocks to improve to 45-12 on the season and for Roth to improve his ERA to 1.17.

After the rough start South Carolina was able to cruise to a relatively easy victory. The Gamecocks out-hit Auburn 8-6 as Tigers starter Jon Luke Jacobs took the loss after lasting just three innings.

Auburn falls to 29-28 on the season.

With the win, the Gamecocks broke a streak of five straight times that the tournament's No. 1 seed had lost to the No. 8 seed.

The Gamecocks will play the winner of the Vanderbilt-Georgia game in the second game of the second session Thursday night.

Freshman right-hander Forrest Koumas is scheduled to get the start.

Chad Holbrook Update

Following the game, Tanner responded to reports that Associate Head Coach Chad Holbrook would talk with Tennessee by phone Thursday about the Volunteers' vacant head coaching job. Tanner didn't confirm nor deny whether that conversation was going to take place and said:

"It's not a distraction. I think that some of the guys have had a little bit of fun with it. But lets be honest here, he's a tremendous coach. He has been for a long, long time. He could have been a head coach long before now had he chosen to go his first opportunity.

"But he's the caliber of coach that he's going to get a major job when he takes his first job. So, that's where it is, and we have a little fun with it but it's not a distraction, it really isn't.

"If all that comes to pass then that will be great for him. But I will let you know it is not going to be easy for him to get out of the garnet and black. It's not going to be a case where we just stand by and watch. We're going to -- if it gets to that point -- we're going to do everything we can to keep him right where he is." He gets great jumps and runs tremendous angles. I thought that he would do a great job for us and he really has."

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