NOTEBOOK: Another Roth battle

Carolina Stadium hosts its first ever Super Regional Saturday night as Michael Roth and Matt Barnes square off in game-one of the Columbia Super Regional. Look inside as Gamecock Anthem sets the stage for what should be a memorable weekend in Columbia.

The stakes may be raised as an opposing team trots another first-rounder to the mound Saturday night in game-one of the Columbia Super Regional. But it's just another opportunity to compete for Michael Roth.

The media, fans and broadcasters will likely be thrilled to watch Roth's showdown with UConn fire-baller Matt Barnes. They'll likely talk about Barnes' 6-foot-4 frame, mid-90s fastball and two breaking pitches -- not to mention the fact that he was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft earlier this week.

But Roth plans to leave all that talking to everyone else.

"It will just be another battle again and that's the way I have described the whole year," Roth said. "I just go out there and compete and try to throw my game and not get mixed up in all that."

The Gamecocks' ace has faced opposing ace after opposing ace -- including first-round picks Alex Meyer and Sonny Gray -- and artfully pitched his team to victory 12 times this season while taking just three losses. Roth may not flash the draft status or the fastball of Barnes, but he and his 1.10 ERA are long past filling the underdog role.

"He's a heck of a pitcher," UConn head coach Jim Penders said. "He really knows how to pitch. He's found away to become a heck of a competitor. ... We expect a heck of a test. I know these guys have been in big games. These guys are wearing rings. They've been on the biggest stage there is and excelled on it. We expect one heck of a battle."

There will be no bulletin board material shared between the two teams as both skillfully traded compliments in Friday afternoon's preview press conference.

"It takes a very special person to be drafted that way," Tanner said, "but a big strong guy with multiple pitches, a hard thrower, a Cape Cod performer; all of the stuff that a first-rounder possesses. You have to be very good on that particular day or those guys will stuff you a little bit."

"He's a good pitcher and he pitches for a good ball club," Barnes said of Roth. "He has beaten some competitive arms and some other good talent. I'm just going to go out there and do what I've done all year and provide my team with a quality start. Hopefully we can score some runs off of him and get out of there with a win."

That's what both sides will be hoping for in what could be an epic match-up at Carolina Stadium between two of the nation's best.

But it's Roth's ability to put all of that out of mind that makes Tanner comfortable when his top pitcher is on the mound.

"You can't try to do too much at one time and that's what Roth is really good about," Tanner said. "He is going to do what he can do and good, bad or indifferent, I will be content with that because I know who he is and what I am going to get, it is going to be his best effort on that particular day. He is just going to try to pitch like he is capable and we hope it is good enough."

Confidence booster in Clemson

South Carolina may have its historic run to a national title this time a year ago and a successful run through a brutal SEC schedule to draw confidence from. But the Huskies aren't a team lacking confidence either.

Ironically, much of that confidence comes from the outcome of UConn's showing last weekend right down the road at the Clemson Regional.

"It brings a lot to the table coming into this weekend," UConn second baseman L.J. Mazzilli said. "Going to Clemson and playing big games, in front of big crowds, gave us a little confidence boost. It told us that we can do it as a team. Coming into this series it gives us a little confidence."

While his team was never lacking confidence before, Penders also hopes his team can draw on the experience.

"We haven't been here before, but I feel like the last couple days in Clemson were very helpful to us," he said. "I think it helped us, hopefully, get over that hurdle and beat somebody that other folks didn't feel like we could beat. We had 31 kids in our dugout that believed that we could beat them, and that's all that matters."

The Huskies not only won the regional but fought back after losing the first game and then falling behind in the first championship game and found a way to win in dramatic fashion before pounding Clemson in the if-necessary game.

"It shows that we have that never say die approach," center fielder George Springer said. "We're going to go out and play as hard as we possibly can. There's a phenomenal ball club here. They have great arms and they all can hit. We're just going to go out and play hard and hopefully hold on to what happened the last few games."

Great atmosphere expected

One common theme among the three visiting teams at the Columbia Regional was the thrill of playing in a park like Carolina Stadium in front of the huge crowds Gamecock fans produce.

More of the same is certainly expected this weekend and could play a major factor in the outcome with what are otherwise pretty even teams.

"We have some of the best fans in the country, if not the best," Roth said. "Without them, we probably wouldn't win some of the games that we do because they create a great atmosphere and we are hoping for that this weekend."

The Connecticut players got a taste of what baseball in the Palmetto State is like a week ago. And they've been warned what to expect from Carolina fans this weekend.

"I think it shows a lot about the town here and about the support that they have for the team itself," Stringer said. "It's the exact same away at home the only problem is, it's not sunny and blue all day. Here, it's an absolutely unbelievable stadium and from what I've heard the atmosphere is incredible."

Penders is hoping his team will enjoy the spotlight but won't let it affect them on the field.

"If we let the environment get a hold of their attention, we probably aren't going to do so well," he said. "We're going to get out there and practice and I bet the dimensions are pretty similar to some other fields that we've played on. We'll see what happens."

No lack of respect

Connecticut might not be what you would call a "name" program in the ranks of college baseball. But by last weekend's results alone, the Huskies have grabbed the attention of the South Carolina players.

"It's impressive for them to come down to South Carolina and beat Clemson two games, at home makes it even more impressive," senior third baseman Adrian Morales said.

"Losing the first game and going through there and winning twice that tells you how good they are," Tanner added. "If you didn't know how good they are, that's a strong statement right there. Arguably Clemson was the best team in the county in the last three or four weeks, so for UConn to do what they did is very, very impressive."

The Huskies have compiled an impressive 45-18-1 record, and while they've been steady all season, appear to be hitting their stride at the right time.

"We know that if they are playing this late in the year they have had to beat some really good teams to get this far," catcher Brady Thomas said. "So we know that we have our work cut out for us and they are going to be a really good team and there should be some really good baseball this weekend."

They bring a .311 batting average and a great pitching staff, too, despite the fact they didn't step foot on the dirt of a baseball diamond from October to February because of snow on the ground.

"I know they have a great club, tremendous talent, well coached. There are only 16 teams left this time of year and that's the way it should be," Tanner said, acknowledging the difficulty of starting a season in the northeast. "We don't take for granted that you get to play at this time of year. (Our) guys have worked hard. We are excited about being here. This is part of the reason that they signed on to play at the University of South Carolina."


- Tanner didn't name a pitcher for Sunday's game but did say that it would be Colby Holmes or Forrest Koumas.

- Penders didn't name a Sunday starter, either, but said it would be Greg Nappo or Brian Ward depending on how Nappo, who pitched twice last weekend, feels.

- Adam Matthews looked "really good" this week and was finally back comfortable, Tanner said. Still, Matthews hasn't had many reps in the last couple of months and Tanner wasn't sure how much he would play. He will be available, though, and the plethora of left-handers Tanner expects to see increases his chances of playing.

- Connecticut's ability to steal bases is a concern, according to Tanner. He didn't yet know whether Brady Thomas or Robert Beary would catch but acknowledged UConn's ability to steal bases plus the health of Thomas' foot would be taken into consideration. Beary has displayed a stronger arm than Thomas as of late, Tanner said.

- Penders said that Stringer went through a workout in the pool at Clemson Tuesday and the hamstring he injured during that regional game him no trouble. They didn't push him this week on the field. They were going to test it more Friday night but expect him to be fine.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. first pitch and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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