One win away from Omaha!

South Carolina starter Michael Roth pitched 8 1/3 innings surrendering just an unearned run as the Gamecocks defeated Connecticut 5-1 Saturday night at Carolina Stadium to move within one win of a return trip to Omaha. The Gamecocks chased first-round pick Matt Barnes from the game with one out in the fifth as they scored a run a piece in the second and third and three more in the fifth.

This was the whole reason Carolina Stadium was built.

And when South Carolina's three-season old baseball stadium hosted its first ever Super Regional game Saturday night it didn't disappoint as a packed house of 8,242 fans watched the Gamecocks defeat Connecticut 5-1 and pull within just one win of a second straight trip to Omaha for the College World Series.

This one had everything. A great pitching match-up. Clutch hitting. And big defensive plays.

"You've got to give our fans an assist," South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. "That was a special atmosphere. We've got great fans - they've been there for us for a long time. But it was at a fever pitch tonight. When we needed to score, they were helping us. We had more than nine people going in there for a while."

While it was Connecticut starter Matt Barnes that was dominant early – flashing a fastball that registered as high as 98 mph on the Carolina Stadium gun – and struck out the side in the first. "He was special," Tanner said of the first inning. "No doubt about it." It was South Carolina starter Michael Roth who calmly navigated a Huskies line-up that scored 46 runs in their four wins at the Clemson Regional.

"He was excellent," UConn head coach Jim Penders said. "We found out why Michael Roth is one of the best pitchers in the country. He did a great job of keeping us off balance."

The Gamecocks' ace settled in after surrendering a 1-0 lead on an unearned run in the first inning and didn't give up another over the final 7 1/3 innings he pitched.

Roth gave up just six hits as he kept the UConn hitters off-balance for most of the night.

He walked three and struck out two in 119 pitches. Roth improves to 13-3 on the season.

"He is a guy that doesn't let a lot of things enter into it," Tanner said. "He just goes out and plays. He just tries to go out and help his team win. He doesn't over-think it. He tries to make some pitches and get them off balance. He tries to get them off balance and play defense. It has worked in a big way; he has had a special year."

Despite three errors from the Carolina defense, they also helped Roth out with big plays in key situations throughout.

"We have played some really good defense at times," Tanner said. "But we have had some games like a lot of college teams have that didn't start out that well for us."

UConn looked poised to take a 2-0 lead in the second after a Peter Mooney throwing error gave the Huskies a runner on second with nobody out. But Roth was able to get out of the inning unscathed when first baseman Christian Walker came home to cut down a runner on a safety squeeze later in the inning.

Connecticut then led off the third inning with a hit and appeared to be in business when leading hitter George Springer ripped one towards the third-base line. But Adrian Morales made a diving stop to his right, popped up and threw to Scott Wingo at second who made an unbelievable turn on to first for a double play.

"Morales made a (heck) of a play on George Springer's ball that would have gone down the line," Penders said. "It could have been a different ballgame if that gets by him. They made the plays when they had to."

It wasn't soon after that the Carolina hitters began to wear Barnes down. The 6-foot-4 right-hander's velocity seemed to dip down into the low 90s and after hard-hit balls had led to nothing in the second inning, an Evan Marzilli double off the base of the left-field wall with two outs in the third marked USC's first hit. Wingo's line drive into right field scored Marzilli and the game was tied.

"We told the guys, 'Hey, we have to keep battling. We are going to have to scrap; we are not going to get a lot off this guy, but we have got to be competitive and try and get some balls to fall and try to keep it close. Let's get deep in the game and win it late if we need to. But we have got to continue to fight and scrap,'" Tanner said.

South Carolina took the lead in the fourth when a Mooney single put runners at the corners with two down and a wild pitch scored Jake Williams.

After a 1-2-3 top of the fifth from Roth, the Carolina hitters delivered their knockout blow to Barnes and the Huskies.

Steven Neff doubled to lead off the inning and took third as UConn left fielder Billy Ferriter couldn't pick up the ball cleanly. With the in-field drawn in, Wingo ripped a change-up over shortstop Nick Ahmed's head and into left center for an RBI single.

With Christian Walker at the plate, Wingo then not only took second but third also on a wild pitch that the UConn catcher was slow to get to. Walker wasted little time in singling home Wingo. After Walker stole second on a pitch in the dirt, Brady Thomas singled him home before an Adrian Morales single through the left side marked the end of Barnes' day.

"In the fourth and fifth we had some really tough at-bats," Tanner said.

Barnes went just 4.1 innings – the same length he did in last Friday's lost to Coastal Carolina – and surrendered five earned-runs and eight hits in the loss.

Barnes' counterpart, Roth, cruised through the rest of the game as he went through a stretch of 13 hitters without giving up a hit. Roth pitched around three hits in the seventh but then pitched a perfect eighth as he convinced Tanner and pitching coach Jerry Meyers to keep him in the game multiple times. After a Morales error and flyout in the ninth, Roth finally gave way to John Taylor who got two groundouts to end the game.

The defending national champions now find themselves one win away from a return trip to Omaha.

"We were there last year, and I think the experience helps us a little bit," Wingo said. "I think we came to play tonight. I think we came to play tonight, and the experience helps us a little bit but we played hard."

But don't expect UConn to give in easily either. The Huskies faced elimination four times last weekend and each time found a way to keep winning.

"I feel good. We've been in this situation so many times," first baseman Mike Nemeth said. "We're trying to get everything going in early innings. It definitely worked out today we just couldn't keep it going. I think tomorrow we just have to jump on them again and put more pressure on them. There were a couple situations that we didn't get the big out and they did. If we can do that I think we'll be pretty successful."

The Gamecocks will have their first chance to close out the Huskies Sunday night at Carolina stadium with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPNU. Sophomore right-hander Colby Holmes will take the mound for Carolina while fifth-year senior left-hander Greg Nappo gets the start for UConn.

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