NOTEBOOK: Battle of aces finally set

OMAHA, Neb. -- A premier match-up of college pitching talent will take place tonight at TD Ameritrade Park when Virginia ace Danny Hultzen and South Carolina ace Michael Roth face off. Look inside for a breakdown of the game.

After Virginia's 8-1 victory over California Thursday night, there were few who believed Virginia would throw anyone other than staff ace Danny Hultzen next. And after South Carolina coach Ray Tanner spoke to the media Thursday afternoon, it appeared obvious he had the Gamecocks' ace Michael Roth in mind.

Both Virginia and South Carolina just made everyone wait an extra day to make it official.

The 2011 College World Series has produced some great pitching match-ups on paper. But there may not be a more intriguing one than when the two teams square off Friday night.

The two junior left-handers have been the premier starters for their teams all season long. And Friday night at 7 ET, Roth (13-3, 0.97 ERA) and Hultzen (12-3, 1.43 ERA) will face off for the first time.

The Gamecocks need one win to advance to the championship series while the Cavaliers need two.

Roth and Hultzen both started in their team's CWS openers Sunday and earned no-decisions. Roth gave up four hits in 7.1 innings without giving up an earned run while Hultzen gave up three hits in 6.1 scoreless innings.

Tanner -- unfamiliar with South Carolina's position of starting the CWS 2-0 and only needing one win to advance to the finals -- wrestled with rather to go with Roth or freshman right-hander Forrest Koumas (6-1, 3.07).

"No. 1 I want to make sure Roth feels 100 percent," Tanner said Thursday afternoon. "He does have four days rest but he was around 124, 125 [pitches] so I want to make sure that's the case. But I will not make that decision alone. That will involve (pitching coach Jerry) Meyers and Michael Roth."

Few thought Virginia, in a win-or-go-home scenario, would throw anyone other than its ace Hultzen. But head coach Brian O'Connor said after Thursday night's win over California that he wasn't sure if it would be Hultzen or sophomore right-hander Whit Mayberry (5-0, 3.00 ERA).

"He's fine, he's healthy and everything,' O'Connor said. "But I also want to look at this thing as not only what do we need to do to win tomorrow, but also what we have to do to hopefully win both games."

Neither team announced a starter on Thursday night. Friday morning Virginia announced Hultzen as its man and South Carolina announced Roth as its starter shortly after.

Virginia, because of its do-or-die situation and the fact Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in the recent MLB Draft, is the Cavs best. And South Carolina, because Roth is its best, and Tanner's long-standing belief that he should concentrate on today and worry about tomorrow later.

"We've been on that other side. We know how that is, so if you don't win tomorrow, momentum shifts a little bit," Tanner said.

Virginia putting loss behind them

By all statistical breakdowns, Virginia is one of the top teams in the country in pitching, defense and hitting.

The Cavs didn't do any of those well in their 7-1 loss to South Carolina in Tuesday night's CWS game.

"That's just part of baseball," second baseman Keith Werman said. "You'll have it some days and some days it's not going to fall for you. (But) we'll always go out there and battle."

"I wouldn't say anything was different," Kenny Swab added. "Sometimes you go in there and you have great at bats and they [don't] fall."

The six-run margin of victory matched the Cavs biggest deficit of the season and it was only the fourth time in 66 games that Virginia had been outscored by three runs or more.

O'Connor says that despite his team playin one of its worst games of the season Tuesday that he won't change anything for Friday night's match-up.

"South Carolina's got a very good ballclub. So do we," O'Connor said. "(Friday) night's game has nothing to do with the previous game that we've played. There's no question we're going to have to play a really good ballgame. But so are they to win."

Using time wisely

For the first time under Tanner, South Carolina sits at 2-0 in the College World Series. And that meant some extra time to fill with two days off before the Gamecocks next game.

South Carolina went through a light workout each day and spent some time at a local children's hospital.

"I really, really have been pleased," Tanner said after Thursday's practice. "They wanted to come out and get a little work in had a little energy. We executed a little bit [and] swung the bats pretty well."

Tanner has expressed to his team that while in theory they have a "mulligan" -- if the Gamecocks lose Friday they can still come back and win Saturday to advance to the championship series -- he has no intentions on trying to use it.

"There's no pressure at all," Jackie Bradley, Jr. said. "We put ourself in a good place to be right now. All we have to do is just go out there and play our ball and see what happens."

That's a normal response from a team of players that always likes to keep it loose. But Tanner believes his group of veterans also know when its time to concentrate on the task at hand.

"There's some maturity here, there's some leadership going on," he said. "Sometimes you think they're not very serious but they know when to be serious and they know when it's okay to have fun."

Extra Points

South Carolina is going for a NCAA Tournament record (Regional, Super Regional, CWS) 14th consecutive victory dating back to last season's CWS. The Gamecocks join Southern Cal (1972-74) and LSU (1997-98) as programs to win 13 consecutive NCAA Tournament games. ... South Carolina is now 8-0 in the NCAA Tournament and is the only remaining unbeaten team in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. ... Virginia's won is its 56th of the season last night, extending its own school record. UVa now leads the nation in wins, two wins ahead of Vanderbilt. ... Virginia is guaranteed of the program's best-ever finish in the NCAA Tournament with Thursday's win. UVa tied for fifth in its only other CWS appearance in 2009. ... Danny Hultzen struck out six batters to increase his school single-season record to 157, which ranks second nationally, and his Virginia career record to 387 in Sunday's start. ... Hulzen is 4-0 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 0-0 in three career CWS starts. Michael Roth is 3-0 against first-round picks this year and 1-0 with a 0.84 ERA in three career CWS starts.

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