Roth, Payne lead South Carolina past Gators

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Never mind that South Carolina had lost three of its four previous games with SEC rival Florida.

The Gamecocks are back in Omaha, a place they love and know well, and they foiled the Gators here again.

Michael

Roth turned in another strong College World Series start, Erik Payne’s

bases-loaded triple scored the go-ahead runs and South Carolina began

the last leg of its pursuit of a third straight national title with a

7-3 win on Saturday night.

South Carolina (46-17) extended its

record NCAA-tournament win streak to 22 games and will try to add to it

Monday against Arkansas, another one of its Southeastern Conference

brethren.

“I know we’ve had a pretty good run, but it doesn’t

feel like that,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. “It’s kind of like

we’re getting to play baseball, having fun. Our season has been

extended. We just try to play hard and play with some awareness and hope

some good things happen. We’ve had a little luck along the way.”

There

was never any doubt Roth (8-1) would get the ball against the

top-seeded Gators. The stalwart, making his eighth CWS appearance in

three years, started and won the 2012 national title-clinching game

against Florida. The year before he started but got no decision in the

championship game against UCLA.

Roth, who had allowed five earned

runs in 38 1-3 previous CWS innings, wasn’t as dominating as he’s been

known to be at the CWS. But he was good enough.

He left with one

out in the seventh after Florida’s first two batters reached in a

two-run game. Tyler Webb got the Gamecocks out of trouble, and Matt

Price pitched the last two innings for his 12th save of the season and

SEC-record 42nd of his career.

“I’d like to be a little better,”

Roth said, “but you just have to go out there and grind it out and

Florida’s a great hitting team.”

Payne’s triple off Brian Johnson

(8-5) highlighted a fifth inning in which the Gamecocks turned a 2-0

deficit into a 5-2 lead over the Gators (47-19).

“There’s a

reason why they have such a winning streak postseason,” Florida coach

Kevin O’Sullivan said. “They had some momentum there in the fifth, and

it felt like it just got passed down from guy to guy. Obviously we

weren’t able to stop it there in the fifth, and that was probably the

difference in the ball game.”

After batting just .219 in losing

three of their first four against the Gators this season, the Gamecocks

had 12 hits against six pitchers.

The Gamecocks were 0 for their

first 9 with runners in scoring position Saturday and they stranded

seven through four innings, including leaving the bases loaded in the

first.

Evan Marzilli hit his second double of the game leading

off the fifth, and Johnson walked Adam Matthews to load the bases with

none out.

Payne, the designated hitter who appeared in only one

of the Gamecocks’ previous five games, drove a low liner into the

right-center gap for the inning’s big hit. LB Dantzler then knocked out

Johnson with a double to deep center for a 4-2 lead.

“Every

player wants to be up there with the bases loaded,” Payne said. “You’ve

got to stay calm and focused on what you want to do.”

Dantzler

came home on Chase Vergason’s single up the middle off Greg Larson. The

five runs matched the most allowed by Florida in an inning this season.

“We

elected to let Brian pitch to Payne,” O’Sullivan said. “Obviously,

Payne had a good at-bat and so did Dantzler. So it was just one of those

things. I thought they had really good at-bats that inning, obviously.”

Johnson

had beaten the Gamecocks twice this season, allowing a combined four

runs and 10 hits over 15 innings. He was charged with all five runs in

his four-plus innings Saturday, and the three walks he issued equaled

his career high.

The Gators had given Johnson a 2-0 lead in the

third. Freshman Tanner English hesitated before giving chase on Preston

Tucker’s liner to left. The ball went over English’s head, allowing two

runs to score.

Florida wasn’t finished after South Carolina’s big

inning. Mike Zunino’s sacrifice fly got Florida to 5-3 in the bottom of

the fifth and looked to add more against Roth in the seventh before

Webb came in to settle things down after the Gators put runners on

second and third.

Price came on to start the eighth. Marzilli

made a full-extension diving catch of Pigott’s drive into the

left-center gap — the best catch of the CWS so far — to keep the

Gators from getting anything started.

“Off the bat I didn’t think

I was going to get to it,” Marzilli said. “The ball was hit pretty

well. But I kept sprinting as hard as I could. On those you don’t know

until the last second whether you’re going to get them or not. I kind of

laid it out and it landed in my glove.”

The Gamecocks converted a wild pitch and two errors into a couple insurance runs in the ninth.

Price worked around two singles in the ninth to finish.

Florida will try to stave off elimination Monday against Kent State.

“Obviously it’s going to be tough, but it’s been done before,” Tucker said. “If anyone can do it, we can.”