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Duo has Gamecocks eyeing CWS hat trick

Starter Roth, reliever Price look to lead South Carolina to third straight title

OMAHA, Neb. -- Michael Roth had the entire room laughing.

The South Carolina left-hander made Saturday's College World Series pre-finals press conference his personal comedy show, cracking jokes and dropping one-liners.

At this point, the College World Series stage is old hat for Roth, the Angels' ninth-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

Roth and the rest of the No. 8 Gamecocks (49-18) begin the final leg of their quest for their third straight NCAA championship at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday against Arizona (46-17) at TD Ameritrade Park.

No team has won three consecutive NCAA titles since USC won five in a row from 1970-74.

"In the first opening ceremonies for the College World Series, they tell you it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I was out here blowing meal money like it was nothing," Roth said. "I'm like, 'Probably never going to come back.'

"Not that we didn't think it, but it's so tough to get here. It's special to have the opportunity to play here for the third year in a row. We don't take that for granted at all being here in Omaha."

From talking about meal money to the lack of a free hotel breakfast, Roth was at ease Saturday.

He was hit in his left arm by a batted ball in his most recent start Thursday, and had black Kinesio tape in a tattoo-like pattern on his arm. The tape is supposed to help it heal faster, but Roth wasn't sure if it was working.

"We'll see," he said. "I just liked the design."

He described the finals against Arizona as "The Hilton Hotel Battle Royale," because both the Gamecocks and Wildcats are staying there.

He also recalled a conversation with head coach Ray Tanner on Friday night after the Gamecocks beat Arkansas to advance to the finals.

"I was like, 'Can you believe we're in a position to defend our title with these knucklehead freshmen we have?'" Roth said.

As funny as Roth is at the podium, he's equally as serious and impressive on the mound -- especially the one at TD Ameritrade Park.

Roth, a senior, is 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA in nine College World Series appearances, including seven starts -- which ties him with Miami's J.D. Arteage (1997-94) for the most starts all-time. He's also the all-time leader in innings pitched in Omaha with 53 2/3, a mark set in his most recent start -- a complete-game, two-hit gem to eliminate Kent State on Thursday.

Tanner said Saturday he was unsure who would start Sunday's opener, but mentioned Roth as a possibility.

Roth has set the tone for a dominant South Carolina pitching staff that has a 1.71 ERA in the NCAA Tournament and has allowed four runs or fewer in every game of the tournament.

While Roth has led the way, right-handed reliever Matt Price (a 2012 seventh-round Draft pick by the Orioles) has kept it going in the back end of the bullpen.

Price tossed three innings of one-hit ball Friday, and in the process became the all-time College World Series leader with five wins. He has allowed only one run in 24 2/3 innings in Omaha for an 0.36 ERA and has struck out 33 batters. He also has an active 18 2/3-inning scoreless streak in Omaha.

"Speechless," Price said about being the all-time College World Series victory leader. "I know how many great pitchers have been through the College World Series. Even though I've been coming in out of the bullpen, probably vulturing some wins, just giving our team a chance to win is what matters to me most."

Because of Roth and Price, the Gamecocks are in position to win two more titles: The NCAA championship and the "Hilton Hotel Battle Royale."

"The worst part is at some point in this next week somebody's going to be celebrating and the other team has to hear it," Roth said of the hotel situation. "So that's probably the only downside.

"And there's no free breakfast."

College World Series finals schedule
Sunday: No. 8 South Carolina vs. Arizona, 8 p.m. ET

Monday: Arizona vs. No. 8 South Carolina, 8 p.m. ET

Tuesday (if necessary): No. 8 South Carolina vs. Arizona, 8 p.m. ET

Cash Kruth is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth.