The parallels are too obvious to ignore. A little-known left-hander starts in a CWS elimination game for South Carolina and delivers a career-best performance.
Two years ago, that was the breakthrough story of Michael Roth, who now holds a CWS record for innings pitched after another gem in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Kent State. And after Thursday’s nightcap, it appears freshman Jordan Montgomery is following in the senior’s footsteps.
Montgomery pitched the Gamecocks to a winner-takes-all match-up against Arkansas Friday, holding the Razorbacks to just three hits in eight scoreless innings en route to a 2-0 season-extending win.
Montgomery had the Arkansas offense out of sync all night, locating his fastball regularly on the inner-half of the plate and getting the opposing hitters to reach for change-ups and breaking balls away. There were very few hard-hit balls off the left-hander, who threw 89 pitches and faced one over the minimum.
“He’s had some good games for us this year — and this was the best one,” South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said.
Is Montgomery the next Roth? Probably unfair to the kid to make that comparison, even as natural as it seems after what we saw Thursday. The two lefties have a similar wow-less approach, with fastballs that are effective only if the off-speed pitchers are working.
Roth has experience, though. Plus, some savvy, grit and confidence. Montgomery still has to develop those intangibles. But he’s off to a good start.
>> Because of Wednesday’s rainout, the Gamecocks were forced to win twice Thursday to extend their season. And they successfully accomplished the feat (winning two nine-inning games in one day), which hasn’t been done in the CWS since 1952.
>> To stay alive, South Carolina’s pitching staff had to deliver, which it did. The numbers in two wins: A 0.50 ERA with a WHIP of 0.39, striking out 16 batters (walking two) and throwing 64 percent of 211 total pitches for strikes. Kent State and Arkansas hitters batted just .093 against South Carolina Thursday.
>> The pitching match-up for Friday: Arkansas will start junior right-hander D.J. Baxendale. South Carolina’s starter is still TBD.