Montgomery keeps Carolina alive

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Freshman Jordan Montgomery added his name to the growing list of South Carolina's Omaha stars in recent years, when he turned in the biggest performance of his young career to lead the Gamecocks to a 2-0 victory over Arkansas Thursday night and force an in-necessary game that will send the winner to the CWS Finals.

It's becoming a South Carolina tradition for new names to become household due to June performances in Omaha.

Freshman Jordan Montgomery added his name to the growing list when he turned in the biggest performance of his young career to lead the Gamecocks to a 2-0 victory over Arkansas Thursday night and force an in-necessary game that will send the winner to the CWS Finals.

Montgomery looked a lot like the Gamecocks' other lefty starter Michael Roth, who put on a clinic when he gave up just one run and two hits in a win over Kent State Thursday afternoon that propelled Carolina to Thursday night's game.

"I've got to give Jordan a ton of credit," head coach Ray Tanner said. "He's a young guy, he listens to (pitching) coach (Jerry) Meyers. He's got a great pitching coach, and he's watched Michael Roth.

"So he continues to develop, and hopefully what you saw tonight will be a sign of things to come in the next few years."

Montgomery earned the win and, like Roth, helped save the Carolina bullpen when he lasted eight shutout inning and gave up just three hits. Montgomery struck out six and walked just one batter.

"Definitely watching Roth pitch that first game, I knew I just needed to come out here and put up some 0s on the board for the team and speed up innings and save our bullpen for the next game," Montgomery said.

South Carolina scored its only two runs in the second inning when Erik Payne led off the frame with a double for his second big hit of the CWS in limited opportunities. Payne's three-RBI triple put the Gamecocks up against Florida on Saturday.

Tanner English followed up the double with a double of his own down the left field line that scored Payne to put Carolina up 1-0.

After Grayson Greiner's 5-3 groundout moved English to third, Chase Vergason's single up the middle brought him home to put Carolina up 2-0.

That was the end of losing pitcher Randall Fant's night as Fant lasted just 1.1 innings and surrendered the two earned runs on four hits and a walk.

The Hogs got 5.1 scoreless innings from Brandon Moore, who allowed just two hits, but the two runs already scored would be more than enough for Montgomery.

As good as Montgomery was, he also got strong play from the defense behind him.

After Montgomery hit Bo Bigham with two outs in the fifth, Derrick Bleeker's single to left appeared to put the Razorbacks in business, but English came up firing to third as Bigham inexplicably kept running -- LB Dantzler reached across the foul line and scooped the short-hop before reaching back and tagging Bigham to end the inning.

When Matt Vinson led off the sixth with Arkansas' third and final hit of the game, Jake Wise then shot a low line drive right at Joey Pankake at short -- he squatted, caught the ball in the air then fired to first for the double play. One pitch later, Tim Carver grounded out to Pankake to end the inning.

The Gamecocks' freshman shortstop, who struggled defensively early in the season, hasn't had an error in the CWS, and was involved in nine plays Thursday night including six assists and four putouts.

Arkansas' last threat came in the eighth when Montgomery walked Brian Anderson to start the frame.

After a brief trip to the mound from Tanner, Bigham hit a shot toward the right field line that Christian Walker flopped towards and speared before touching first and throwing to second for the double play.

"They made a couple of really nice plays on us, and we made a couple of really good defensive plays as well to stay in the game," Van Horn said. "But that was a big play there in the eighth. That ball gets down the line, it might have got exciting there.

"But just give credit to Walker. He made a great play. So we play again tomorrow."

Montgomery turned the game over to fellow Sumter native Matt Price in the ninth, who allowed a walk but used two strikeouts and a flyout to earn his fourth career CWS save.

The Gamecocks will take on Arkansas again Friday night with first pitch scheduled for 9 ET.

Arkansas will throw ace DJ Baxendale, while Tanner didn't announce a start but said that Colby Holmes, Forrest Koumas and Nolan Belcher would be in the conversation. Tanner will likely announce a start at some point later in the night.

Arizona, 3-0 in the CWS, awaits the winner of Friday's game.

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