OMAHA, Neb. - Arkansas may have snapped South Carolina's 22-game winning streak in NCAA Tournament games, but the two-time defending national champions avenged themselves with a 2-0 victory Thursday at TD Ameritrade Park to keep their hopes for a third consecutive title alive.
The Gamecocks got two excellent starts from their pitchers on Thursday to advance to the bracket final. After senior Michael Roth threw a complete game two-hitter in South Carolina's 4-1 victory over Kent State, Jordan Montgomery made an arguably equally impressive start in his College World Series debut.
"For the second time today, we got an absolute wonderful game out of our lefty," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said of Montgomery. "Jordan followed up what Michael did earlier today. He was outstanding.
"He's had some good games for us this year, but this was the best one."
The freshman left-hander tossed eight shutout innings and faced only one hitter more than a minimum 24 to earn his sixth win of the season. He and closer Matt Price, who earned his 13th save of the season by pitching a scoreless ninth, combined to shutout Arkansas for the first time in the school's 24 College World Series games.
"We didn't swing the bat well, but I think he just did a better job," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said of the Razorbacks' hitting woes against Montgomery. "He pitched a great ballgame. He kept us off balance with the changeup away and threw that breaking ball a little bit.
"He just did a tremendous job."
Montgomery (6-1) only needed the offense that the Gamecocks hitters provided in the second inning to win the game.
Erik Payne doubled to begin the inning and the next batter, Tanner English, hit a RBI double to hand Arkansas its first deficit of the College World Series. English later scored on a RBI single by Chase Vergason to complete the South Carolina two-run second.
"We just scratched, got a couple of runs and it held up today," Tanner said.
Randall Fant got the start for Arkansas (46-21) and allowed the only two runs of the game. His stay on the mound was brief, as he lasted just 1 1/3 innings. Brandon Moore took over for the junior southpaw and tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings – giving up only two hits, as well.
"Brandon did a great job of keeping us in the ballgame," Van Horn said. "He comes out of the bullpen and gets a double play ball and we're only down 2-0 heading right back into the dugout.
"We made some mistakes defensively, but he hung in there. He did what he's been doing all year and that's just come in and throw strikes, mix his sinker a little with a slider and get some groundballs. He gave us a great opportunity to catch up, we just didn't do it."
Arkansas (46-21) let its few opportunities to score slip by them. After the Razorbacks got just their second base runner of the game in the fifth inning when Bo Bigham was hit by a pitch, poor base running on a single by Derrick Bleeker resulted in the senior second baseman being thrown out at third to end the inning.
The Gamecocks made another big defensive stop in the eighth when Brian Anderson drew a lead-off walk to begin the inning. Bigham then hit the ball down the first base line, but Christian Walker made what appeared to be a diving stop.
"I expected to do more of a drop step, but my feet got stuck and it made it look more like a dive, so it ended up working out," Walker said. "Jordan was getting groundballs all day and with a righty up, I knew not to expect something just to the left side and luckily, I was in the right spot."
Arkansas and South Carolina (48-18) will meet again tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the bracket final. DJ Baxendale (8-5) will get the start for the Razorbacks. The winner will play Arizona in the championship series that starts Sunday night.
Jordan Montgomery pitches to an Arkansas hitter. He tossed eight scoreless innings to earn the win.
Grayson Greiner is thrown out at first Thursday at TD Ameritrade Park.
LB Dantzler is tagged out at the plate by Arkansas catcher Jake Wise.
Brandon Moore pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings against the Gamecocks.
Photos by Marc F. Henning.