While nothing can be more backbreaking than losing a tough series in the final innings, USC baseball's (24-17, 12-9) strong performance over UCLA this weekend could be just what the doctor ordered as they power forward towards an NCAA Tournament with just 12 games left in the regular season.
After falling behind 4-0 before coming up in the 9th inning, the Trojans' bats came alive playing station to station baseball against UCLA's bullpen eventually pulling out an outstanding 7-4 come from behind victory on Saturday.
The Trojans entered the series finale just 1-13 when trailing after eight innings, while UCLA was all but perfect in the closing frame (16-1) but then USC started smelling blood in its foe and capitalized on its chances. USC reached on all singles, walks and some UCLA mistakes sprinkled between, eventually scoring seven runs in the final frame.
While sweeping UCLA for the first time since 2005 (first series win since '08), the Trojans pushed their winning streak to nine games now 24-17 (12-9) overall on the year sitting 5th in the Pac-12 Conference standings. After the game, USC stormed the field in dramatic fashion capping off what has to be considered a fantastic weekend of baseball.
THURSDAY: USC 10-0 USC came out firing over UCLA, 10-0, behind a stellar eight scoreless innings from the junior ace Wyatt Strahan, who went eight innings holding the Bruins to just five hits and no runs. Along with the powerful hitting efforts from Timmy Robinson, Jake Hernandez and Vahn Bozoian, USC blew out UCLA from the start.
The Trojans tallied 10 runs on 13 hit including a five-run top of the 9th which basically put the game out of reach. They were led at the plate by Timmy Robinson, who drove in three on his first home run of the season during the first inning. Despite that being all USC would need for the night, Vahn Bozoian delivered a bases-clearing double while Jake Hernandez went 2-for-5 with two RBI propelling the Trojans offensive slugfest.
Hubbs talked with Shotgun Spratling after winning their first game against UCLA in nine tries (on Thursday night).
FRIDAY: USC 4-3 Like the first game of the series, USC took the early lead in the top of the first. With one out, Watson hit Garrett Stubbs with a pitch before walking Jeremy Martinez, putting runners on first and second for Jake Hernandez. With the runners going, Hernandez singled through the left side to score Stubbs giving USC a 1-0 lead.
After falling behind 2-1 on a defensive throwing error from junior Dante Flores, USC's offense came storming back with some two-out bases knocks from Reggie Southall and then senior Kevin Swick. From that point forward, the combination of Brent Wheatley (6 IP 0 ER), Kyle Twomey (1.2 IP) and Kyle Davis (1.1 IP) sealed the series victory.
They gave the ball to Davis in the closing inning to shut the door, and assure the Bruins were not going to crash the series-clinching part any time soon. While not the most dramatic game of the series, the back-and-forth nature that it provided made for some chipy baseball on a dark and could but also extra-sweet victorious night.
USC will now head back home to defend its turf against another bubble squad UC Irvine of the Big West Conference before heading up to Pullman for another crucial three-game series. If USC wants to remain in the postseason chase, they certainly will have to at least six of their next seven games heading into Spring Semester Final Exams.