USC Baseball (26-22, 14-13) entered the weekend desperate for some victories, but an unfortunate disappearance from its offense left the Trojans on the wrong end of a series defeat at the hands of the California Golden Bears.
Pitching had the last laugh from Dedeaux Field, as the Trojans could only muster seven runs over the course of the three-game series against the Golden Bears pitching staff that posted an impressive 3.36 ERA entering the weekend.
Long story short, the Trojans dropped two of three games against an inferior Cal squad, who USC had won series against in each of the past two years. The Trojans still remain 5th overall in the Pac-12 Standings but are now falling towards the middle of the pack (literally) and have the 77th best RPI in the nation, which won't cut it for NCAA play.
In the most recent game of the series on Sunday afternoon, USC was shut down by the dominant efforts from sophomore RHP Ryan Mason (CG, 1 ER, 6 H on 101 pitches) suffocating any real spark from the Trojans offense.
The Cal Bears meanwhile, who entered the weekend hitting a Pac-12 worst .230 BA on the season, struck early and often scoring three runs in the first inning against Bob Wheatley, forcing coach Hubbs to pull him out of the game.
Despite the 2-for-3 hitting effort from outfielder Bobby Stahel, 8 innings of solid relief from Kyle Twomey and Kyle Davis and an error-free defensive game, the bats could not string together sustainable rallies against Mason. While the game ended poorly, the Trojans politely honored all the mothers in attendance before first pitch.
The Trojans left seven runners on base but unfortunately, like their 12-8 record in one-run games would seem to indicate, hit themselves out of opportunistic situations slashing into three double plays on the afternoon. While poor hitting cost them the series finale, rough pitching from the bullpen squandered Saturday's outing.
GAME TWO- USC fell behind 3-0 in the 3rd on a monstrous three-run blast from Devon Rodriguez. The Trojans quickly responded however, as USC pieced together runs in the third and sixth innings along with a two-run output in the fifth.
But after fighting back all game long to make it 5-4 in the bottom of the 6th, the Trojans had the tying and go-ahead runs on the bases but could not cash in and Cal, who still trails the all-time series 231-146, took full advantage at the plate.
After sophomore starter Brent Wheatley competed back and forth for six innings, pitching without solid control of his breaking ball, the wheels started to unfold when the bullpen entered the fold.
Jeff Paschke entered the game in the 7th and struggled to find the zone issuing a walk, and then the combination of Marc Huberman, James Guillen and Sean Adler were called upon to slow down the Bears' 7th-inning attack. Two more costly errors in the inning made it 8-4 Cal, before they tacked on for three more in the final frame.
The Bears ensued to score six runs off USC relief pitching (2 ER) featuring a monstrous 9th-inning home run over Sparky Anderson's Corner from Devon Rodriguez, giving Cal an eventual 11-4 victory to split the series.
Many renowned Trojans ranging from Justin Dedeaux, Ross McQueen and even Fred Lynn (among many others) kicked off the festivities for Crown Jewel Day during the ballgame. Players shared stories, signed autographs and preached long-lasting lessons on USC's unprecedented five-straight National Championship run from 1970-1974.
GAME ONE- The series did start with plenty of promise as Wyatt Strahan (7 IP, 8 K), Kyle Twomey (1 IP) and Kyle Davis (7th Save) set the table on Friday night, spurring USC's 2-1 pitchers-duel victory over the Golden Bears.
Timmy Robinson, who now leads the team with 29 RBI on the season, went 3-3 on the night with two triples, an RBI and the go-ahead run scored during the Trojans two-run 5th inning. Rinse, wash and complete; or so they thought.
USC will take some days off to finish up semester finals along with a much-needed off week in the Pac-12 Conference play before hosting Grand Canyon State next Monday at Dedeaux Field. They travel to Cal State Fullerton for an equally important mid-week game against the Titans before hosting No. 1 Oregon State for three crucial games.