USC Baseball entered the final weekend of the season in desperate need of some wins, not only to build upon their first winning season since 2005 but also to try and sneak right back into the NCAA Tournament discussion.
Battling the No. 1 team in the nation during a pitching centered three-game set from Dedeaux Field, the Trojans ended up victorious taking two of the three games from the friendly confines, moving their record to 29-24 (16-14) this season.
GAME ONE: USC Won 4-2
GAME TWO: Oregon State Won 2-0, Clinching Pac-12 Regular Season Title
GAME THREE: USC Won Season Finale 3-1
Could not have imagined my senior year ending any better! Getting two wins against the #1 team in the nation! Fight on! Always & forever!— Jake Hernandez (@jdez_13) May 26, 2014
The Trojans, who were projected to finish 9th in Pac-12 Preseason Coaches Poll, concluded their successful season by overcoming strong Oregon State pitching with an equally impressive outing from sophomore Kyle Davis, propelling USC to a 3-1 victory securing their 5th place finish as one of the top surprises in the conference.
Davis was called upon by head coach Dan Hubbs to take the rubber on Sunday after throwing 1.2 IP of scoreless baseball, notching his 9th save of the season in the process, to give USC the 4-2 victory in Game One. That game was dominated by Frankie Rios, who went 2-4 offensively with a triple and two clutch RBIs in the fourth inning.
But on Sunday Kyle Davis was actually fantastic, outstanding and downright dirty at certain points of the game. Davis went the distance, striking out 14 Beavers hitters, including Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Conforto with a nasty change up in the 8th inning, while only allowing one unearned run on five hits to secure the series win.
The Trojans needed some outstanding pitching this weekend to battle the Beavers staff that finished out the weekend with a Pac-12 Best 2.12 team ERA on the season. It was definitely on full display Saturday when starter Ben Wetzler (the Pac-12 POY last season) threw a strong CG shutout, even without his best strikeout stuff on the bump.
Offense came in limited bunches, amassing just seven runs against this powerhouse staff, and the biggest blows came from unheralded contributors Omar Cotto Lozada, Frankie Rios and Reggie Southall. Rios stepped up for the injured Dante Flores, Cotto Lozada collected three hits during the series, and Southall drove in the winning run on Sunday.
USC currently sits No. 60 overall in the most recent RPI rankings, but have faced the 24th toughest strength of schedule in the nation. The Trojans finished tied for 5th in the Pac-12 (edging out Stanford in regular season head-to-head) but will need some major chips to fall their way if they want to be heading for postseason play this week.
Long story short: Big series win for the future of the USC program and the Beavers have won the Pac-12 Conference and will host the Corvallis Regional next weekend as the No. 2 National Seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The announcement will take place on Monday at 9 p.m. PST on ESPNU, so get your postseason popcorn ready.