An energetic USC club scored two runs in the fourth inning and another two to take the lead in the seventh on Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, boosting the Trojans to a huge 4-2 win against top-ranked Oregon State. The game was played in front of a fairly relaxed gathering of just over 400 fans at Dedeaux Field, a number that continually astonished Oregon State radio announcer Mike Parker.
The Beavers brought half of that crowd to life early on thanks to some efficiency on the basepaths by freshman Caleb Hamilton. Hamilton reached on a one-out infield single, advanced to second on a walk by Michael Conforto, moved to third on a loud flyout to deep center from Dylan Davis, then alertly took home on a wild pitch. Gabe Clark would fly out later in the at-bat to end the inning, but things seemed good for the Beavers as they staked starter Jace Fry to a 1-0 lead.
Infielder Trever Morrison showed he can bring the thunder at the plate as well, leading off the third frame with a standup triple. Jeff Hendrix then picked up his 28th RBI of the season, driving a sacrifice fly to right on a 3-2 count to bring home Morrison. Conforto tried to start a two out rally with a double, but Dylan Davis popped out to third to end the threat. That would prove to be the starting point for the disappearance of their bats for the remainder of the day.
The left-handed Fry turned in a solid performance for the visitors. He struggled with command throughout the game but usually wiggled his way out of trouble. He was pulled after six innings, giving up two runs (both unearned) on four hits. He threw 107 pitches.
USC got those two runs in the fourth, somehow. Fry got two quick outs and was halfway off the field thinking he had a third when the shortstop Morrison booted a routine grounder. That would prove to be a huge turning point. The next batter singled and freshman Frankie Rios brought both runners home with a triple to right field. All of the sudden the game was tied and the Trojan dugout was alive with hope.
After a quiet fifth and sixth innings, Oregon State reliever Jake Thompson gave up consecutive singles to open the bottom of the seventh. Both runners were moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt, and SC took a lead it wouldn't relinquish on a sacrifice fly to right field. Dylan Davis had a good throw to the plate to try and cut down the go-ahead run, but the throw was cutoff by new pitcher Brandon Jackson.
USC wasn't done. It picked up some relief on the next batter via a single by Jeremy Martinez. That made the score 4-2, and the lead seemed insurmountable by the way the Beavers were swinging the bats.
They threatened in the eighth, getting back-to-back singles after a Conforto groundout to open the inning. But Kavin Keyes, in his first start after missing over a month due to a fractured thumb, grounded into a double play to end the inning and swing even more momentum onto SC's side.
The ninth inning was a frustrating one. Freshman Logan Ice hit a comebacker to the mound to record a quick first out, but Michael Howard reached on a single to get the tying run to the plate. Morrison then took one of the strangest at-bats of the season, watching a ball down the middle for strike one, then going around on two straight check strings for the second out. Hendrix then went down on strikes as well, but the ball skittered away from the Trojan catcher Martinez. Hendrix would tie the throw to first to extend the game.
The final out of the game was a complete travesty. The umpire called two pitches that were clearly inside as strikes, including the final pitch, leaving the batter Hamilton and the rest of Beaver Nation confused and frustrated.
Oregon State dropped to 41-11 on the season with the loss, while USC improved to 28-23. Both teams will return to action tomorrow at 4:00 PM Pacific in a game to be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
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