It took many by surprise when USC head coach Dan Hubbs elected to start season long Trojan closer Kyle Davis, but the only question now is why did he wait so long to start Davis for the first time.
Davis, who got a 5 out save, his 9th of the year, in closing USC's 4-2 win on Friday, not only went wire to wire Sunday, he got an astonishing 14 strikeouts on his way to his 3rd win of the season.
Meanwhile, Oregon St. continued to play sub-par offense, which has become a chronic problem down the stretch. The Beavers have not scored more than 3 runs in any game, and less than 2 per game the last 2 weekends. As a result, they have lost 3 of their last 4, after having ascended to #1 in the nation for the first time ever during the season, and 4 of their last 7 games.
USC took the early lead, with a run in the bottom of the first, after Kevin Swick led off with a single to center, took second when Oregon St. first baseman Gabe Clark muffed a pickoff throw, advanced to third on a ground out, and scored on a foul fly ball.
Oregon St. evened the score at a run apiece in the third, with a 2 out rally. Jeff Hendrix, who reached each of his first 3 at bats, drew a walk, went to 3rd on Michael Howard's grounder that went off USC first baseman Jake Hernandez's glove, and scored when Trojan second baseman Frankie Rios' throw back in went astray.
The Trojans took the lead back for good in an eventful 5th inning. The Beavers put an infield shift on, and Garrett Stubs promptly led off with a single to left right through where short stop Trevor Morrison normally would have been.
Stubs went to second on a bunt out, and then scored when Reggie Southall singled to center, which ended the day for Oregon St. starter Andrew Moore. Moore, a freshman All-American last year after recording 14 wins, took the loss, despite allowing only 4 hits and 1 walk, and finished the regular season 5-5.
USC threatened to blow the game open n the 6th inning, which saw a Timmy Robinson double, a double steal, and Oregon St. reliever Scott Schultz hitting a batter to load the bases, all coming with 1 out.
But for no known reason, Southall bunted the ball into the air, and into a double play to let Oregon St. off the hook.
The Trojans did successfully tack on an insurance run in the 7th, after Swick singled and scored on Jeremy Martinez' RBI double into the left corner. It was way more than Davis needed, given the Beavers inability to capitalize on opportunity after opportunity.
Dylan Davis was the leading culprit, twice hitting into inning ending double plays in the first 6 innings with 2 runners on. But Michael Conforto also struck out to end the 8th, with 2 runners on, as well as in the 3rd, with Hamilton in scoring position after Hendrix had scored. The Beavers were also guilty of a strike out on a ball pitch, and run into an out double play trying to steal in the 4th inning.
USC finished the regular season with a 29-24 record, and ensured themselves of a winning record in the Pac-12 as well, with a 16-14 finish, keeping them in the hunt for a bid to the NCAA Tournament when the field is announced on ESPNU tomorrow morning at 9 AM PDT.
The Trojans also became just the second team, along with Arizona St., to take a series from the Beavers this season, and only the third in 2 years. However, it was the 3rd series win for USC over Oregon St. in the last 4 years. The Beavers still have never swept a series at Dedeaux field, and have only won 2 series there, in 2004 & 2010, since unification of the Pac-10.
Oregon St. finished the regular season 42-12, and 23-7 in the Pac-12, 1 win less in conference than last year. But were it not for Ben Wetzler's second complete game shutout in a week, and a slew of spectacular defensive plays in yesterday's 2-0 win that clinched the Beavers' second consecutive Pac-12 title, Oregon St. would have gone from being in position to claim the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament to not even earning a National seed.
That has to concern head coach Pat Casey, especially after seeing a shot at a 3rd CWS Championship slip away last year, also due almost exclusively to a late season offensive collapse that saw the Beavers go an inept 1 of their last 21 with runners in scoring position.
Oregon St. did face some above average arms down the stretch, but there's more of them coming in the tournament, where the Beavers can't afford to give up opposing pitchers' best outings of the season.