Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
The USC Trojans took an early one-run lead in the first inning, but showed little signs of life from that point forward, falling in their final game of the season 7-1 to the Arizona Wildcats.
In the final game of the regular season, the fledgling Trojans (20-36) looked to play spoiler for the dim playoff chances for the defending national champions Arizona Wildcats (34-21). After dropping the first game of the series in extra innings 4-3, the Trojans struggled to contain the Wildcats potent bats for the rest of the weekend.
Arizona combined for 25 runs in the final two games of the series, including 44 hits in the three-game sweep of the Trojans Pac-12 worst 4.83 ERA. The best scoring offense in the Pac-12 (368 runs), received hits from every player in their lineup except Joseph Maggi as part of their 13-hit outburst.
Freshmen Kyle Twomey (2-8) took the bump for the Trojans, but struggled to seal the deal with two outs all afternoon long. Twomey left after 3.1 innings on the bump, allowing three runs all with two outs in his final start of the season. The season for Twomey was best defined by his potential as the third-round draft pick was deceptive but never truly mastered the control of his breaking ball to dominate Pac-12 play.
Freshmen Brent Wheatley entered the contest and cleaned up Twomey’s mess, runners at first and second with one out, keeping the Trojans in the contest. The Wildcats pieced together four more runs in the fifth inning, extending their lead to six, which was plenty of support for their starter Tyler Crawford.
The Trojans mounted a nice rally in the fifth, putting the tying run on first as Adam Landecker singled to the right side. Unfortunately for the Trojans, outfielder Scott Kingery gunned out Blake Lacey at the plate silencing the only major threat outside of the first inning.
Despite the struggles all afternoon, the Trojans scored the first run of the contest after Greg Zebrack knocked in his 24th run of the season driving in junior James Roberts. Zebrack finished the day, and his USC career, with a 3-4 outing finishing second on the season in BA, and tied for first in hits (72) with Adam Landecker.
The Trojans ended their season offensively when freshmen Blake Lacey grounded out to third base, stranding senior Greg Zebrack on the second for the final out of the contest. Offensively, the Trojans finished the season with four players with averages over .300 (Adam Landecker, Greg Zebrack, Kevin Swick and James Roberts) but could only muster eight runs in the series.
Sophomore starter Wyatt Strahan was the next man out of the pen, pitching for the first time since May 11th, a complete-game one run victory over Washington State. Strahan came in for one scoreless innings of relief finishing the year out the pen, following his strong performance as the Trojans closer last season, posting a top-ten (2.45) Pac-12 ERA in the 2013 campaign.
Arizona Starter Tyler Crawford picked up the complete-game victory for the Wildcats, pitching to contact all afternoon long, allowing eight hits while only striking out three Trojans. In the series, all three Wildcat pitchers went at least 9 innings, with Friday’s starter Konnor Wade going 9.1 in the extra-inning victory.
Interestingly enough, those four hitters combined for seven of the eight Trojan hits in the season finale.
Following the three-game sweep, the Trojans (20-36, 10-20) have lost six straight Pac-12 games placing them 14 games out of first place to the Oregon State Beavers. The Trojans finish the year tied with Cal Berkeley for second-worst record in the conference, with Utah finishing up as the dweller in the loaded Pac-12.
The fledgling Trojans, who feature 16 true-freshmen on the roster, finished the contest with Kyle Davis on the bump for two scoreless innings of relief. The Trojans will surely lose four seniors this year, and will retain six of their eight starters, including an entire pitching rotation for next season.
This is a ball club that struggled to hit with runners in scoring position, pitched inconsistently all season long but always competed to the liking of head coach Dan Hubbs. “I feel better with how we ended this season, then what we had at the end of last season (23-32 season),” Hubbs said.
The cardiac kids, as first-year head coach Dan Hubbs calls them, always made things interesting every series with dramatic comebacks and persistent approaches at the plate. So in fitting fashion, the Trojans showed flashes of brilliance, moments of agony and mounting questions moving forward into the 2014 USC Baseball season.