After being swept by No. 5 Oregon over the weekend, USC is on a skid unlike any the team has experienced all season. Seven consecutive losses, spanning the entire month of May, put the Trojans under .500 for the first time in 2012. The Trojans have lost 10 of their last 12 games and 14 of their last 17. Since they opened the season 12-3, the Trojans have gone just 10-21 to bring their overall record down to 22-24 (7-16 in Pac-12 play).
This weekend epitomized the recurring problems the Trojans have faced all season: decent pitching plagued by anemic hitting. The Trojans scored eight runs over the three games against the Ducks and have plated just 13 on their seven-game skid.
On Sunday against the Ducks the Trojans’ short-lived 1-0 lead was the result of an error. Freshman second baseman Andres Rodriguez knocked a double with two outs in the second, but only scored because Oregon shortstop J.J. Antobelli couldn’t handle a ground ball by senior centerfielder Garret Houts.
The Trojans returned the favor in the fourth. Freshman pitcher Stephen Tarpley walked the first two batters of the inning to put runners on first and second. The Ducks attempted a sacrifice bunt, but the Trojans’ hurried throw to first was wild, tying the game and allowing all runners to advance an extra base.
Tarpley showed good mental grit to get out of the ensuing second and third with just the one run allowed. And USC looked to be in the driver’s seat when senior first baseman Matt Foat hit his third home run of the season in the fifth, a two-run shot to give the Trojans a 3-1 lead.
But Tarpley and the Trojans fell apart in the sixth. A leadoff walk followed by a double, RBI single and a sacrifice fly tied the game and chased Tarpley from the mound. Senior Brandon Garcia came on to stop the bleeding, but a bunt single gave the Ducks a 4-3 lead.
The Trojans threatened in the top of the eighth, putting runners at the corners with one out, but they were stranded. The Ducks tacked on two more in the bottom of the inning to cruise to a 6-3 win.
Such seemed to be the story for the Trojans on Saturday and Sunday as well. USC jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Saturday, but the Ducks plated a run in the second, third and fourth to jump in front 3-1 and went on to take a 4-2 victory.
On Friday USC fell a run short of an impressive comeback against Oregon pitcher Alex Keudell and lost 4-3.
Just a month ago, when the Trojans were 19-10 coming off a thrilling series win against a talented Cal team that is fighting for a postseason berth, USC was eying a shot at its first postseason appearance since 2005. That appears to be squarely out of the question now, especially with their last two Pac-12 series coming against top-15 teams in Arizona and UCLA.