USC baseball fought hard this weekend in the team’s final three games of the season, but in the end the Trojans came home with its eighth straight Pac-12 series defeat, finishing the year with a 21-34 record after dropping two of three against Washington.
Entering this weekend’s games, the Trojans had not won a conference series since late March. Playing with nothing to lose appeared to suit them, however, as they looked loose and ready to battle in the first game in Seattle on Thursday. Opening the game with a lead-off home run from sophomore Lars Nootbaar, USC scored nine runs in the first two innings. Huskies starting pitcher Chris Micheles was yanked into the dugout before he could even record his first out.
But despite the early offensive outburst, the Trojans were unable to sustain that offensive level, ultimately plating just one more run for the remainder of the game. Meanwhile, Washington also put on a hitting clinic early on, scoring six runs in the second inning. In the end, the Huskies bested USC 11-10 in a wild shootout.
The Trojans continued their groove at the plate on Friday, totaling 15 hits and a season-high four home runs. Nootbaar turned in what was likely his best game of the season, as he went 4 for 5 with 3 RBI and a home run. He finished just a double shy of hitting for the cycle.
Given the way Thursday’s and many other games this season have ended, USC’s lead didn’t exactly feel safe heading into the late innings. The Trojans were hopeful that their bullpen could preserve a much-needed victory, however, and sophomore pitchers CJ Stubbs and Solomon Bates provided just enough support from the mound to allow USC to tie the series with a 9-6 win.
With each team trading blows and plenty of hits over the course of the series, the Trojans and Huskies prepared for a rubber game on Saturday that would double as the season finale for both teams.
Unlike in the previous two contests, this time the Trojans struggled at the plate starting the game. They managed one run in the third inning off an RBI single from sophomore Brandon Perez, but the team then fell into a large deficit when Washington scored five runs across the fourth and fifth innings.
Down 6-1 in the eighth inning, USC’s veterans tried to rally for one last win to cap the season. Senior Cris Perez ended the team’s scoring drought with an RBI single, and senior Corey Dempster crushed a double to center field that sent redshirt junior Frankie Rios home from second. Dempster then scored off of a throwing error. Suddenly, the Trojans were only down 6-4 with one more inning to play.
However, USC was not able to continue its late-game rally. Washington plated an important insurance run off of a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the eighth inning, extending its lead to three runs. In the top of the ninth, freshman Brady Shockey led off the inning with a single, but any hope for another high-scoring frame ended when Nootbaar grounded into a double play.
After the loss to Washington, the Trojans finish the season last place in the Pac-12 (8-22 in conference play), a disappointing result for fifth-year head coach Dan Hubbs.