USC falters in final series of season

Before the 2011 season, a Pac-10 coaches poll had the Trojans ticketed for a ninth-place finish. Despite preseason expectations, or lack thereof, USC had positioned itself to finish as high as fourth in the conference with a final home series sweep of Washington State.

But instead of registering the Trojans’ best Pac-10 finish in 11 years, they finished their 2011 season with a whimper, losing consecutive games to the Cougars after winning the series opener and finished seventh in the conference.

Ricky Oropesa swings at last Saturday's game against Washington State. - George Chearswat | Summer Trojan

The rubber game of the series came on senior day, but the Trojans did not give the home crowd much to appreciate, losing 13-1. Washington State first baseman Taylor Ard, owner of an outlandish .546 slugging percentage entering the series, added his conference-leading 10th home run of the season.

Senior Logan Odom was the victim of the Cougars’ well-rounded attack on Sunday, as he coughed up six runs in four and one-third innings. The Trojans’ offense did little to support the right-hander, as the team failed to record an extra-base hit during the game amid six singles.

In Saturday afternoon’s contest, junior Austin Wood was unable to put together another quality start, as the Trojans were bludgeoned by the visiting Cougars, 10-2. The right-hander was jettisoned from the game following three and one-third innings in which he surrendered six runs and battled bouts of wildness, walking two batters and hitting an additional two. The Cougars plated seven runs in the fourth inning.

The Trojans’ offense managed to carve out 10 hits but was woefully unsuccessful with runners in scoring position, as they left 10 men on base throughout the course of the game. Junior catcher Kevin Roundtree, junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa, freshman shortstop James Roberts and senior second baseman Joe De Pinto each had multi-hit games.

On paper, it looked like USC’s toughest matchup would come Friday night against Cougars ace Adam Conley. The Trojans, however, managed to cuff Conley for nine hits and four runs in six innings, as the vaunted left-hander only registered one strikeout.

His counterpart, junior right-hander Andrew Triggs, toed the rubber and turned in arguably his best outing of the season, striking out a career-high 13 batters across seven and two-thirds innings of two-run baseball.

Oropesa provided much of the offensive punch in this game with a two-run home run, staking USC to a 4-0 lead in the fifth inning. Roundtree and junior leftfielder Matt Foat rounded out the offensive attack with two hits apiece. Junior right-hander Ben Mount came on in the ninth inning to strike out the Cougars leadoff hitter, Nate Blackham, to seal the 6-2 victory.

Losing two of three to the Cougars brings the Trojans’ season record to 13-14 in conference play, as they finished seventh in the Pac-10, and 25-31 overall.