Call it walk-off weekend for USC baseball.
In their three-game homestand against California, the Trojans (19-10, 5-6) walked off against the Golden Bears (17-12, 2-7) on Friday and Saturday to win the series after dropping the opener Thursday.
All three games were decided in the ninth inning. On Saturday, it was freshman pinch-hitter Garrett Stubb’s walk-off walk with two outs in the ninth that gave the Trojans a 3-2 win.
The Trojans held a 2-1 lead heading into the top of the ninth, but the Trojan bullpen blew its second save of the series, allowing the Bears to tie the game. Senior right fielder Alex Sherrod led off the bottom of the inning with a single and advanced to second on a groundout. After an intentional walk, a groundout advanced the runners to second and third. With two outs, freshman left fielder Dante Flores was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up the force out at any base. But that left no room for error with Stubbs, who walked on five pitches to win the game.
It was the Trojans’ second walk-off win in as many nights. After being blanked for 8 2/3 innings Friday, sophomore second baseman James Roberts’ two-on, two-out, two-strike, walk-off single gave the Trojans a thrilling 2-1 win.
“It just felt good to be that guy,” Roberts said. “Before I even hit the ball I knew it was my time. I had to get this for the team.”
It looked as if the Trojans would squander another phenomenal pitching performance by senior ace Andrew Triggs, who went the distance, allowing only one run on six hits in a complete game, striking out eight and walking three.
“Andrew was spectacular,” USC coach Frank Cruz said. “He was fabulous. He was able to get out of some jams, which was really impressive. In that eighth inning, that was huge when he got out of that jam.”
The Bears put two on with two outs in the eighth, but even having thrown 105 pitches, Triggs was still able to get out of the inning unscathed. He needed just seven to finish off his ninth inning at 112 total for the night.
“Triggs pitched his butt off and we rewarded him with a win,” Roberts said. “Based on how he’s pitched this whole year, he hasn’t gotten much run support, so we needed that for him.”
Triggs’ lone blemish came in the sixth inning, when the Bears scraped together a run with a pair of singles and a pair of sacrifices. Meanwhile, Triggs’ counterpart, Matt Flemer, took a perfect game into the fifth inning and left after 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball.
But senior first baseman Matt Foat led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. He was pinch-run for by the fastest guy on the team, sophomore outfielder Omar Cotto Lozada, who was bunted to second. After sophomore third baseman Kevin Swick was hit by a pitch, a sacrifice fly allowed Cotto Lozada to move to third. Swick then stole second and was pinch-run for by senior outfielder Garret Houts. With two down, it was all up to Roberts, who singled through the hole at shortstop to score the tying and winning runs.
“This year has been the walk-off hit year so far,” said Roberts. “The ninth inning has pretty much been our inning.”
The thrilling nature of the Trojans’ wins was welcome given the nature of Thursday night’s loss. Up 4-0 after five and two-thirds shutout innings by freshman Stephen Tarpley, the Trojan bullpen gave up two in the sixth, one in the seventh and two in the ninth; a crushing 5-4 defeat.
“There’s the ecstasy, there’s the agony of defeat,” said Cruz in summation of the weekend. “We know this group will compete. And that’s just what they did.”