Down to its final out, the USC baseball team had a sudden revival in the ninth inning Sunday to stave off elimination with a three-run rally. The Trojans defeated San Diego State, 12-11, to stay alive in the Lake Elsinore Regional of the NCAA tournament.
With two outs, Bobby Stahel drew a walk. Garrett Stubbs hit an RBI single to pull USC within one run of the Aztecs and put the tying run 90 feet away. On an 0-1 pitch, Jeremy Martinez lined a double into the left-centerfield gap. Stubbs hustled around from first base and slid in to score the go-ahead run before catcher Seby Zavala could control a throw up the third base line.
Zavala led off the ninth inning with a hit, but after a strikeout, he was doubled off first base on a shallow fly to right field to end the game.
“If that doesn’t get you to love college baseball I don’t know what will,” USC Coach Dan Hubbs said. “I think that the kids on both sides battled and fought. There was no quit on either side.”
Tyler Gilbert picked up the win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He struck out two and allowed only the hit to Zavala.
One of those strikeouts came in the seventh inning to quell an Aztecs rally. For the second day in a row, Gilbert entered with the bases loaded and got the Trojans out of a jam. Before Gilbert’s relief effort, San Diego State scored eight unanswered runs, including three in the seventh inning, to push its lead to 11-7.
It was the second drastic shift in the game. San Diego State opened the game with a 3-0 lead after two innings. But after being shut down for three innings, the USC offense awakened. David Oppenheim doubled home a run in the fourth inning and scored on an AJ Ramirez single.
Timmy Robinson put the Trojans ahead with a two-run homer to left field in the fifth inning and after an Oppenheim RBI single in the sixth inning, Ramirez hit an opposite field two-run home run for a 7-3 lead.
But that was not a comfortable edge. San Diego State scored five runs in the sixth inning and three in the seventh.
“We felt like the last team that was going to hit was going to win that,” Aztecs Coach Mark Martinez said. “But we got to hit last and didn’t win.”
With the loss, San Diego State was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, completing its season with a 41-23 record. USC advanced to play Virginia in a game later Sunday night. The Trojans needed to beat the Cavaliers twice to win the regional.