The Pac-12 and the Mountain West were the only two conferences with Southern California squads still active, but that didn’t mean there was any less drama on the final day of the college baseball regular season.
USC went for a second upset — and the series win — of the No. 1 team in the nation. UCLA was trying for the sweep of No. 13 Washington. And San Diego State was trying to swim the rough currents of the Mountain West loser’s bracket for the second straight year.
Could the Aztecs knock top-seeded UNLV off for the second time in as many days?
USC 3, #1 Oregon State 1
Kyle Davis pitched the final 1.2 innings on Friday night to close out USC’s 4-2 victory over No. 1 Oregon State. On Saturday, Davis rested because on Sunday he delivered a career performance.
Davis took the ball to start the game rather than close and was remarkable. He even decided the close the game out himself. Despite throwing 25 pitches two days prior, Davis unleashed a 129-pitch complete game, setting a new career high with 14 strikeouts.
After USC (29-24, 16-14) took a 1-0 lead early, Oregon State (42-12, 23-7) evened the score in the third inning when Michael Howard doubled and an error Omar Cotto in right field allowed Jeff Hendrix to score from first. But Davis struck out slugger Michael Conforto to end the inning.
In the fifth inning, the Trojans regained the lead by manufacturing a run. Garrett Stubbs “got on” with an infield single, “got over” on a sacrifice and “got in” on Reggie Southall’s RBI single up the middle. Jeremy Martinez knocked an RBI double for an insurance run in the seventh inning.
The Beavers threatened once again in the eighth inning when Trever Morrison singled and Howard walked, bringing up Conforto with the tying runs on base. USC head coach Dan Hubbs came out for a mound visit, but decided to leave Davis in the game. Conforto ran the count full, but Davis got him to whiff at a changeup to end Oregon State’s final threat.
#13 Washington 6, UCLA 1
No. 13 Washington was shut down in the first two games of the weekend and through the first three innings on Sunday. But in the fourth inning, the Huskies bats finally woke up. Washington (39-15-1, 21-9) scored three runs and then added another three the next inning with Brian Wolfe knocking a two-run homer.
That was plenty enough for Jeff Brigham, who allowed an unearned run in seven innings. The Bruins (25-30-1, 12-18) managed just five hits — two coming from Trent Chatterton and two from Justin Hazard, who finished with a .344 average.
Mountain West Tournament
GM 12 – San Diego State 4, UNLV 3
Leadoff hitters are asked to be selective and work the count to give the rest of the team an opportunity to get a look at the starting pitcher. In the Mountain West Conference Tournament finale, Greg Allen worked a 2-1 count, but then jumped all over a pitch down and in, ripping it into the right field corner for a triple that started a three-run rally.
The inning and a sixth inning sacrifice fly by Evan Potter proved to be enough for San Diego State to knock off UNLV for the second day in a row to earn the Mountain West Conference Tournament title for the second season in a row.
But the game wasn’t without some late-inning theatrics. In the ninth inning, UNLV top offensive threat, T.J. White, who didn’t start because of an injury to his hand/wrist sustained Saturday, led off the inning with a pinch hit liner up the middle. After a sacrifice bunt advanced White to second base, San Diego State went to closer Michael Cederoth despite Cederoth having blown saves in each of the previous two days.
Cederoth got a groundout, but a passed ball allowed the speedy White to advance to third base. The Aztecs fed Justin Jones a steady diet of fastballs and with 3-2 he launched one to right field, but Danny Sheehan collected the ball just shy of the warning track for the tournament-clinching out.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Brad Haynal talked about the back-to-back titles, being named MVP and the stress of being the catcher with the tying run just 90 feet away:
Allen scored the first run of the game on an infield single to start the three-run inning. Seby Zavala launched a flyball to the warning track in right field for a sacrifice fly and Steven Pallares dropped down a two-out RBI bunt single to plate the other two runs.
Allen talked about setting the tone early and about how San Diego State’s many defensive shifts affect his centerfield coverage:
But when Aztecs’ starter Bubba Derby struggled with his command and allowed a run without giving up a hit, it seemed like it might be a high-scoring affair throughout the day.
Both teams were running light on pitching, but had guys dig deep and keep the game tight. Pitching on three-days rest, Derby settled in, throwing up zeros through the fourth inning. Aztecs acting head coach Mark Martinez said Derby was laboring in the dugout after the fourth inning, but San Diego State tried to get one more inning out of his ace.
Here’s Martinez talking after the game about his gritty, tough group that came through the loser’s bracket for the second consecutive season:
The move backfired. After getting the first out, Derby allowed back-to-back walks and then a line drive double by Morgan Stotts. The ball rolled to the wall, allowing both Joey Swanner and Justin Jones to come around and even the score up, 3-3.
TJ Kendzora came on for San Diego State and pitched 1.2 scoreless innings. Kendzora picked up the win when the Aztecs loaded the bases, chasing UNLV starter Joey Lauria, and Evan Potter lifted a sacrifice fly to centerfield.
Cody Thompson pitched 2.1 innings for the Aztecs before turning it over to Cederoth for the final two outs and the 20th save of the year for the big right hander. With 20 saves, Cederoth ties current Arizona Diamondback closer Addison Reed for the school record.
UNLV head coach Tim Chambers said he thought something special was brewing when Cederoth entered the game after the Rebels had been able to score four runs off him earlier in the tournament. Here he talks about that, White’s injury and his thoughts on his team in the NCAA Tournament:
Haynal, Allen, Potter, Pallares and SDSU freshman lefty Brett Seeburger were named to the All-MWC Tournament team while White, Brayden Torres and John Richy made it from UNLV. Nevada was the only other school with multiple all-tournament team members with Trenton Brooks and Scott Kaplan. San Jose State catcher Kyle Gallegos rounded out the squad.
With the win, San Diego State advances to the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row while UNLV must await its fate from the NCAA tomorrow during the NCAA Selection Show at 9 a.m. PST.
CBD photographer Shotgun Spratling was on hand for the championship game. Here’s his top photos: