LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The University of Southern California pitching staff stifled the Arizona offensive attack, and Omar Cotto Lozado delivered a walk-off single with two down in the bottom of the 12th inning to hand the Trojans a series-clinching victory Friday evening at Dedeaux Field.
A somewhat sloppy game turned into a battle of bullpens in the late stages with Arizona’s Bobby Dalbec and USC’s Kyle Twomey squaring off. The Wildcats’ right-hander turned in 5.1 innings of relief, while the Trojans lefty more than matched him with 5.2 shutout innings and just one hit allowed.
Twomey (W, 1-2) retired the final 14 batters he faced, which bought enough time for the Trojans to mount their game-winning rally.
Jeremy Martinez was 4-for-6 on the night, including a key single to open the decisive bottom of the 12th.
USC (19-17, 8-9 Pac-12) looked to advance pinch-runner Frankie Rios to second with AJ Ramirez, a late-inning replacement, at the plate. Ramirez squared around to bunt, but pulled the bat back and chopped a ball out in front of the plate. The eventual throw to first was not in time, putting two on with no out after the infield hit.
The Trojans again tried the slash play with Blake Lacey, who advanced both runners on a ground out to third base. That brought up pinch-hitter Kyle Davis, but Dalbec racked up his second strikeout and was one out away from escaping the jam.
That did not happen as Cotto Lozado slapped an opposite-field single through the left side of the infield to drive in Rios with the game winning run. Cotto Lozado finished the night 3-for-6 with a pair of runs scored.
Dalbec (L, 2-3) took the loss despite some gritty relief pitching in a career-long outing. However, his defensive miscue in the bottom of the eighth blew what was, at the time, a save opportunity.
With Arizona leading 4-3, Dalbec struck out Bobby Stahel to lead off the eighth, but the third strike was wide of catcher Riley Moore, and Stahel reached on a wild pitch.
Instead of bunting the potential tying run to second, the Trojans let Cotto Lozado pull the bat back and he slashed a one-hopper to the mound. Dalbec, thinking he had a chance to turn a double play, fielded cleanly but fired wildly into centerfield, putting runners at the corners with no outs.
Vahn Bozoian followed with a safety squeeze that brought home Stahel with the game-tying run.
Arizona (17-22, 6-11 Pac-12) seemed to gain momentum with a two-run seventh inning to wrestle the lead away from the Trojans. Trailing 3-2, Tyler Krause belted his first career home run to left field, tying the game to lead off.
Kenny Meimerstorf followed with a single and he was bunted to second by Joseph Maggi, which marked the end of starter Brent Wheatley’s night. Reliever James Guillen then surrendered an RBI single to Zach Gibbons, which put the Wildcats ahead 4-3.
Twomey immediately took over with Gibbons on second base following an error. The lefty induced a pop out to Trent Gilbert and then intentionally walked Kevin Newman.
The timely hits eluded the Wildcats much of the night – as did any kind of hits. USC out-hit Arizona, 16-5, in the game, but the Wildcats struggled to a 1-for-10 clip with runners on base. Meanwhile, the Trojans scored three times with two outs on 6-for-17 hitting in such situations.
USC took the initial lead with a run on two hits in the second following Reggie Southall’s safety squeeze bunt to score Cotto Loazdo, who earlier doubled.
Arizona responded with a two-run fourth inning despite the benefit of a hit. Wheatley issued consecutive walks to Gilbert and Newman, and Calhoun bunted both into scoring position. Dalbec drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, before Moore lifted a pop fly on the infield that was dropped by Lacy, the third baseman, allowing Newman to score from second.
The Trojans struck for single runs in the fifth and sixth frames, respectively, taking 3-2 lead. Martinez delivered the game-tying RBI hit in the fifth, and Bozoian added a run-scoring single an inning later.
Arizona starter Cody Hamlin did not factor in the decision, but was solid despite scattering 10 hits and a walk over 6.1 innings. He was charged with three earned runs.
USC’s starter, Wheatley, also went 6.1 innings and did not factor in the decision. The right-hander gave up four runs – three earned – on three hits and four walks.
The series concludes on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. (PDT) and will be televised live on the Pac-12 Network. A live radio broadcast is also available on 1290 AM in Tucson, Ariz.