Posted at 7:54 p.m., Sunday, February 26, 2006
USC stops Rainbows in baseball series finale, 4-3
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Freshman left-hander Tommy Milone (4-0) pitched 6 1/3 solid innings, allowing three runs (two earned), five hits and two walks with four strikeouts to put the Trojans (8-7) back above .500 and end the seven-game win streak by the Rainbows (11-3). Paul Koss added 2 2/3 scoreless innings for his first save. They helped end a three-game losing streak that started with a loss to San Diego State on Tuesday.
"We had a tough week," said USC coach Mike Gillespie of the Trojans. "We needed a win ... You don't like to talk about these things like they're cancer treatment or heart surgery, but in our little world, it was very important. It would've been a rugged trip home."
It was hard for UH to string together base runners against Milone. The only time the Rainbows had consecutive batters reach was when Kris Sanchez reached on shortstop Hector Estrella's throwing error to start the fifth and scored on Jorge Franco's triple off the base of the right field wall on the foul line. Franco would score on Landon Hernandez's sacrifice fly to pull UH to 4-3.
"All the credit goes to Milone," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "He's coming off a win against San Diego, which is one of the better teams on the West Coast this year. We're looking at a guy who's looking to be one of the top pitchers in college baseball for the next couple of years."
Despite the error, the Trojans' defense supported Milone. Estrella robbed Sanchez of a single in the seventh with a diving stop up the middle; third baseman Matt Cusick also had some nice stops and throws.
"They were spectacular today," Milone said of his defense. "I always trust them whenever I'm pitching. They're always diving, making good plays."
Milone said basically all of his pitches fastball, curveball and changeup were working.
"I just made them (UH batters) make the mistakes," he said.
Mark Rodrigues (1-1) gave up four runs, six hits and two walks with one strikeout in 5 1/3 innings for UH. Freshman Matt Daly was impressive with one-hit ball and three strikeouts in 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.
Hawai'i struck first when Luis Avila homered to right-center to lead-off the second inning. It was UH's second home run of the season, but first at home.
The Trojans tied it in the top of the fourth. Cyle Hankerd, 0 for 10 in the first two games of the series, doubled, took third when Baron Frost was thrown out at first by the catcher after hitting a dribbler near home plate and scored on Josh Fogel's sacrifice fly to right.
Southern California snapped the tie in the fifth. Daniel Perales singled to left-center; only a nice stop by center fielder Robbie Wilder saved a possible extra-base hit. Perales advanced on Estrella's sacrifice before stealing third. Rodrigues walked Lucas Duda and hit Cusick to load the bases, setting up Blake Sharpe's two-run double to put USC ahead, 3-1. Hankerd's sacrifice fly to left made it 4-1. Hankerd was 3 for 3 on Sunday.
The Trojans threatened to increase the margin in the sixth when back-to-back singles by Fogel and Darin Vieira and a sacrifice by Perales put runners in scoring position against Rodrigues. But Daly came in and struck out Estrella and retired Duda on a grounder to second to keep one-run margin.
"We're seeing our freshman emerge as someone we can count on in those situations," Trapasso said.
"I love being under pressure situations like that," Daly said.
Hawai'i tried to get something going offensively, but Milone and Koss kept closing the Rainbows down. In the seventh, Franco singled with one out, prompting the Trojans to bring in Koss, who struck out Hernandez and got Joe Spiers on a comebacker to the mound to end the inning.
After a perfect eighth, Koss struck out Avila to start the ninth. Matt Inouye then hit a fly to left, where Roberto Lopez came in as a defensive replacement. Television replays showed an apparent catch by Lopez, but the ball was ruled trapped, giving Inouye a double. Didn't matter, as Koss struck out Sanchez and got Franco on a fly out to center to end the game.
Although the Rainbows lost, they did have another strong pitching performance. They were just outdone by Milone.
"It was one of those things where it was a good college baseball game," Trapasso said. "While we were not pleased with the outcome, we were pleased with our approach and effort. We just got beat today by a good club."