Kyle Davis, Two-Strike Hits Lead Trojans
BERKELEY, Calif. — Sometimes you have to wait … and wait for what you want. But when you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it.
Kyle Davis had been lobbying to be placed in the USC rotation for the last two years and was the leading candidate to start the season as the Friday night starter after twirling a gem (CG, 9 IP, 5 H, UER, 14 K) in the Trojans’ final game of the 2014 season against No. 1 Oregon State.
“It’s all I’ve wanted to do since my freshman year,” Davis said Saturday afternoon after he led the Trojans to an 11-3 win over No. 25 California at Evans Diamond.
Davis looked to be in line for his wish this offseason, but then while volunteering with kids in the fall, the energetic competitor suffered an ankle injury while playing basketball.
Davis’ ankle took longer than expected to heal and set his starting aspirations back. Instead, head coach Dan Hubbs chose to leave Davis in the closer role, where he excelled last season, posting the nation’s best ERA among qualifying pitchers. However, overcompensating for the ankle led to Davis injuring his groin and being set back even further. Rather than the dominant shutdown reliever USC was accustomed to, Davis’ season has been up and down as he’s battled to get 100 percent and shake off the rust after making just one appearance in nearly a month due to the groin injury.
There were flashes of the 2014 Davis, including a two-strikeout inning to finish off a series against Oregon, but Davis struggled in his next two outings. To try to get him going and with the Friday role unsettled with Brent Wheatley struggling, Hubbs threw Davis into the mix against Stanford. It worked. Davis tossed a 1-0 shutout, striking out 10.
Hubbs planned to skip Davis in the rotation this weekend against No. 25 California, but Davis’ arm and body bounced back in great shape during the week and he was able to convince Hubbs to give him the ball to start the series. While he said his command wasn’t as good it had been against Stanford, Davis was able to use his four-pitch mix, often using his offspeed early in the count to keep the Golden Bears off balance, and he dominated.
While his final line (8 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, BB, 3 K) wasn’t spectacular, the only run Davis allowed until the eighth inning came thanks to a super-hop leadoff triple. Mitchell Kranson hit what appeared to be a routine grounder that hit the lip and ramped up and over a leaping Jeremy Martinez at first base. He scored on an RBI groundout by Brett Cumberland.
After that, Davis tossed up zero after zero, taking the pressure off the offense facing Cal ace Daulton Jefferies. Good situational hitting early gave the Trojans a 2-1 lead as leadoff doubles from Timmy Robinson in the second and Jeremy Martinez in the fourth inning led to runs with a pair of productive outs following each.
Then in the fifth inning, USC was able to get to Jefferies and break free from the Golden Bears. After a one-out walk, the Trojans collected three big two-strike hits. Reggie Southall hit an 0-2 pitch just out of the reach of a diving Robbie Tenerowicz at second base. Bobby Stahel followed with one of the best at-bats of the day. Stahel fell behind 0-2, but worked the count to 2-2, fouling off three straight pitches before having to hit the deck after a fastball buzzed him. Jefferies smartly followed the up-and-in pitch with an offspeed offering down and away. Stahel didn’t put a great swing on the pitch, but was able to keep his hands back and poke the ball up the middle for an RBI single.
A groundout put two runners in scoring position for Martinez. Jefferies left an 0-2 pitch up in the zone and Martinez lined it into the right-center field gap for a two-run single. With Jefferies on the ropes taking body blows, Robinson came in with the knockout haymaker. He didn’t wait for the second strike. Robinson jumped all over a 1-1 fastball and tatooed it nearly on top of the building behind the left-field fence for a two-run homer to make it 7-1.
Davis allowed just an infield single in the next two frames and USC added three more runs in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach. Robinson and Martinez both finished with three RBIs. Martinez had three hits — two doubles. Devin Pearson led Cal with three hits.