Baseball sweeps Trojans, wins Pac-12 regular season title

No. 4 Stanford baseball (36-14, 21-9 Pac-12) swept the USC Trojans (25-28, 8-22 Pac-12) in a weekend series to clinch the Pac-12 regular season title outright. The Cardinal have now won 12 straight games and seven of their last eight series.

In the first game of the series, Stanford’s ace, senior Alex Williams, had yet another strong pitching performance. Williams pitched the full nine innings, allowing just four hits, one walk and one earned run. In addition, Williams’ performance allowed the Cardinal to save their bullpen for later in the series.

On offense, do-it-all freshman Braden Montgomery hit a two-run homerun in the first inning and hit an RBI double in the third inning. Junior DH Brett Barrera also hit an RBI double in the third and an RBI single up the middle. Junior outfielder Brock Jones added to his late-season tear by hitting a two-run home run in the sixth.

USC had little chance of winning against the pitching performance from Williams coupled with the batting performance in the middle of the lineup. In the end, the Trojans lost the game 7-1.

The second game of the series featured the strongest batting performance of the year, as the Cardinal scored a season-high 22 runs. As a team, Stanford tallied 18 hits, including six home runs.

Jones posted another terrific batting performance, recording up to three hits, including a three-run home run in the fourth inning. Barrera hit a grand slam in the seventh and ended the day with three hits and five RBIs. Montgomery came close to hitting for the cycle, ending the day with a home run, a triple and a double.

On the mound, sophomore pitcher Joey Dixon went seven innings and gave up only four hits, two walks and no earned runs. Dixon’s performance marked the second straight day where the Cardinal received a great performance from their starting pitcher. In the end, USC could not match the massive offensive output the Cardinal generated and ended up losing 22-3.

After the game, when Barrera was asked by the Pac-12 Network about the Cardinal’s recent home run surge, he told the Pac-12 Network, “We’re in the weight room more than a bunch of other teams. We go to away games and the other coaches say, ‘Man that team is big!’ ”

In the final game of the series, USC got off to a hot start in the first inning, as DH Trevor Halsema hit a three-run home run to give the Trojans an early 3-0 lead. However, the Cardinal would respond in the bottom of the first inning, as junior catcher Kody Huff hit a double to score two runs. In addition, third baseman Drew Bowser and sophomore Tommy Troy plated two runs to put Stanford in the lead at 4-3.

After two scoreless innings by both teams, the Cardinal scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, courtesy of a fielder’s choice from sophomore left fielder Eddie Park, a hit-by-pitch to Jones and a grand slam from sophomore infielder Carter Graham .

This inning effectively put the game out of reach for USC, as they only scored two more runs in the contest. Eventually, Stanford won this last game of the series 12-5 and clinched the Pac-12 regular season title outright.

Looking ahead, the Cardinal will now be the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, which is scheduled from May 25-29 in Scottsdale, Ariz. The tournament consists of two pods and features a double-elimination format. The winner of each pod will then play in a one-game final to determine the champion. Stanford will take on the No. 8 seed Arizona State Sun Devils (25-30, 13-17 Pac-12) in its first game of the tournament.

First pitch is scheduled for 45 minutes after the Oregon-Arizona game, which will begin at 9:00 am PT.

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