Baseball: Trojans fall to No. 21 Oregon State in nail-biter

Another close game, another loss for the Trojans -- this one a 4-3 defeat to No. 21 Oregon State.

USC (14-14, 2-4) trailed 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, but the Trojans caught fire, rallying to score a run and load the bases with two outs for leadoff hitter Joe De Pinto. De Pinto, a second baseman who is hitting .295 on the season, fell behind in the count, 0-2, but proceeded to foul off pitches left and right from Oregon State left-hander Kraig Sitton.

De Pinto eventually succumbed to a well-placed slider on the inside of the plate, giving the Beavers the 4-3 win and the series victory in front of a larger-than-normal crowd of 621 at Dedeaux Field. The loss means the Trojans have lost four out of six games in Pac-10 conference play by a total of seven runs. This whole close-but-no-cigar thing is getting old for USC coach Chad Kreuter and his team.

"We're close," said Kreuter, who praised his team's ninth-inning at-bats but also said his hitters failed to properly work the count early on. "But close doesn't make it feel any better."

Oregon State (18-6, 2-1) used an unconvential way to score its first runs. In the first inning, Beavers center fielder Adalberto Santos reached base on a bunt single. Then, left fielder Michael Miller proceeded to knock a ball down the left-field line that got stuck under the tarp in the outfield. By the time USC left fielder Matt Foat got to it, both Santos and Miller had scores and the Beavers had an early 2-0 lead.

Offense was again hard to come by for the Trojans, who totaled only six hits. Designated hitter Keith Castillo and right fielder Alex Sherrod each had two hits, but USC's only runs before the ninth came on an RBI groundout and an OSU wild pitch. Fourteen consecutive Trojans were retired between the second and seventh innings as Oregon State starter Sam Gaviglio proved effective in his first start of the season, giving up only four hits and walking none in 5 1/3 innings.

"We were flat," Kreuter said. "And when we did score, we didn't stay on it."

Kreuter talked in more detail about the way the game ended, the improbable inside-the-parker, and what his team can do to change its fortunes in the rest of Pac-10 play: