Baseball: USC swept by Washington State

Sunday's effort was better than Friday's and Saturday's for USC, but not by enough to earn a series-salvaging win.

The slipping and sliding Trojans held No. 24 Washington State in check for the first seven innings of Sunday's game before the host Cougars unloaded for five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to break the game open, take the 8-2 victory and send USC home without a win.

Senior righthander Kevin Couture continued his hot streak on the mound, throwing six innings of two-run ball before giving way to reliever Chad Smith. Smith retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a solo homer to Washington State outfielder Garry Kuykendall and loading the bases with Cougars.

He proceeded to get out of the inning but allowed three of the four batters he faced in the eighth to reach base and was charged with four earned runs on the day. Couture has given up two runs his last four appearances, spanning 18 innings.

USC's only runs in the game came on a double steal in the third inning that cost the Trojans a run and an RBI single from center fielder Mike O'Neill in the eighth inning. Third baseman Matt Hart scored both runs.

After losing 20-7 on Friday and 18-4 on Saturday, USC (25-31, 5-19 in the Pac-10) allowed more runs in the weekend series than it had in any other three-game series in the history of the program.

The Trojans are also now locked into the last spot in the conference standings — at 5-19, with a conference winning percentage of .208, USC is a full five games behind ninth-place Oregon State. And, barring a three-game sweep of the Washington Huskies next weekend, coach Chad Kreuter's team will also be the only conference squad to register an under-.500 record on the season.

USC now needs to win each of its last four games in order to avoid the worst regular season of Kreuter's four-year tenure, with a mid-week game with Big West power UC Irvine looming Tuesday before the Washington series.