TUCSON, AZ - The 22nd-ranked Arizona baseball team squandered a big scoring chance and No. 9 USC made it pay with a three-run seventh inning that halted the Wildcats conference winning streak at six games in a 4-1 decision Thursday evening at Hi Corbett Field.
Starter Cody Hamlin was cruising through the middle innings before Timmy Robinson opened the seventh with a single. Dante Flores then showed bunt, but instead pulled back and drove a triple to center field, driving in Robinson with what proved to be the game-winning run.
USC (23-6, 5-2 Pac-12) went on to add two more runs in the seventh, including an RBI single from Blake Lacey and a bases-loaded groundout from Bobby Stahel.
Just an inning earlier, Arizona (22-7, 7-3 Pac-12) missed out on its own game-changing inning.
Trojans' starter Brent Wheatley was laboring in the bottom of the sixth when he walked a pair of batters and found himself in a one-out jam with runners at the corners. The Wildcats tried for a safety squeeze, but Wheatley was able to pounce on Justin Behnke's bunt and tossed home to narrowly retire JJ Matijevic.
Reliever Brooks Kriske then replaced Wheatley, allowing an infield single to Scott Kingery, which loaded the bases. But Kevin Newman flied out to right field to end the threat.
Missed opportunities were a theme for the Wildcats, who left 11 on base. The club collected just one base hit in 14 tries with runners on base.
The Trojans took an early 1-0 lead in the first after back-to-back hits by Stahel and Garrett Stubbs. Jeremy Martinez's double play sent home Stahel with the game's first run.
Arizona had a chance to tie in the second inning after Bobby Dalbec opened with a single. One out later, Michael Hoard's walk put two on for Matijevic, who grounded to first where Martinez was unable to come up with the ball.
However, Hoard took a wide turn around second base and forced Dalbec to try to score. Dalbec was thrown out at home and a line out ended the first threat Wheatley faced.
In the third, Kingery tied the game with a solo home run to left field. But despite putting runners on base all night, the Wildcats could not muster any more scoring.
Wheatley did not factor into the decision and was charged with only one run on two hits, but struggled with command and walked eight.
Kriske (W, 2-1) earned the win with 3.1 shutout innings of relief. After escaping the sixth-inning jam, Kriske retired the Wildcats in order in the seventh and eighth frames, before spoiling Behnke's leadoff double in the ninth.
Hamlin (L, 4-1) suffered his first loss of the year despite a strong outing until the seventh. He finished with six-plus innings of work with four earned runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out four.
The teams continue the three-game set Friday evening at 6 p.m. A live radio broadcast will air on 1290 AM in Tucson.
GAME NOTES: Arizona saw its six-game win streak snapped … USC picks up its first win in Tucson since the 2009 season … Scott Kingery's third-inning home run was his third of the season. It also extended UA's streak of games with an extra base hit to 18 straight games … The Wildcats entered the game batting .330 with runners in scoring position, but struggled to a 1-for-12 clip on Thursday … The loss is the first in a Pac-12 series opener for the Wildcats this season … Bobby Dalbec, who was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, has reached base in all 29 games this season.