Freshman Hits Moon Shot In USC's 4-3 Dramatic Win At NCAA Regional
May 26, 2001
LOS ANGELES-USC freshman third baseman Michael Moon hit a game-winning 2-strike, 2-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the No. 2 Trojans to a dramatic 4-3 win over No. 11 Pepperdine in the fourth game of the NCAA Baseball Los Angeles Regional before a sold-out, standing-room-only Dedeaux Field record 2,376 fans at USC on Saturday afternoon (May 26).
Moon, who had 3 hits and 3 RBI in USC's opening win on Friday (May 25) over Oral Roberts, hit a 1-2 curveball from Wave starter Noah Lowry over the right field fence with pinch runner Michael Morales on first base and no outs. On the previous pitch, he pulled back on a sacrifice bunt attempt thinking the pitch was a ball, but had a strike called.
USC trailed 3-1 going into the ninth, but Josh Persell doubled to left center to open the inning and scored on Bill Peavey's single up the middle. Morales then ran for Peavey to set up Moon's heroics, his fifth home run of the season.
USC, the region's top seed, improved to 41-17, while second-seeded Pepperdine fell to 42-17. The Trojans advance to the regional's championship game on Sunday (May 27) at noon. The Waves must play again on Saturday, in a 7 p.m. elimination game against Fresno State, a 2-1 winner over Oral Roberts that sent the Golden Eagles packing in the first game on Saturday.
'I don't remember a win quite as dramatic as this, given the momentum shift and what was on the line,' said USC head coach Mike Gillespie. 'We're thrilled with the win. Pepperdine was really good and Lowry was really special. It was a heart-shattering loss for them. But there's no clock in baseball. Being 2 runs down in the ninth is reachable. We got a big hit, got another big hit and got the biggest hit and the win.
Said Moon, describing his thoughts after failing to get the sacrifice bunt down: 'Coach Gillespie just said to be a good 2-strike hitter. That gave me the confidence I needed and I was able to come through. Words can't describe it right now, how I was able to help the team.'
'It was a curve ball and I hung it,' said Lowry 'It happens. Moon did a good job hitting a mistake.'
Said Pepperdine head coach Frank Sanchez: 'Well, that's the nature of college athletics. There's always a ton of excitement because anything can happen. Both teams played courageously and intensely. Lowry did a great job.'
Until that time, Lowry had handcuffed USC in a matchup of 2 of college baseball's top pitchers. Lowry, who entered the game with a 14-1 record and a 1.51 ERA, is a second team All-American and the West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year. USC's Mark Prior, Collegiate Baseball magazine's national Player of the Year, was 13-1 with a 1.49 ERA coming in.
Lowry had given up only 3 hits to USC going into the ninth and finished with 5 strikeouts and just 2 walks.
Prior struck out 14 and walked none in 8 innings, but gave up 2 runs and a season-high 11 hits. He was replaced going into the ninth by Jordan Olson, who got the victory to up his mark to 2-1.
USC scored first in the game, getting a run in the bottom of the third. Seth Davidson and Brian Barre singled with no outs, then Alberto Concepcion moved them up on a sacrifice bunt. Davidson scored when Anthony Lunetta hit a slow-rolling groundout to shortstop.
It looked like the run might be enough for Troy until Pepperdine countered with a run in the seventh. Dane Ball hit a 1-out, opposite field double and, an out later, Rock Mills scored him with an opposite field bloop single.
Then, the Waves took the lead in the eighth when Woody Cliffords singled into shallow center, stole second and scored on Jared Pitney's opposite field single. Pepperdine added a run in the ninth off of Olson when Tony Garcia's 2-out, opposite field single scored Mills, who had gotten on with a single.
The game featured a number of outstanding fielding plays. Trojan right fielder Abel Montanez threw out a pair of Waves at home, getting Ball in the second and Mills in the seventh, to end both innings. In the sixth, Davidson went deep in the hole to get a force out at second base. In the seventh, Wave rightfielder Ball and centerfielder Cliffords collided violently going for a fly ball, but Ball held on for the out. In the ninth, USC first baseman Bill Peavey charged a Cliffords drag bunt and threw out Chris Kelly at the plate.
Mills and Tony Garcia led Pepperdine with 3 hits each, while both of Ball's hits were doubles.
It was USC's first win in 13 tries in 2001 when it trailed after 8 innings.