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ASU Baseball: Sun Devils drop regular-season finale at USC, await regionals

In a somewhat meaningless regular-season finale, USC took Sunday's game with a 6-3 victory.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With two outs and the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth, Arizona State's smallest player knew that a home run was needed to extend their regular season just a little bit further into Sunday night.

And almost against all odds, he came extremely close.

Nine-hole hitter Jordan Aboites lifted the first pitch he saw deep into the gap in left center field, and while the ball did not have quite enough on it to get over the fence at Dedeaux Field, it certainly had bases-clearing double written all over it.

But that was when USC's Bobby Stahel put the game to bed.

The left fielder made the catch of the year for the Trojans, using an all out, Superman-like dive to reach the ball before it had a chance to bang off the wall. Sitting on the warning track, Stahel showed the ball to the umpire and then flipped it over the fence to a waiting fan, closing the book on a disappointing day for the Sun Devils.

The team learned in the seventh inning of this afternoon's game that they would not be hosting a regional next weekend at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. UCLA is the only Pac-12 club that was awarded that honor, while Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara will also host out west.

Knowing Sunday's result would not have much of an effect on anything (the regional hosts were determined after Saturday's games), the maroon and gold came out loose and staked starting pitcher Seth Martinez to an early 2-0 lead on a pair of RBI sacrifice flies.

The Trojans battled back in their half of the fourth, using a balk by Martinez to get a runner to third with just one out. A productive groundout to the right side of the infield from Dante Flores followed, and the lead was quickly cut in half.

A three-run binge for the home team in the fifth put Arizona State in a 4-2 hole. Martinez recorded two quick outs to open the frame, but a subsequent base hit and full count walk set the table for the dangerous Stahel. Martinez worked an 0-2 count against the leadoff man, but his third pitch was sent deep over the fence in left field. The three-run bomb gave USC a lead it would not relinquish.

An RBI single from Trever Allen in the top of the sixth pulled the Sun Devils within a run, but the Trojans answered with another two of their own just one inning later. The seventh could have been much worse than it ended up being, but Arizona State coach Tracy Smith made the call to bring in typical closer Ryan Burr.

Martinez (2-2) ended up with the loss, giving up five runs in just six full innings of work. While the right-hander's line may not have ended up being that impressive, he should get credit for working himself out of a lot of jams that were not always self-inflicted.

Burr would end up escaping the bases loaded jam he entered the game with, and then worked a scoreless eighth to keep his team within striking distance. Unfortunately for the visitors, Stahel and USC had other plans. The left fielder's highlight grab robbed the maroon and gold of two runs, making the final score 6-3.

Arizona State fell to 34-21 (18-12) with the loss, finishing the season in a tie for third in the Pac-12.

The Sun Devils will be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament (important for possibly hosting a Super Regional) and await their destination for regionals during the NCAA Baseball Championship Selection Special, airing Monday morning live on ESPNU at 9 a.m. Arizona time.