No one likes to lose, but how painful is a loss?
If you’re the USC baseball team that number can actually be quantified by the ratings percentage index (RPI). The Trojans had a top 10 RPI and a 30-10 record after taking the first game at Oregon State two weekends ago. But since then, the Trojans have lost five of seven. Losing the final two games of the series in Corvallis wasn’t devastating for the numbers. In the baseball RPI, games are weighted based on the location of the game. A win at home is worth less than a neutral site or road win and a road loss hurts less.
The series loss at Corvallis saw USC’s RPI rank drop to No. 10 overall — still in great shape to be a regional host. However, there was then an extra-inning loss to Cal State Fullerton and then a walk-off homer in the finale at Utah. Suddenly, the Trojans’ RPI was wavering on the edge of hosting territory when they fell to No. 18 after last weekend.
On Tuesday, the “Curse of the Gillespie” struck once again. USC continues to find ways to lose to UC Irvine under Mike Gillespie -- the former USC head coach who "retired" at the behest of athletic director Mike Garrett only to go and take over the Irvine program and turn it into a perennial contender in Southern California.
This week, it was a DROPPED pop up with two outs in the ninth inning. A catch and the game is over. Instead, the tying run came home to score and a three-run, pinch-hit homer the next inning, crushed USC. That single loss (along with how other teams performed) pushed the Trojans down to No. 23 in the RPI.
USC has already lost the faith of some of those projecting the field of 64 — at least in terms of hosting one of the 16 four-team regionals. Instead, the Trojans are being projected as a No. 2 seed that possibly could travel to Iowa or any number of places. If USC doesn’t host a regional, they will be on the road far away due partly to regional rules with conferences. Only one team can represent a conference at each regional. That means the Trojans can’t be sent across town to UCLA or to the desert for the likely Tempe Regional hosted by Arizona State. Or if somehow Cal or Oregon State plays their way into hosting, USC still couldn’t play in those particular regional.
That means a team from another West Coast conference would have to host a regional for USC to even have a chance of staying in the Pacific time zone. There’s only one team that currently has a resume that could potentially host — No. 7 UC Santa Barbara. However, UCSB can’t host at their own stadium! Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on the UCSB campus doesn’t have lights and doesn’t hold enough fans, so that idea is out.
The NCAA once tried having a regional hosted at a stadium without lights and the results weren't pretty with games having to be suspended and resumed early in the morning. The Gauchos have the option of submitting a bid to host elsewhere, such as a minor league stadium, which is what I'v been told the UC Santa Barbara administration plans to do.
How that bid plays out could determine if USC was to possibly stay in Southern California and play at the UCSB regional hosted at a minor league stadium in Lancaster, Rancho Cucamonga, Lake Elsinore or one of the other Cal League minor league stadiums within a short drive. There also is the possibility that UCSB is rewarded as a No. 1 seed in a regional, but sent to play at the stadium of a No. 2 seed. If that were to happen, USC and Los Angeles could possibly be the destination, as could a couple of destinations in the Midwest.
It’d be a lot more comforting and a lot easier for everyone involved if USC just won out and earned one of the 16 regional host spots, but we’ll see if they can regain some of their early season mojo this weekend when they host a dangerous Stanford squad that is currently as healthy as it has been all year.