This was supposed to be the grand entrance to something special for USC starting pitcher Kyle Davis’ senior year. He put in the hard work all offseason to lose 30 pounds and to develop a new pitch to make him more efficient on the mound.
But as baseball is apt to do, Davis was dealt a reminder on opening night of the Trojans’ season that he can’t do it all by himself. The right-hander was masterful against North Dakota, striking out 10 in eight innings, but he was bested in a lightning quick two hour, eight minute loss.
While Davis allowed only one run on five hits, his counterpart, Fighting Hawks southpaw Zach Muckenhirn, was even better. Muckenhirn shut down the USC offense, allowing only three hits, including two infield singles, in the second best pitching performance in the nation on college baseball’s opening day. (Southeastern Louisiana’s Kyle Cedotal struck out 14 in a two-hit shutout of ULM.)
The game’s only run came in the sixth inning when Brett Harrison laced a high fastball into the left-center field gap for an RBI double to score Miles Lewis, who had reached earlier in the inning on a single off the glove of Frankie Rios at second base.
“It was a two-seam [fastball] and I left it up. I didn’t throw it very well at all,” Davis said. “It got away from me. I felt like it was the one bad mistake I made all night and they made me pay unfortunately.”
Davis worked all offseason on being able to incorporate the two-seam fastball into his arsenal to try to get ground ball outs early in the count. He did a good job of that, which enabled him to go eight innings, even though he was on a 90-95 pitch count, according to head coach Dan Hubbs. Davis also had his breaking balls working really well, especially his slider biting in on left-handed hitters.
Mückenhirn was just one run better on the night. He mixed his pitches inside and out and got the Trojans to chase after pitches up in the zone that they weren’t able to do much with. He got nine fly ball outs, including five straight before striking out Timmy Robinson to end the game.
The Trojans will look to rebound tomorrow at 2 p.m. and even the series with the Fighting Hawks. Senior righty Brent Wheatley is slated to start for USC.