Arizona baseball hosts USC in pivotal home series

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Alex McIntyre | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona baseball pitcher Tyger Talley (19) pitches during Arizona's 13-4 victory over Oregon on Sunday at Hi Corbett Field. Talley and the Wildcats take on USC in a pivotal three-game series starting Thursday.

Arizona baseball takes on USC at home this weekend following back-to-back Pac-12 Conference sweeps over Stanford and Oregon.

The No. 22 Wildcats (22-6, 7-2) are on a six-game winning streak to begin Pac-12 play, something they hadn’t done since consecutively sweeping Utah and California in 2013, following their 2012 national championship.

“If you have a really old team that all back from Omaha and they’re all All-Americans, you’ve kind of figured it out,” Arizona coach Andy Lopez said. “When you don’t, you just need someone to get hot.”

Arizona’s offense is on fire, leading the nation in batting average and boasting two of the top-five hitters in Scott Kingery and Kevin Newman.

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Outfielder Justin Behnke is one of Arizona’s silent predators, batting ninth and rounding out the team’s top-three batters.

Arizona also leads the Pac-12 in 10 offensive categories, including hits, on-base percentage, triples and runs scored.

But No. 9 USC (22-6, 4-2) is not far behind. The Trojans rank in the top three in six of Arizona’s 10 leading categories, and rank first in stolen bases and at-bats.

Its pitching staff, led by left-handed pitcher Kyle Twomey, is pretty strong too, with a combined ERA of 2.62 and 237 strikeouts halfway through this season.

Twomey is one of five Trojan pitchers throwing under 3.00 in at least 22 innings pitched.

Arizona’s Sunday starting pitcher Tyger Talley is day-to-day with an arm injury. He left Sunday’s game after just 2.1 innings when he reported feeling a tingling numbness in his throwing arm.

“We’ll have to see how [he] is; we do not know,” Lopez, who hopes to have the junior back on the mound this weekend, said. “I don’t think it’s serious, but I honestly can’t tell you what it is.”

USC’s top-10 national ranking may be daunting, especially with Talley’s pending status, but that’s something Arizona catcher Riley Moore said isn’t on his team’s mind going into the early weekend series.

In fact, the senior isn’t even sure where exactly the Trojans fall in the NCAA.

“I think [USC] is having a pretty good year,” Moore said. “I’m sure they’re ranked in the top 25 — if not better than 25 — but everyone in the Pac is a good team.”

Moore’s mentality comes from experience. Arizona hadn’t taken a series from Oregon in his first three years as a Wildcat, before they swept Oregon last weekend.

USC swept the three-game series at Dedeaux Field in Los Angeles the last time the two teams met. It won the first game 1-0, the second 5-4 in 12 innings and the third 2-0 to complete the sweep.

“We just need to get nine strong innings from our pitching staff — whoever it is — and hang zeros,” Arizona relief pitcher Nathan Bannister said.

The home series starts Thursday at 6 p.m. at Hi Corbett Field, with Friday’s game at the same time and the series finale at noon on Sunday.

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