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Arizona beats USC in final conference tournament

Arizona beats USC in final conference tournament
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Waves of fans streamed into Scottsdale Stadium an hour before the start, anticipation building each minute closer to first pitch.

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They came to see the Pac-12 baseball championship game. They got a dose of history with it.

With Arizona and Southern California atop the marquee, the undercurrent of Saturday night’s game swirled around what could be a finality: the end of the Pac-12 Conference as we know it.

“It’s weird that it feels like it’s the end of it,” said Detroit Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 baseball draft after three seasons at Arizona State. “I guess it makes sense — money talks to these conferences.”

Money certainly led to the demise of the once-proud Pac-12.

With no imminent media rights deal on the horizon, the conference began to splinter, starting with USC and UCLA’s decision to leave for the Big Ten.

The seismic shift east led to a tsunami of defections.

Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah opted for a move to the Big 12. Washington and Oregon joined the Southern California schools in heading to the Big Ten. Cal and Stanford will be in the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

That left Washington State and Oregon State clinging to the remnants of a Pac-12 facing what’s still an uncertain future.

“That’s the sad thing about it, you start talking about those awards you start thinking, boy, that’s the last time this conference is going to be able to do that,” said Arizona’s Chip Hale, a Moraga native and the first person to earn Pac-12 baseball player and coach of the year honors.

If this is the end, the conference went out with a bang.

USC won its 21st men’s beach volleyball national championship and the USC women won their fourth straight. UCLA’s women’s water polo won its eighth NCAA championship with its third undefeated season.

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Stanford’s women’s golf team won its second national title in three years out of an all-Pac-12 final four, and its men’s gymnastics team also won a national championship. The Arizona State men won their first swimming and diving national title in March.

Saturday night, in the last event of the Pac-12 in its current form, Arizona beat USC 4-3 on a walk-off hit by Los Gatos native Tommy Splaine. Emilio Corona of San Luis Obispo slid ahead of the tag into home plate.

“Growing up, it was the Pac-10, then the Pac-12, it was just so much fun to watch,” said Torkelson, who grew up in Petaluma. “I feel like there were so many great teams in every sport.”

The self-proclaimed Conference of Champions will leave quite a legacy, even if most of it will be relegated to the history books.

The Pac-12, founded as the Pacific Coast Conference in 1916, has claimed 561 team national championships — over 200 more than the next closest conference — and more than 1,200 individual titles.





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