After starting the season 3-1, the USC baseball team looks to improve its record this weekend in the Dodgertown Classic. The Trojans will host Oklahoma State tonight and Vanderbilt on Saturday at Dedeaux Field then square off against rival No. 23 UCLA at Dodger Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Though USC will be facing three different opponents this weekend, USC coach Chad Kreuter is treating the weekend like a typical three-game series. His goal is to either win two games or get the three-game sweep, he said.
USC sophomore ace Andrew Triggs will be on the mound tonight for the Trojans. He faces Oklahoma State Tyler Lyons in the contest.
Triggs (1-0, 5.14) settled down after giving up three first-inning runs in USC’s first game of the season at Cal Poly last week. He only allowed one more run in the next six innings and racked up seven strikeouts, earning his first victory of the season. Lyons, who went 7-6 last season with a 4.07 ERA, will start the Cowboys’ season opening game.
The Cowboys have yet to play a game this season because of rain in the Midwest, something Kreuter thinks might be able to help the Trojans.
“They’re traditionally a strong program,” he said, “but this being their first contest, hopefully we can take advantage of that.”
USC will send out sophomore starter Chad Smith (0-1, 12.46) on Saturday to battle Vanderbilt’s pitcher Taylor Hill (1-0, 0.00). Smith struggled in his first outing, allowing six earned runs on six hits in four one-third innings, but Kreuter believes, now that Smith has one start under his belt, he’ll learn how to control his energy on the mound and locate his pitches. Smith’s counterpart, Hill, however, is coming off a stellar start, tossing six two-third scoreless innings against Niagara, allowing six hits with two walks and nine strikeouts.
The Commodores are batting .366 as a team with a 1.42 staff ERA. Smith will have to find a way to contain Vanderbilt infielder Jason Esposito, who is batting .529 (9-17) with a home run and seven RBI.
“We don’t have much of a scouting report on them this early in the season, but we’re expecting them to be really good,” said Kreuter of the typical top-20 program.
On Sunday at 2 p.m., USC sends senior Kevin Couture (0-0, 3.86) to the mound at Dodger Stadium to take on crosstown rival UCLA (3-0). The Bruins will counter with starter Rob Rasmussen (0-0, 9.82) in the non-conference match.
The Bruins are batting .393 as a team with a 2.50 staff ERA. USC pitchers will need to watch out for catcher Steve Rodriguez, who is batting .417 with four home runs and eight RBI in four games so far. Although USC leads the all-time series with UCLA by a 251-116 margin, the Bruins have won nine of the last 12 games against the Trojans.
“It’s a great venue for this rivalry at Dodger Stadium,” Kreuter said. “It’s one of those places that everybody loves and wants to be there. It’s going to be fun.”
Both Friday and Saturday’s games begin at 6 p.m. USC will take on UCLA at 2 p.m. on Sunday.