What a difference a day off made for senior starter Kevin Couture.
Barely 48 hours after failing to make it out of the first inning, Couture responded with a gem, and the Trojans won at Pepperdine, 5-0.
Starting pitchers rarely start back-to-back games, but USC coach Chad Kreuter gave Couture the ball for a second straight start. He threw less than 40 pitches Sunday, lasting only two-thirds of an inning and allowing four runs and seven hits.
Couture (1-0, 3.86 ERA) was a completely different starter Tuesday, throwing seven shutout innings. He allowed just five hits and a walk while striking out six Waves. Senior Shuhei Fujiya followed with two innings of shutout baseball, allowing just two hits.
Both pitchers prevented Pepperdine from getting a single runner past second base.
The Trojans (6-6) got most of the offense they needed from freshman infielder Cade Kreuter, who went 3-4 with a home run and 4 RBI. The younger Kreuter started the scoring in the second inning. He singled home sophomore infielder Matt Foat, giving USC a 1-0 lead.
USC tacked on its second run the next inning, when sophomore Ricky Oropesa — batting second in the lineup — drove in freshman Adam Landecker to make it 2-0.
The score stayed that way into the sixth, when Kreuter hit a 3-1 pitch out for a three-run home run, putting the Trojans up 5-0. The younger Kreuter has been one of USC’s best hitters this season, batting .333 with two home runs and nine RBI.
Landecker and sophomore outfielder Garret Houts finished the day with two hits apiece, helping USC to an 11-hit attack against the Waves.
But the Trojans don’t have any time to revel in the victory, as they are just starting one of their toughest stretches of the season.
USC returns home tonight to host Connecticut at 5 p.m. at Dedeaux Field, its only home game until March 23 and one of two home games until April 1.
The Huskies (5-2) are coming off of a strong series against Cal State Northridge, taking three of four from the Matadors. They lost the series finale, 5-3, and their only other loss was two weeks ago, a 6-5 loss in 10 innings against Northwestern.
UConn boasts a strong lineup, led by infielder Mike Nemeth. He’s batting .462 through seven games with six RBI.
Second baseman Pierre LePage is picking up where he left off over the summer. The junior starred for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League, batting .308 and helping the Braves to the title.
He’s hitting .333 with nine RBI, six runs scored and a team-leading three stolen bases.
Fellow Cape Cod leaguer George Springer leads the team with three home runs and 13 RBI.
UConn also has a solid pitching staff, with a team ERA of 3.59.
After Wednesday’s game, the Trojans will prepare to leave for Hawaii for a four-game series. It’s part of a grueling 14-game stretch, in which 12 games are on the road.