Trojans get a small ball victory over Pepperdine

The USC baseball team managed only four hits but took advantage of three Pepperdine errors to defeat the Waves 3-2 Tuesday night in its final tune-up before heading into conference play this weekend.

Running wild · Junior second baseman Joe De Pinto was held hitless in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Pepperdine but scored the winning run after an errant Pepperdine pickoff attempt. USC had just four hits in the game. - Sunil Murali | Daily Trojan

“I’m very competitive. I don’t care how we win,” USC coach Chad Kreuter said. “It makes me sick being a .500 team, hovering around and not getting over the hump.”

In the fifth inning, Pepperdine starter Aaron Gates threw strikes to the plate but had problems throwing to the bases. Gates struck out the side but had two crucial errors.

Freshman Adam Landecker started the inning with a double down the right field line and scored when junior infielder Joe De Pinto’s sacrifice bunt attempt ended up in right field.

When Gates fielded the bunt, wheeled and fired to first base, his throw ran second baseman Joe Given into the baseline. De Pinto appeared to step on Given’s arm as he went down to catch the ball and caught Given in the face with his knee brace, which resulted in the players tumbling over each other and the ball finding its way into the outfield.

De Pinto promptly stole second base and then scored when Gates had De Pinto picked off second base but threw the ball into center, allowing USC (11-10) to take a 3-0 lead.

Pepperdine (6-13) tried to rally in the eighth inning off junior reliever Chris Mezger. Outfielder Brian Humphries laced Mezger’s first pitch over the right field fence for a home run, and infielder Torrey Jacoby took Humphries lead, hitting a mammoth home run to left-centerfield that bounced off the top of a tree beyond the 375-mark atop the fence.

But Mezger buckled down to get the final out of the eighth inning and eventually got the win.

“It’s about keeping an even keel,” Mezger said. “You don’t want to get too high or too low.”

Senior Shuhei Fujiya came on in the ninth and pitched a perfect final frame to collect his first save as a Trojan.

Starter sophomore Chad Smith went four innings, allowing only two hits and striking out five, but was removed in the fifth inning after pitching in relief Saturday and having tightness around his elbow.

USC took an early lead in the fourth inning, making the most of Pepperdine’s first error. Sophomore infielder Matt Foat led off the inning with a Baltimore chop that bounded over the head of the third baseman for a single.

Gates jammed sophomore outfielder Alex Sherrod with an inside pitch, forcing him to hit it weakly to first base for what had the potential to become a double play; but instead Jacoby booted the ball allowing both runners to be safe.

After sacrifice bunt from freshman infielder Cade Kreuter, junior infielder Matt Hart drove in Foat with a ground ball to third base.