In college baseball’s heavyweight division, every series is a grueling battle. This weekend’s Pac-10 prizefight is no different.
USC begins its home conference schedule at 7 p.m. when the Trojans welcome No. 21 Oregon State to Dedeaux Field to start a three-game series.
The Beavers (16-5) open up conference play after losing back-to-back games for the first time this season. They dropped a doubleheader against Long Beach State in Corvallis, Ore., falling by a combined score of 15-5.
But that has not been indicative of their play this year.
The Beavers opened with three wins in four games at Hawai’i and followed that series by taking two of three from Tennessee.
And before the last two games against the 49ers, they rattled off 10 wins in a row — allowing more than four runs just twice in that stretch.
USC (13-12, 1-2) has been looking for that kind of consistency all season long.
The Trojans continue to ride a wave of up-and-down play. They defeated Loyola Marymount 9-7 on Tuesday, but that came after they dropped two of three against Stanford last weekend.
They outslugged the Cardinal in the first game, 13-8, but lost the next two. The Trojans were right in the mix in both games but fell victim to Stanford’s timely hitting in the late innings.
The Cardinal won the middle game with a walk-off hit in the ninth inning and took the series finale with a tiebreaking single in the seventh.
Finding that consistency will be difficult against the Beavers.
They field one of the best pitching staffs in the conference, led by a couple of solid starters.
Oregon State’s Greg Peavey is 2-0 with a 2.32 ERA and opponents are hitting just .198 against him. Tanner Robles is off to a similar start with a 4-2 record and a 2.41 ERA.
At the plate, Oregon State has the lowest team batting average in the conference, but a few stars have paced the Beavers’ offense.
Stefen Romero is batting .352 with six home runs and 20 RBIs, both team-leading totals. He also sports a .461 on-base percentage and is perfect on the base paths with three steals in as many attempts.
Carter Bell and Parker Berberet have also chipped in at the plate, each batting over .300 with eight and 17 RBI, respectively.
USC has dominated the series with the Beavers over the years, as well as recently. The Trojans have won five of the last six games against Oregon State, including a series sweep when the two teams met at Dedeaux Field in 2008.
But the Beavers have been a mainstay on the college baseball radar since winning back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007. Sweeping them again will be a difficult task.
USC will throw senior Kevin Couture in tonight’s opener against Peavey. Couture last pitched Friday against Stanford and lasted just four innings, allowing seven runs.
Sophomore Ben Mount will face Robles in Friday’s game, at 7 p.m. Mount continues to pitch well for USC, amassing a 2-1 record and a 3.54 ERA. He went seven innings Saturday against Stanford but picked up a no-decision in USC’s loss.
Fellow sophomore Andrew Triggs will start for the Trojans in Saturday’s series finale at 1 p.m., but the Beavers have yet to announce a starter. Triggs lasted into the seventh inning against the Cardinal but also recorded a no decision.