The USC baseball team is officially on the schneid.
Following a 3-1 start to begin the year, USC has now dropped seven straight games, including all three games of its weekend series against No. 7 Cal State Fullerton.
Including Sunday’s showing against the Titans, five of the losses have come by three runs or less, and four have been by one run.
“I don’t think anyone who’s watching us play can say we aren’t competing,” said USC coach Frank Cruz.
Sunday’s game was a pitchers’ duel with both starters lasting into the eigth. USC senior starter Logan Odom threw 104 pitches over seven and two-third innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits, while walking just one and striking out three.
Odom was overshadowed by Titan starter Colin O’Connell, who threw eight shutout innings, allowing one unearned run on just three hits, all without walking a Trojan batter.
Both pitchers were so dominant the game finished in one hour and 52 minutes — USC’s first sub-two hour game since March 4, 2007.
“I felt good,” Odom said. “But it’s hard to feel good about a whole lot right now.”
Both teams went down in order in the first two innings until a two-out hit, a steal and an error led to the first run of the game and a 1-0 Titan lead.
Fullerton scored once more in the fourth with a leadoff triple and a sacrifice-fly, but that would be it for the scoring until the bottom of the eighth.
With two down, junior first baseman Matt Foat singled to center and advanced to third when the ball got by the center fielder. Junior left fielder Brandon Garcia followed up with an RBI-groundout to short, and the Trojans were on the board.
USC did threaten in the ninth, but at that point, it was too late.
Junior preseason All-American first baseman Ricky Oropesa was up with two down and speedy freshman pinch-runner Omar Cotto Lozada on first as the tying run, but the Fullerton closer got Oropesa swinging on a full count to end the game.
The first two games of the series were played on Friday and Saturday in Orange County, and the results there were no better for USC.
USC was down 2-1 in the fourth when its took its only lead of the series.
Oropesa doubled with one down and advanced to third on senior second baseman Joe De Pinto’s single. A passed ball allowed Oropesa to score and De Pinto to move up to second. A wild pitch moved De Pinto to third, and he gave the Trojans the lead on a Foat RBI grounder.
But Fullerton put up a four-spot for the second straight game. In the fifth, junior starting pitcher Austin Wood allowed a leadoff walk and then balked, advancing the runner to second. From there, it all fell apart. After a double and an error, Wood was lifted following four-plus innings and four runs (three earned).
Junior Ben Mount was brought in to minimize the damage, but it was not his day. He walked the first hitter, allowed a two-RBI single to the next and then allowed a run on a wild pitch before finally getting out of the inning with four on the board and the Trojans down 6-3.
The Trojans went down in order in three of their final five innings, only once managing to put a runner in scoring position. Fullerton scored once more in the eighth to make the final 7-3.
The opening game in Fullerton on Friday was even worse, as the Titans dominated in every way.
Preseason All-American pitcher Noe Ramirez threw eight innings of one-hit ball, walking two and striking out eight. USC went down in order in six of its nine turns at bat, getting just four men on base the entire game.
“Friday we played really, really bad,” Cruz said. “That was our worst game of the season so far.”
The Titans jumped out in front early, plating four in the third against junior starter Andrew Triggs, all with two outs.
USC didn’t even get its first hit until the fifth, leading to its only run of the game.
But the Titans got the run right back in their half of the fifth, and put two more across in the sixth. Following USC’s second error of the game, Triggs was pulled after tossing five and one-third innings and seven runs, but only four earned.
Fullerton got three more in the eighth behind a pair of wild pitches and allowing the Trojans’ third error of the game to make the 10-1 final USC’s worst loss of the season.
“It’s tough right now,” De Pinto said. “But we gotta focus on ourselves and things will turn around.”
The Trojans finally face some unranked competition this week when they travel up the coast to Santa Barbara to take on the Gouchos at 3 p.m. Tuesday.