Perhaps no one put it better than USC baseball’s interim coach, Frank Cruz: “The better team won today,” Cruz said, following the Trojans’ 5-2 loss to UC Santa Barbara.
It was the Trojans’ first chance to avenge a midweek loss, as the Gauchos beat the Trojans 3-2 in Santa Barbara previously this month.
The Gauchos got on top right away. With two on and one down in the first, cleanup hitter Mark Haddow ripped a two-RBI double into the gap in left center.
With two down, junior catcher Kevin Roundtree delivered the clutch knock through the right side to plate Glenn for his first RBI of the year.
Junior starter Ben Mount got tagged with another pair in the third, again by Haddow.
It was another shot to left center, but this one went over the fence for a two-run homer to put the Gauchos up 4-1, and Mount was lifted from the game after going just two and two-thirds innings, allowing four earned runs, and raising his season ERA from 1.10 to 2.84.
Junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa led off with a double in the fourth.
He advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a single by junior designated hitter Brandon Garcia, but that was it for the Trojans in that inning.
All told, USC left seven runners on base in the first four innings, including runners in scoring position in the first, third and fourth.
The Trojans have left nearly eight men per game on base in their 21 games this season.
“We gotta start putting the bat on the ball with runners on,” Cruz said. “Maybe be a little more aggressive. But we gotta get that done.”
UCSB also made a pitching change after the third, and new pitcher Nick Capito delivered three scoreless innings.
He was matched by freshman reliever Kyle Richter, who retired the Gauchos in order in the fourth and fifth and got the first two in the sixth before he was pulled after three of his own shutout innings.
“Richter was a bright spot,” Cruz said. “One of the few.”
Back-to-back singles by freshman shortstop James Roberts and Oropesa put a pair on in the Trojans’ half of the seventh. A steal put runners at second and third with two down for Garcia.
After falling behind 0-2, he worked it to 2-2 before UCSB made a pitching change. Cruz countered with junior pinch hitter Mike Greco.
So brand new Gaucho pitcher Connor Whalen prepared to throw his first pitch of the game to Greco, the brand-new Trojan hitter, with a 2-2 count.
After taking a ball to work the count full, Greco took a fastball on the outside corner for strike three.
USC put two on again in both the eighth and ninth, but couldn’t get the runners home either time to finish with 13 left on for the game.
“We’re trying to do a little too much right now,” Oropesa said. “We just gotta drive it hard. As a hitter you just gotta get your pitch and hit it hard. That’s all you can do.”
The Trojans will begin a weekend series at home Friday when UCLA comes to Dedeaux Field for three games. USC most recently beat the Bruins 2-0 on March 13 in a nonconference game at Dodger Stadium as a part of the Dodgertown Classic.