Baseball coaches are paranoid about a lot of things. They’re paranoid about their signs being stolen, about making the wrong decision and about not doing enough.
Apparently, they’re also paranoid about five-run first inning leads.
USC pounced on Loyola Marymount (20-15) for five runs in the first inning Tuesday and cruised to a 7-4 victory.
“Obviously it’s good because you have those runs,” said USC interim coach Frank Cruz. “At the same time though, guys can get a little relaxed, a little complacent with a lead like that.”
Though the Trojans (16-20, 6-6) were outscored 4-2 over the next eight innings, the first provided them with plenty of cushion.
Junior right fielder Alex Sherrod stepped up to the plate five for his last 11 and ripped a bases-clearing double down the right field line. He advanced to third on an error and then scored on a wild pitch, giving the Trojans a 4-0 lead even before two outs had been recorded.
USC tacked on one more in the first to give freshman starter Kyle Richter, in just his second career start, a quick five-run cushion.
And Richter did his part, throwing two perfect innings before being removed.
“Richter was great today,” Cruz said. “Can’t really complain about six up, six down.”
The Lions got two runs back in the third off senior pitcher Chris Mezger, and threatened again in the fourth. But Mezger got Loyola catcher Colton Plaia to ground out with two on to end the threat.
Loyola Marymount made it a two-run game in the sixth, but the Trojans got the run right back in the seventh as Sherrod knocked in his fourth RBI of the game.
Besides Richter and Mezger, three more Trojan pitchers tossed five innings of two-run ball.
Junior Ben Mount, who has been on a roll as of late, threw two and two-third innings with one earned. Mount has allowed just one run in his last five innings.
“Mount’s got a lot of confidence right now,” Cruz said. “His innings were big, because we wanted to save everybody for the weekend.”
Instead of the customary Friday-through-Sunday Pac-10 series, the Trojans will take on the Washington Huskies starting Thursday in Seattle to avoid playing on Easter.
This means, however, the pitching staff will lose an important day of rest.
“Mount was the only pitcher who went more than 30 pitches,” Cruz said. “So we expect everyone to be available on Thursday.”
The Trojans are on a bit of a roll themselves. They’ve won five of their last six games and six of their last eight, including a pair of wins over the Lions.
This weekend’s series against the Washington Huskies will give the Trojans a chance to move within one game of .500 for the first time since they were 3-4 on Feb. 27.
The Huskies, on the other hand, have struggled in recent weeks, losing their last four games in Pac-10 play, including a three-game sweep at the hands of California at home.
They have struggled at the plate during their recent skid, averaging just 1.75 runs per game.