Within five minutes of the final out of Long Beach State’s 7-1 victory over USC on Tuesday, all 35 players were gone from the field, clubhouse and stadium as a whole.
“I kicked them out,” said USC interim coach Frank Cruz. “They didn’t wanna be here the whole game, why should they wanna be here now.”
The first-year coach was understandably unhappy after his team seemed to disappear on him.
The Trojans (18-22) recorded just five hits and a lone first-inning run against the Dirtbags (20-18). What drew the ire of the coach even more were the Trojans’ three errors, which led to four unearned runs.
“We were not prepared to play,” Cruz said. “That’s all there is to it.”
The fifth inning was particularly poor to USC, as the Dirtbags plated four runners to break a 1-1 tie.
The decisive inning started with a pair of back-to-back singles off USC junior pitcher Brandon Garcia. A sacrifice-fly brought the first run in, and then things really started to fall apart. USC allowed a steal off second on a botched pitchout.
Then with runners at the corners and one out, Dirtbag first baseman Ino Patron slapped a grounder to USC junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa. Instead of getting the sure out at home, Oropesa tried to spin and turn a spectacular double play, but instead threw the ball into left field.
After getting an out at home on a fielder’s choice by Dirtbag catcher Mike Marjama, USC looked like it might get out of the jam with just two runs on the board. But Garcia threw away an attempted pickoff attempt, allowing Patron to score from third.
The Dirtbags tacked on their fourth and final run of the inning on an infield single.
USC actually struck first against the Dirtbags (20-18) in the bottom of the first. Junior catcher Kevin Roundtree walked and stole second. Senior second baseman Joe De Pinto followed with an RBI double to right, and then the Trojan bats fell silent.
USC recorded just four more hits in the entire game off six different Dirtbag pitchers, striking out six times.
Freshman pitcher Kyle Richter made his third-career start and delivered three strong innings. The young lefty scattered three hits over the three frames before being removed in favor of Garcia following a leadoff walk and single in the fourth.
Garcia allowed one of Richter’s baserunners to score, but got out of the fourth relatively unscathed. The fifth, however, was not so kind to him.
Following the disaster of an inning, the Trojans made wholesale changes in the sixth, but to minimal avail.
Senior second baseman and captain Joe De Pinto dropped a routine fly ball that led to a run to make it 6-1.
The Dirtbags tacked on their final run in the seventh without a hit, courtesy of a walk, balk, sacrifice and wild pitch.
It’s USC’s first midweek loss in four weeks, and their first multiple-game losing streak since early April at No. 13 California.
“We just need to bury the shovel,” Cruz said. “Me yelling at them was gonna do no good. We all just need to forget about it and move on.”
It won’t be easy for the Trojans to rebound. They face perennial powerhouse Arizona for a three-game set this weekend in Tuscon, Ariz.