USC baseball coach Frank Cruz is trying to treat his team’s upcoming weekend bout with No. 6 North Carolina as if it were any other series.
The Tar Heels are consistently one of the top teams in the nation and will provide a test for the Trojans (7-1) that they haven’t had to face before in 2012. The weekend series is arguably the toughest trip on USC’s schedule.
“Obviously we’re going on the road, on a long trip, and [we] need to be prepared,” Cruz said. “Every series is just another series, to be honest with you, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a little different.”
The Trojans are off to their best start since 1988, when the Cardinal and Gold began the year 15-0. In 2012, USC won its first seven games of the season, including series sweeps of Jacksonville University and the University of Akron, before falling to Pepperdine on Tuesday afternoon.
The Tar Heels, however, aren’t exactly stumbling into the series. North Carolina is off to a 6-1 start, including a current streak of five straight wins heading into the showdown with USC.
“When you’re going up against a team like that, obviously, you need to show a little bit more edge,” Cruz said. “When you’re playing someone that good, I would hope that you would have that extra edge to your play.”
USC leads the all-time series with North Carolina 7-1, certainly a reflection of the Trojans’ past history of dominance over college baseball. The Tar Heels took their lone win in the series last season at Dedeaux Field by a final of 11-7.
If anything indicates that the Trojans might be ready to reverse the result from a year ago, it’s the performance of their weekend rotation to begin the 2012 season.
Friday starter Andrew Triggs and Saturday senior hurler Ben Mount are both coming off equally impressive outings, combining to pitch 15 innings with only three earned runs allowed, 11 hits, 16 strikeouts and only one walk.
Freshman pitcher Stephen Tarpley, who will likely pitch the series finale on Sunday for USC, struggled with his command in the series finale against Akron, but has 16 strikeouts in his first two career starts and has dominated hitters at times.
“We feel confident where we’re at, from a pitching standpoint,” Cruz said.
The pitching will need to be sharp to contend with the Heels, who have failed to score double digits in just two of their seven games to start the year.
In North Carolina’s most recent three-game series, against Wright State, the Tar Heels outscored their opponent 34-3 overall, including two shutouts to end the series.
“I just hope we’re ready to go out there and compete like crazy,” Cruz said. “We’re going to need to compete or else we’ll be in trouble. But I don’t have any doubt that we’ll go out there and give it all we have.”
Friday’s series opener is scheduled for a noon first pitch, with Saturday and Sunday’s games beginning at 11 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively. Friday and Sunday’s game can both be seen on ESPN 3.