USC had hoped for some momentum heading into one of its toughest series of the season, but having lost three out of four, the Trojans will have to find another way to combat No. 2 Stanford.
The cardinal and gold travel to take on the Cardinal in Palo Alto, Calif., Friday for the beginning of a three game series that, like the set with North Carolina, will provide an accurate assessment of where USC stands as it reaches the meat of its schedule.
Stanford has yet to play a conference game, but is 13-2 and ranked only behind No. 1 Florida in Baseball America’s top-25 rankings released on Monday.
USC fell just outside the top-25 (29th) in the latest rankings but have enjoyed what many would call a successful season thus far. Still, the Trojans won their first seven games of the season and are 6-6 since, including dropping two out of three in their first conference series of the season against Utah.
Many of the bright spots for the Trojans reside in the batting lineup, where the majority of the regulars have their average above .300. First baseman Matt Foat might be enjoying the best season of them all, batting .400 with two home runs and 13 RBIs to go along with a team-leading 28 hits in 19 games.
That offense will be put to the test beginning Friday. Stanford’s weekend trio of starters, right-hander Mark Appel and lefties John Hochstatter and Brett Mooneyham, have gone at least six innings in 11 of their 12 combined starts on the year. Mooneyham, likely to start the final game of the series on Sunday, is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA.
In addition to proving they can compete with a team like Stanford, USC will have to convince rankings voters that it can win on the road. The Trojans have lost only two games within the friendly confines of Dedeaux Field. Do the math, and you’ll get USC’s winning percentage away from Dedeaux: .333.
All three games against Stanford are afternoon starts, with Saturday and Sunday’s games beginning at 1 p.m. and Monday’s starting at 4 p.m.