After going 1-1 against the Cougars before getting snowed out of the third game in a three-game series at Washington State (13-11, 3-5) on Sunday, the USC baseball team returns home to Dedeaux Field to face Pepperdine tonight.
Heading to Pullman, Wash., on Friday, the Trojans (16-9, 3-5) were looking to improve on their Pac-12 record and move up in the standings.
In the first game of the series, the Trojans pulled out a victory thanks to an eight-run ninth-inning rally in which the team came from three runs behind to win 15-10. The Cougars and Trojans exchanged the lead several times, going up 1-0 with an RBI single from senior catcher Kevin Roundtree in the top of the first inning.
The Huskies answered in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single from outfielder Derek Jones. By the fourth inning, Washington State held a 5-1 lead after senior starting pitcher Andrew Triggs gave up an RBI double, a two-run home run and threw a run-scoring wild pitch. Triggs left the game after 5 2/3 innings.
But in the sixth inning, both teams unleashed an offensive onslaught.
Facing reliever Scott Simon, the Trojans scored five runs on six hits, including an RBI single by senior first baseman Matt Foat. But USC’s 6-5 lead didn’t last as the Cougars answered with five runs in the bottom of the same inning.
“We were in that unfortunate position because we didn’t play well,” USC coach Frank Cruz said. “We should have been in control.”
The Trojans chalked up one more run off an RBI single by sophomore designated hitter Jake Hernandez in the seventh inning, but they saved their serious comeback arsenal for the final inning when they were trailing 10-7. After Hernandez hit another RBI single to make it 10-8, USC loaded the bases with two outs, bringing junior third baseman Adam Landecker to the plate. Landecker came through in the clutch with a game-tying two-run single straight up the middle.
USC went on to score five more runs — all with two outs. Huskies pitcher Richie Ochoa issued a bases-loaded walk to Foat, freshman second baseman Dante Flores emptied the bases with a three-run double and sophomore left-fielder Kevin Swick hit a double to score Flores from second.
“It just showed what kind of team our team is,” Cruz said. “They never give up, they continue to fight.”
The second game of the series proved less fulfilling, as the Trojans lost 9-7 on Saturday. Senior starter Ben Mount pitched two innings, giving up four runs in the first and one more in the second. Mount left at the beginning of the third inning after getting hit in the knee by a line drive off the bat of third baseman Patrick Claussen.
Cruz said an MRI test was negative on Mount’s knee and he should be back pitching this week.
USC attempted to come back from a 5-0 deficit in the third inning, with Hernandez and Roundtree each chipping in run-scoring hits to cut the Huskies’ lead to two runs. Junior pitcher Matt Munson pitched 3 2/3 innings of strong relief and the Trojans fought back to take the lead 6-5 until the seventh inning when catcher P.J. Jones hit a game-tying RBI single.
The Trojans scored another run in the eighth inning, but the Cougars capitalized off of a throwing error by Flores in the bottom of the inning that allowed the tying run to score. Jones hit a go-ahead RBI single, followed by another run-scoring single from center fielder Jason Monda, and the Trojans were unable to repeat the ninth-inning excitement they had shown Friday.
[Correction: An earlier version misnamed Washington State as the Huskies. They are the Cougars. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.]
Because of snowy conditions, Sunday’s game was postponed until sometime later this season.
Tonight, USC faces the Pepperdine Waves (17-11), a team coming off a tough 14-3 loss Sunday against another Washington school, Gonzaga. Going into the game, Cruz said he’s having the team focus on the basics.
“We’re again trying to have a priority on fielding routine ground balls, trying to execute offensively and our bunting game. Our team has great continuity,” Cruz said. “I’m just trying to get our team to play better. It’s important that we play fundamental baseball. We can’t worry about the standings, [we] have to worry about playing better.”
Game time is set for 6 p.m. After its game against the Waves, USC will head into a three-game home series against California beginning on Thursday night. The Bears are 1-5 in Pac-12 play with 16-10 record overall.