After dominating the non conference portion of the schedule, USC baseball has struggled to maintain the same level of play against Pac-12 opponents.
The Trojans will have to reverse that trend if the team hopes to play in the NCAA tournament, starting with a key home weekend series against Oregon State.
The series will be another huge test for USC, a team that started the year 7-0, its best beginning since 1988. After winning 19 of the team’s first 29 games, however, the Trojans have had problems staying at the top of their game.
Oregon State, meanwhile, has had no such issues of late. The Beavers have won eight out of their last nine, including an impressive series victory over national titan UCLA.
The Beavers also excel away from home, coming into Dedeaux Field with a record of 15-7 in away games. That statistic would seem to neutralize the home-field advantage that USC has enjoyed in 2012 (14-6 at Dedeaux).
Despite recent struggles, the Trojans aren’t exactly overmatched heading into the three-game set with Oregon State. USC has proven it can hang with the big dogs when presented with the opportunity, as evidenced by tight three-game sets with powerhouses Stanford and North Carolina.
Another reason for the Trojans to be confident is the performance of their starters at each end of the weekend rotation. Senior Andrew Triggs, set to go in the series opener Friday night, comes into the weekend with a 3.19 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio better than 4-1.
Meanwhile, freshman Stephen Tarpley has suffered one loss all year and is coming off four hitless innings against Long Beach State from Tuesday night.
But the Beavers have the offense to contend with USC’s starting pitching. Freshman standout Michael Conforto has eight home runs to go along with 52 RBI, marks that lead the team in their respective categories.
Throw in speedster infielder Tyler Smith, who enters the series with a .406 batting average, and Oregon State’s attack has the potential to be the best USC will see all year.
Friday’s game will start at 6 p.m., with Saturday’s and Sunday’s games beginning at 2 p.m. and 11 a.m., respectively.