College baseball teams play four games a week — three over the weekend and one on Tuesday or Wednesday. The midweek games are often toss-ups: teams are resting their best pitching arms for the weekend to come.
So though many teams could win a random midweek game, it’s over a three-game weekend set that the best teams will come out on top.
At least that’s the theory.
The Trojans will put that theory to the test this weekend when they take on Cal State Northridge in a three-game tilt. The Friday and Sunday games will be held at Dedeaux Field at USC, with Saturday’s matchup in Northridge. It’s the first time this season the Trojans (2-2) will play a “classic” three-game series, having played three different teams in three different locations last weekend.
“It makes a difference,” USC coach Dan Hubbs said. “Playing the same team three times in a row, you get to know the personnel pretty well.”
The Trojans did not play the Matadors (3-1) last year, so USC don’t have quite the same familiarity as they do with other Los Angeles area schools that are often on the schedule. But all that means is that the focus is internal.
“I don’t know anything about their offense,” sophomore catcher Garrett Stubbs said. “We can’t worry about our opponent. We have to focus on playing our game because that’s what we can take care of. And if we do that we can win.”
Stubbs is hitting just .154 this season, but as catcher, his value is demonstrably greater behind the plate than at it. On Wednesday night against Loyola Marymount, Stubbs threw out all three runners who tried to steal against him.
“I get fired up when someone tries to steal,” Stubbs said. “It gives me a chance to help out my pitcher and throw him out. So obviously I enjoyed [Wednesday] night.”
One of Hubbs’ biggest points of emphasis as a coach is defense— specifically not giving up any extra bases.
“Any free base we give them is just a better opportunity for them,” Hubbs said. “So we make defense a big priority. And a lot of that starts with Garrett behind the plate.”
Stubbs has started behind the plate in all four of the Trojans’ games this year, and says he is prepared to catch all three this weekend as well. But catchers often get one game a week off, and Hubbs said he will play it by ear this weekend.
“We’ve been toying with the idea of catching [junior designated hitter] Jake Hernandez one game,” Hubbs said. “He’s been catching really well, and that also lets us get another bat in the lineup because it opens up the DH spot.”
Hubbs said if Hernandez were to catch, he would do so Friday night against Matador lefty Jerry Keel, who threw seven shutout innings a week ago against Saint Mary’s.
“He’s excellent,” Hubbs said of Keel. “He’s a big-body guy who was their ace as a freshman last year and has gotten better.”
USC’s rotation stays the same as the weekend prior. Junior Bobby Wheatley will start on Friday, sophomore Wyatt Strahan will start on Saturday and freshman Kyle Twomey will start on Sunday. The first pitch tonight at Dedeaux is at 6 p.m.