Titans pounce early, trounce Trojans
Losing is never pretty, but USCâs loss Wednesday night was downright ugly.
Despite late-inning efforts, the Trojans were unable to dig themselves out of a double-digit hole and were ultimately thrashed in an 11-4 blowout at Dedeaux Field.
âThis is the most physical Fullerton team Iâve ever seen and I played against them in the early â90s,â USC head coach Dan Hubbs said. âThey have big power, theyâre really physical and theyâre really athletic throughout the lineup.â
The Trojan bullpen was bruised badly against offensive goliath Cal State Fullerton (11-2), which ended a brief two-game losing streak in its victory over USC (6-6).
Heading into the game, the No. 13 Titans promised to be a challenge, flaunting a .384 team batting average (nearly .100 higher than USC) while holding opponents to .246. Fullerton, however, had lost two consecutive games entering Wednesday, with the most recent loss against San Diego on Tuesday.
The Titans took the field at Dedeaux in their second game in as many days but hardly showed any signs of wear as they pounced early on freshman starting pitcher Brent Wheatley. The first batter of the night reached base on an error and the Titans flexed their offensive muscles on the very next pitch with an RBI-double. An early visit to the mound from Hubbs couldnât settle Wheatley, who went on to serve up consecutive singles that enabled the Titans to plate their second and third runs of the inning.
âWe canât have an error the first play of the game with a freshman on the mound and not think itâs going to affect us at all,â Hubbs said.
The Fullerton bats were right back at it the following inning and were downright merciless. After a leadoff single, the Titans pieced together a pair of hits, including another RBI double that sent their fourth run across home plate.
Wheatley was yanked after only 1.1 inningsâ work, in which he faced 13 batters and surrendered six runs (5 earned) on seven hits and a walk. USC barely had a chance to hold its breath before junior lefty Sean Silva came in for relief and was promptly greeted by a relentless Titan offense that extended its lead to eight.
âIf we pitch well and play good defense, weâll be in most games,â Hubbs said. âWe didnât pitch well early but I thought we pitched pretty well late. We didnât play good defense early but I thought we played better late.â
USCâs offense was slow to ignite but finally showed signs of life in the sixth inning, offering a vocal crowd a glimmer of hope. Freshman outfielder Timmy Robinson sparked a rally with a single, and redshirt senior outfielder Greg Zebrack ended the offensive drought with an RBI triple, later scoring on a ground ball.
In the following inning, USC finally got the âbig hitâ that Hubbs had been waiting for when freshman Bobby Stahel laced a bases-loaded single down the right field line to score two. The team was unable to add any more runs to the board, ending the game with a fruitless final attempt in the bottom of the ninth.
âWeâre just not getting the hit at the right moment. Itâs tough,â said junior third baseman Kevin Swick. âItâs frustrating as a group, but I think weâll pull together eventually.â
On Monday, Hubbs said his team needed to be strong out of the bullpen and get big hits in order to win games. In Wednesdayâs loss, USC was unable to accomplish either. The Trojans had 10 hits on the night and drew four walks, but an inability to plate runs continued to be the teamâs Achillesâ heel.
The Trojans will battle more ranked teams this weekend, hosting No. 14 Oklahoma on Friday, No. 26 Notre Dame on Saturday, and finishing the series at No. 7 UCLA on Sunday.