Trojans to face trio of top-ranked opponents
USC baseballâs trip through the scheduling gauntlet continues this weekend as they get set to take on three different, ranked teams.
The Trojans will host No. 14 Oklahoma Friday night, No. 26 Notre Dame on Saturday and then visit No. 17 UCLA on Sunday, all this coming off a Wednesday game against No. 13 Cal State Fullerton. Thatâs four straight games against ranked teams for the Trojans (6-6) â not exactly what they need as they head into the weekend, hurt in both pride and body.
For the pride part, the Trojans have allowed 25 runs in the last two games, a pair of embarrassing losses to Fullerton on Wednesday and Fresno State last Sunday.
âThese last two games have been pretty rough,â junior pitcher Bobby Wheatley said. âBut, thatâs why you play so many [games]. Weâre not anticipating this to continue.â
The Trojans have fallen into holes of 14-0 and 8-0 the last two games, with anemic starting pitching followed up by equally disappointing bullpen performances. Freshman Kyle Twomey, who will throw Sunday against the Bruins, failed to get out of the first inning last Sunday in Fresno, exiting after two-thirds of an inning and five runs. The Trojan bullpen proceeded to give up eight runs over the next four innings.
On Wednesday against Fullerton, freshman Brent Wheatley was chased after 1 1/3 innings and six earned runs, with the bullpen giving up three runs over the next 2 2/3 innings before settling down the rest of the way.
âOut of 12 starts [this year] weâve had 10 good ones,â USC head coach Dan Hubbs said of his pitching this year. âUnfortunately, weâre going to look back on these last two and say weâve had two really bad ones. And, weâre not excited about getting whacked a couple of times.â
It doesnât help that the injury bug has bitten the Trojans in the last week. Sophomore first baseman Dante Flores will have surgery on his hamate bone and miss at least six weeks. The same injury has sidelined sophomore center fielder Omar Cotto Lozada all season so far. Hubbs said he hopes Lozada will be back within a month.
Last Friday in Fresno, senior second baseman Adam Landecker strained his hamstring and has yet to play since. He is officially day-to-day, but Hubbs expects to have him in the lineup on Friday night. Sophomore pitcher Wyatt Strahan was scratched from his scheduled start last Saturday with shoulder stiffness. His status for this Saturday is âpromising,â Hubbs said.
On Sunday, sophomore catcher Garrett Stubbs suffered a concussion in a collision at home plate. He appears to be recovering well, but Hubbs said he really doesnât know when Stubbs will be available to return, as is often the case with concussions.
âWhen you lose guys like Flores, Cotto [and] Landecker, itâs really rough,â junior third baseman Kevin Swick said. âWeâre a young team and to have inexperienced freshman in there â they gotta pick it up and I think they will âitâs still tough.â
Whatâs further ailed the Trojans this year is their difficulty hitting with runners in scoring position. USC has stranded a combined 30 runners on base in the last three games, including twice with runners on second and third and once with the bases loaded on Wednesday.
âItâs one thing to get hits with nobody on and two outs,â Hubbs said. âSomeoneâs got to get hits -â the team wonât hit .000 for the year. But, you have to be able to change your approach and wait for your pitch and, when it comes, put a good swing on it and not try to do too much with that pitch.â