The USC baseball team dashed Loyola Marymount’s dreams of adding another win to their seven-game winning streak last night in a 6-1 victory at Dedeaux Field. Although the Trojans missed some key opportunities early in the game in terms of advancing runners and making key outs, the team found its stride by the 4th inning in terms of hitting and never looked back.
This big win came at an essential time for the Trojans, who entered the game fresh off of a four-game losing streak. Over the weekend, the Trojans began with a 6-1 loss to Houston on Friday, a 10-4 loss to Pepperdine on Saturday and finally a 6-5 loss to UCLA on Sunday.
Last night, the Trojans corrected many of the mistakes that contributed to this losing streak, including poor showings by the Trojans’ bullpen. In contrast, freshman Jeff Paschke, sophomore Marc Huberman, senior James Ian and senior James Guillen each contributed to the team’s win by keeping the Lions at only one run.
USC head coach, Dan Hubbs, complimented the work of his relieving pitchers in last night’s match.
“I think the bullpen guys did a really good job at controlling the game and keeping LMU to only one run,” Hubbs said. “They showed that they’re more than capable of making the big pitches and outs even though they struggled over the weekend. They seemed to bounce back today.”
The starting pitcher, sophomore Brent Wheatley, also pitched well during his five innings of work which included three strikeouts, six this and no earned runs. During the first two innings, Wheatley struggled to get the ball over the plate, often creating a 2-0 count for the batter, though he eventually found composure and took command of the mound. He found his curveball later in the game and managed to limit hits while increasing the number of strikes.
The match started out shaky for the Trojans as sloppy fielding mistakes continuously allowed for the Lions to advance the bases when easy outs could have been made. The Trojans had two errors from the infield, eventually resulting in one earned run, the only run the Lion’s scored all game.
Both defense and offense came together for the Trojans by the 4th inning as Wheatley quickly obtained three outs through two strikeouts and forcing an easy grounder towards first base.
The Trojan offense then came alive by taking advantage of the Lions’ pitcher, Brenton Arriaga, who failed to consistently throw the ball in the strike zone. Sophomore infielder A.J. Ramirez started out the sequence by ripping the ball out to centerfield. The Trojans soon had two men on second and third with only one out.
Tim Peabody then came in as reliever for the Lions and managed another out before walking sophomore outfielder Vahn Bozoian, loading the bases with two outs. Junior catcher Garrett Stubbs then came up big at the plate on the 2-2 pitch by hitting a deep ball to centerfield, bringing home two runners for a 2-1 lead.
Further batting action occurred during the bottom of the seventh inning against the Lion’s new reliever, Carlos Fuentes. After a walk and two singles, the bases were loaded as Flores approached the plate before slicing a double down the third base line into left field, scoring three runs and putting the Trojans in a 5-1 lead. Bozoian then sailed a double out to deep right field bringing Flores home and the score to 6-1.
Flores attributes his big hit to his teammate’s ability to get on base.
“Throughout the entire game, my team did a great job on getting in scoring position,” Flores said. “When I came up to bat, I just wanted to deliver for my team. Coach Hubbs had stressed to us that the LMU pitchers would throw the ball down and away from me, so I knew what to do when the big pitch came.”
The 8th and 9th innings wrapped up fairly quickly thanks to a one, two three inning by USC reliever in the 8th and a double play to end the game during the top of the 9th.
Hubbs believes that last night’s win can be attributed to many factors, but primarily hitting.
“I thought we did a really good job at bat,” Hubbs said. “We had a very specific plan against each pitcher and I think we executed those plans well. I think we had a really great day at the plate for the most part.”
Despite this success, Flores admits that the Trojans still need to make improvements in terms of hitting to continue winning in the future.
“Last night we had a long stretch in the game where we only had two runs, mainly because we did a poor job at sacrificing ourselves to advance runners already in scoring position,” Flores said. “I think we can definitely improve in that aspect.”
This weekend, USC will hit the road to face the 12-4 Oregon Ducks in a Pac-12 conference series. Despite Oregon’s successes early in the season, Hubbs feels confident that the Trojans can come through with wins against the Ducks after making minor alterations in preparation for the series.
“I think for this weekend we just need to clean some stuff up and sharpen out game in terms of advancing runners and coming up with big hits,” Hubbs said. “We’re just trying to play our best baseball possible. If we play the way we’re capable of playing, we will beat anyone in the country.”