After facing a tough loss last Friday, USC’s baseball team bounced back to win the weekend series 2-1 against the Utah Utes. The Trojans’ pitching staff only gave up two runs in each of the three games, marking a significant improvement from previous series.
The Trojans gave the Utes a thorough beating on Sunday, winning the conference match 13-2 and achieving a season high of 19 hits. Seven different Trojans had multiple hits at the plate while four had multi-RBI outings. Sophomore shortstop Blake Lacey went 2-3 at the plate and drove in 4 RBIs.
The Trojans hope to extend their winning streak into this weekend’s series against Pac-12 rival Arizona at Dedeaux Field. The Wildcats currently hold a 17-20 overall record and a 6-9 Pac-12 record, the same conference record as the Trojans. Arizona holds the No. 8 spot in the Pac-12 standings while the Trojans occupy the No. 7 slot.
Senior starting catcher Jake Hernandez believes that the success from last weekend’s series win will positively impact the team’s mindset entering tonight’s game.
“We’re feeling pretty confident going into this weekend’s series,” Hernandez said. “We know what we have to do and what we have to accomplish to win big. It was really huge for us to take 2 of 3 from Utah in terms of confidence in our abilities.”
The Trojans did not have a game this past Tuesday, so the team has had more time to prepare and rest up before tonight’s matchup. USC has been concentrating on cleaning up their infield game as well as gaining better control of the batter’s box.
“This week in practice it was really all about focusing on staying on top of the ball at the plate,” Hernandez said. “We really need to work on creating more line drives instead of hitting pop-ups to avoid giving Arizona easy outs.”
USC faced a major slump in terms of hitting a few weeks ago, causing them to lose important games and entire series. The Trojans have recently turned it around, however, having multiple games with double-digit hits against Utah, Arizona State and Washington.
The Wildcats have also been hot at the plate recently, especially coming off of a hugely unexpected series win over No. 22 UCLA this past weekend, taking two of three wins from the reigning NCAA champions. Arizona’s total team batting average is .299 compared to USC’s .271. The Wildcats currently have four starters batting over .300, led by Scott Kingery, who brings a .390 average into tonight’s matchup.
Despite this, USC might have the advantage in pitching when assessing the numbers. The Wildcats currently have an unimpressive total team 4.93 ERA as opposed to the Trojans’ 3.75.
Ultimately, Hernandez feels that the team who plays the smartest baseball, both offensively and defensively, will win the series.
“To win this weekend, we’ve got to stick to what we do best, which is getting guys over and staying focused at the plate,” Hernandez said. “We need to concentrate on making better pitch selections as well as getting out there early for ground balls while out in the field. We’ve just gotta stay within ourselves.”
The Trojans will host the Wildcats at Dedeaux Field this weekend. Junior Wyatt Strahan will start for the Trojans in tonight’s match. The Villa Park, Calif. native will throw the first pitch at 7 p.m., which will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks, as will tomorrow and Saturday’s 7 p.m. games.