USC’s baseball team failed to extend its nine-game winning streak Tuesday night in a 6-2 loss to UC Irvine at Dedeaux Field. Though the Trojans out-hit the Anteaters 10 to 9, USC stranded 11 runners on base throughout the game. Sophomore infielder Blake Lacey and senior catcher Jake Hernandez managed to sustain their hot hitting, going 3-4 and 2-4 at the plate, respectively.
The Trojans rallied in the bottom of the 6th inning to tie the game up, but the team faced some serious trouble defensively in the top of the 7th inning due to subpar relief pitching and miscommunication between infielders.
Despite the team’s disappointing performance, Hernandez believes the team needs to brush off the loss and move forward completely.
“We need to take yesterday’s game as a learning tool to use for future reference and try to learn from our mistakes,” Hernandez said. “We’ve gotta shake [Tuesday’s loss] off just like any other loss we’ve had and learn from what we did wrong. Now we’ve gotta stick to what we do best: defense, pitching, and staying low and hard up the middle. One loss isn’t gonna kill us; we’ve still got a good record and we know what we have to do to finish off the season right.”
This Friday, in the first game of the season’s final away series, the Trojans will take on the Washington State Cougars at Bailey-Brayton Field in Pullman, Wash. The Cougars currently hold an 18-22 overall record, a 9-7 home game record and a 8-10 record in the Pac-12. Washington State sits in seventh place in the Pac-12 standings while USC fell to fourth after Tuesday’s loss.
The Cougars, similarly to the Trojans, have three starters batting over .300, with Yale Rosen leading the Cougars with a .340 average. Hernandez insists that the key to winning this weekend’s series is the Trojans continuing to play their best baseball possible.
“We’ve got to stick to our game this weekend in terms of pitching, throwing strikes and playing solid defense,” Hernandez said. “In terms of hitting, we’ve got to stay calm at the plate and capitalize on having runners in scoring position.”
After this weekend’s series, the Trojans only have eight more games until the start of the postseason. USC baseball has not made a run at the postseason since 2005, a trend the 2014 Trojans hope to end with their stellar pitching.
“Our pitchers have been fantastic lately,” Hernandez said. “They’ve been attacking the zone a lot and it gets the tempo of the game going for everyone. The pitchers have been holding it together in a lot of tight ball games.”
At this time last season, the Trojans held a 16-27 overall record and stood in eighth place in the Pac-12 standings.
Though this season certainly wasn’t perfect, the Trojans feel very proud of their work so far and hope to end the season on a high note and to make a run at the postseason.
“We’ve had our shares of up and downs this year, but overall I think we’ve played great,” Hernandez said, regarding his final season as a Trojan. “We had a big run in the beginning, a bit of a speed bump in the middle, and we’re having a run right now. As long as we finish strong, I think we’ll be okay going into the postseason. It’s been a good season and a big change in the right direction for USC baseball.”