After grabbing their first series win over the weekend, USC baseball makes the short trip to Long Beach Tuesday to take on Long Beach State.
The Trojans. who are 4-3, have finally pushed themselves into a winning record, taking two of three against a plucky Wake Forest team, and they now look to pick up some momentum going into the Dodger Stadium Classic, which kicks off Friday.
USC struggled with leaving men on base against the Demon Deacons, but head coach Dan Hubbs was encouraged by the scoring opportunities his team was generating. The Trojans racked up 27 hits over the first two games of the series.
“When you see the number of guys we had on base in the first two games, I think we’re really close [offensively],” Hubbs said.
The Trojans were also lackluster in the field at times against Wake Forest, including their three errors in the ninth inning Saturday, which plated the Demon Deacons’ winning run. Sophomore third baseman Adalberto Carrillo said the squad needed to sharpen up before the trip to Long Beach.
“Some of our technique has been sloppy,” he said. “We just have to go back to practice … because we can’t be missing in situations like that.”
On the defensive side of things, the third week of the season also sets the stage for a position battle between shortstops Angelo Armenta and Reggie Southall. Armenta manned the position during the weekend series against Wake Forest after redshirt junior Southall began the season as the starter.
“It’ll be a competition between the two of them,” Hubbs said. “We have to get some sort of offensive production out of that spot.”
Hubbs praised Armenta’s play over the weekend but also said Southall would get another crack at earning a spot in the lineup in the near future.
It is clear that the Trojans are still working out some kinks early on in the season. Some may be disappointed, especially when comparing this year to USC’s blistering start to the 2015 campaign, but senior pitcher Brent Wheatley was happy with the team’s progress.
“Last year we started 16-0, but that’s not going to happen each and every year,” Wheatley said. “Most of the time, you’re going to play worse early in the year … [but] I think we’re getting into the swing of things.”
USC visits a Long Beach State team off to a hot start to its season, already sporting impressive series wins against Holy Cross and Arizona State as well as a win on the road against UCLA. The Dirtbags are 5-2 overall on the year, and they will hope their early season success is not a repeat of last year, when Long Beach won nine of its first 12 games before barely finishing the season with a winning record at 28-26.
Going into another tough matchup, junior catcher Jeremy Martinez stressed the need for the team to stay upbeat and not to pile pressure on themselves.
“We don’t play well when we’re uptight,” Martinez said. “Our team plays best when we’re having fun and when we’re relaxed.”
First pitch between the Trojans and the Dirtbags at Blair Field will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday.