USC baseball played in the annual Dodger Stadium Classic this weekend, hosting two games at Dedeaux Field before concluding the tournament against rivals UCLA in a game at Dodger Stadium.
In Friday’s game, the Trojans faced Oklahoma, as senior pitcher Kyle Davis took the mound looking to kick off the weekend with a win. USC raced out to a 3-0 lead against the Sooners thanks to back-to-back singles from senior outfielder Timmy Robinson and senior first baseman AJ Ramirez in the first inning.
Davis was touched for 3 runs on seven hits across his six innings of work, and the Trojans’ ace finished his night with the score tied 3-3. USC rallied in the bottom of the sixth, however, as a pinch-hit sacrifice fly from freshman Dillon Paulson pushed across the go-ahead run. Freshman outfielder Lars Nootbaar then added some insurance with an RBI single to extend the lead to 2 runs. The Trojans then loaded the bases with no outs in the next inning but failed to score.
They were nearly made to regret their mistake in the top of the ninth, as senior closer Marc Huberman walked three consecutive Sooners to load the bases with one out, but sophomore Brad Wegman came into the game and put out the fire, inducing an around-the-horn double play to clinch a 5-4 USC victory.
Head coach Dan Hubbs praised his team’s spirit as the squad battled through a close game.
“[Oklahoma] came back, but I thought we stayed with our plan and what we were trying to do,” Hubbs said. “We took advantage of some things they gave us, put some guys on base, and got some big hits, and I was really proud of the guys for doing that.”
Junior left-hander Bernardo Flores started the next day’s contest against No. 20 Mississippi State and breezed through a one-two-three top of the first. He staked a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the frame after a Robinson double drove in senior outfielder David Oppenheim.
Flores ran into trouble in the top of the second, however, and departed with the bases loaded with one out after giving up 3 runs. Sophomore Mason Perryman entered the game in relief and induced a pop out and a fly out to retire the Bulldogs. He returned in the top of the third and sent down the side in order.
The Trojans charged ahead in the bottom of the frame thanks to an RBI single from Oppenheim and Robinson’s second home run of the season, a 3-run shot. Perryman struggled to begin the fourth inning, though, and coughed up 4 runs before junior left-hander Andrew Wright came in to stop the bleeding.
Junior catcher Jeremy Martinez, who drew a start at first base against Mississippi State, pulled the Trojans within 1 run with a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, but the Bulldogs promptly re-extended their lead to 2, scoring on a groundout in the top of the sixth.
Wegman relieved Wright in the top of the seventh and once again came out dealing. The right-hander threw up three scoreless innings, giving the Men of Troy the chance to rally from a 2-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth.
Paulson and junior David Edson pinch hit for junior second baseman Frankie Rios and freshman catcher CJ Stubbs respectively, and the two came off the bench and worked walks to lead off the USC’s last licks at the plate. Junior Corey Dempster then pinch hit for Southall and bunted the runners into scoring position with Nootbaar coming up. A wild pitch brought the Trojans within one and put the tying run on third base. The comeback fell just short, however, as Mississippi State’s freshman left-hander Kale Breaux froze Nootbaar on a breaking ball and retired Oppenheim on a groundout to seal an 8-7 win for the Bulldogs.
Despite the tough loss, Hubbs was proud of his side for going toe-to-toe with a strong Mississippi State team.
“It’s all I can ask of [the players]: they gave us a chance to win,” Hubbs said. “It doesn’t always work out when you get in the spot, but I thought we were better in the spot [against Mississippi State] than we have been up until now.”
Robinson echoed his coach’s comments, adding that Saturday’s game felt like a regional final in the NCAA Tournament.
“It was back-and-forth … and eventually, somebody has to lose,” Robinson said. “Today, we just came up short, but we had the tying run on third, which is all you can ask for.”
Next up for the Trojans is a challenging trip to Fort Worth, Texas, to take on TCU. The Horned Frogs visited Los Angeles for the Dodger Stadium Classic in 2015, falling to USC, 7-6, in a 12-inning thriller at Dedeaux Field.