USC entered this weekend’s home stand against Arizona State after winning its first conference series of the season last week over Washington State. The Trojans defended their home field to win two out of three games.
In the first game of the series, the Trojans edged the Sun Devils 5-4 in the team’s fourth extra-inning game of the season. The 11-inning thriller came to a conclusion when freshman outfielder Matthew Acosta scored on a fielding error. Fellow freshman outfielder Brady Shockey came up big in his best career game to date, recording two hits along with a key RBI in the sixth inning.
Saturday’s game was a much different sight. ASU rocked the Trojans’ pitching staff for 12 hits and seven runs. Junior starting pitcher Brad Wegman had a tough outing, giving up seven hits, but he received little support from the batting order as Sun Devil pitchers Chaz Montoya and Eder Erves held USC to just four hits combined.
After trading wins, the two teams were set for a series-deciding tilt on Sunday afternoon. In front of a packed crowd full of little leaguers, USC’s bats came back to life in a 7-4 win.
The Sun Devils got out to an early advantage in the first inning as Lyle Lin, the first Taiwanese-born player to be selected in the MLB Draft, reached home on an error at third base from junior Adalberto Carrillo. However, the lead would not last long as senior David Edson reached home from third on a wild pitch to tie the game at 1-1.
Another error helped the Trojans gain their first lead of the game, as freshman second baseman Tyler Pritchard scored on a passed ball in the third. Sun Devil right fielder Gage Ganning responded by launching a double to center field that sent a runner home, tying the game in the fourth inning.
The bottom of the fourth turned out to be the game-changing frame for USC. With one out and the bases loaded, sophomore Lars Nootbaar stepped up to the plate. Up to that point, he had seen very few hittable pitches, but on this occasion, ASU pitcher Reagan Todd had no choice but to throw right down the middle. A small group of young fans chanted “Grand Slam” as Nootbaar stood in the box. They would have to settle for a two-run single that turned into three after a throwing error in the field. Nootbaar continues to be the Trojans’ clutch performer this year, leading the team with 21 RBIs.
With USC leading 6-2, the Sun Devils gained back some ground with a Lin RBI single in the fifth. In the bottom of the seventh inning, senior outfielder Corey Dempster struck a double off the right-field wall that sent freshman outfielder Christian Moya home for the team’s seventh run. Dempster continued his hot start to the season, as his hitting streak extended to 10 games.
With a 7-3 lead in the ninth inning, head coach Dan Hubbs sent freshman lefty Austin Manning to the mound to close out the game. Manning got off to a dicey start, giving up a double, a single and then a run on a fielder’s choice. Hubbs walked onto the field to have a quick conversation with the young closer, who shook off the rough start of the inning to retire the next two batters and preserve the victory.
After winning their second straight Pac-12 series, the Trojans stand at 14-8 and 4-2 in the conference. Next they play Arizona in a road series starting on Tuesday.