The baseball team has done well in Pac-12 play.
The Trojans (14-8) have won both of their conference series so far against Washington State and Arizona State — each series with two wins and one loss. Now they get a break from the Pac-12, playing San Diego State (16-8) for a second time.
The Aztecs look to be a formidable opponent. Junior outfielder Tyler Adkison’s .537 average is the highest in Division I (The Trojans avoided Adkison’s bat last time around by walking him three times). The team has a batting average of .313, which ranks 23rd nationally.
This past week, San Diego State boasted both Mountain West players of the week: Adkison and senior pitcher Brett Seeburger. Earlier this season, the Aztecs beat No. 10 Cal State Fullerton 5-4. The Trojans will play Fullerton later on in mid-April.
The Trojans played San Diego State previously on March 7. It was a close game, but the Trojans pulled out a 1-0 victory behind a strong bullpen effort and a run-scoring single from sophomore infielder Brandon Perez in the seventh inning. It was USC’s second shutout of the season.
Freshman pitcher Austin Manning had a good outing against the Aztecs last time around, tossing two hitless innings and closing out the game. He earned his second save of the season, and redshirt sophomore Bryce Dyrda got the win. That game was also sophomore CJ Stubbs’ first start of the season on the mound. Perez now leads the team with a .338 batting average, while sophomore outfielder Lars Nootbaar leads the team with a .543 slugging percentage and a .475 on base percentage.
“[Redshirt junior] Frankie Rios and Lars are obviously having a great start to the season,” head coach Dan Hubbs said. “We need [junior third baseman] Alberto Carrillo to continue to get better and better. And Brandon Perez. The guys that you’ve invested time in and have performed in the conference need to be able to perform in these games. That alleviates some pressure on other guys that maybe are trying to do too much when the offense isn’t flowing as well as we’d like it to.”
Stubbs could start Tuesday’s game against San Diego State, though the fourth slot in the Trojan starting rotation has been a bit of a revolving door. The season started with junior Mason Perryman, but Stubbs has taken over the role since his return against San Diego State.
When the Trojans have been given off days, they have also chosen to bypass the fourth starter and begin again with now-No.1 starter, freshman Chris Clarke. Clarke is replacing the injured junior starter Mitch Hart, whose season ended after suffering a shoulder injury against San Diego on March 3. He has undergone surgery and will be back in time for the 2018 season.
USC has been comfortable at home so far this year, going 10-5. The Trojans will look to improve on that record on Tuesday, as first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Dedeaux Field.