No. 23 Stanford is coming off a marquee moment and the Trojans will have to try to stop their losing skid.
Last week, Stanford (15-9) head coach Mark Marquess earned his 1,600th win in a 8-4 victory over Cal. Meanwhile, the Trojans (15-12) have lost four straight games, scoring only six runs across them.
Despite their records going in opposite directions, the Trojans have more wins in Pac-12 play, 4-to-3 against the Cardinal.
The struggle to score is still plaguing the Trojans. The team has been unable to use free passes from errors such as being hit by pitches or walked to their advantage, often stranding runners.
It is a dramatic difference from the team of the beginning of the season that won its first games against Coppin State and Wake Forest in blowouts. Back then, the Trojans’ pitching had been weaker, but the offense saved them. Now the pitching is stronger, giving up fewers runs than some of their earlier losses. However, the offense has been dormant with runners on.
Freshman Chris Clarke will most likely start on the mound for the Trojans on Thursday. He took a beating in his last outing, but has otherwise proven to be a strong spot in the rotation, especially given the loss of junior Mitch Hart.
The rotation against Stanford will change for USC as the team attempts to make adjustments. Previously, junior Brad Wegman (2-2) had been the No. 2 starter. However, sophomore CJ Stubbs took over his role last week and Wegman has been switched to long relief. Wegman seems to have had more success there, tossing three scoreless innings against Arizona on Saturday and a scoreless inning against Long Beach State on Tuesday.
Sophomore Marrick Crouse is still the No. 3 starter. With Stubbs’ promotion, however, junior Mason Perryman has taken over the duties of being the No. 4 starter. Freshman Connor Lunn has also success coming out of the bullpen, throwing 3.2 scoreless innings against Long Beach State in relief of Perryman.
Luckily for the Trojans, USC boasts a better record at home (11-5) while Stanford has struggled on the road, going 3-for-4 while visiting opponents.
Of all the teams in the Pac-12, Stanford ranks last in runs scored and runs batted in, which is good news for the Trojan pitching staff. If the Trojans score even a handful of runs, they should be in decent shape to win the game.
“Our pitching has been doing well, so we’re hoping they can keep doing that and trying to get those timely hits,” redshirt junior Frankie Rios said. “We haven’t been hitting so well lately.”
The series will be a good chance for the Trojans to regain their confidence in bringing in runners in scoring position.
One troublesome aspect of batting for USC has been the number of strikeouts the team allows on offense. They are second in the Pac-12 in strikeouts, which is not aiding their struggle to score.
The Trojans will face Stanford in a three-game series starting Thursday at 6 p.m. at Dedeaux Field.