Despite winning their first game, the Trojans dropped two out of three games to Stanford this weekend. The series started off strong for USC with a 7-5 victory. However, the Trojans (16-14) were unable to take the series from the Cardinal (17-10), dropping the next two games 8-3 and 6-3. The team is now 5-7 in Pac-12 play .
Freshman starter Chris Clarke was impressive in seven innings of work on Thursday night, giving the bullpen a much-needed rest. He recovered after giving up a home run to Stanford leadoff batter Matt Winaker in the first inning and did not seem to be rattled by the Cardinal offense.
“That might be the first time we’ve gotten seven [innings] out of a starter all year,” head coach Dan Hubbs said. “I thought Chris did a good job. He was able to get them out on the change-up, breaking ball and fastball. Two-strike execution is going to be a big part of his development and being able to locate inside.”
Redshirt sophomore reliever Bryce Dyrda pitched two innings of scoreless ball to extend his scoreless inning streak to 21. He earned his fourth save of the year, striking out four of six batters.
The Trojans seemed to have broken out of their hitting slump, scoring seven runs on 12 hits.
Sophomore second baseman Brandon Perez led the surge, starting the third inning with a double down the right field line, scoring senior designated hitter David Edson. Sophomore center fielder Lars Nootbaar followed with a single, bringing Perez to the plate.
“Offensively, I thought we did a really good job,” Hubbs said. “Brandon had the big double down the line and Lars followed it up with a hit. I was excited about how the offense swung it.”
Senior catcher Cris Perez tied the game in the fourth inning with a home run. The Trojans broke out that inning, scoring four runs. Edson brought home the go-ahead run on a single, followed by an RBI single from Brandon Perez and a sacrifice fly from Nootbaar.
“I think the biggest difference today and the last four or five games is that the guys were able to hit line drives instead of fly balls,” Hubbs said. “If we can do that, we can get more hits.”
The Trojans picked up an insurance run in the eighth inning with Nootbaar’s fifth home run of the season.
Despite their success at the plate in the first game, the Trojans were unable to put together the same number of runs over the next two games.
They kept it close until extra innings in Friday’s game.
The Trojans got out to an early lead, when redshirt junior shortstop Frankie Rios singled with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning to score a run.
Sophomore starter CJ Stubbs gave up three runs — one earned — over his six innings of work.
The Trojans tied the ballgame in the bottom of the sixth inning with a two-run single by sophomore first baseman Dillon Paulson.
Sophomore reliever Quentin Longrie finished with the loss, despite pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts. He didn’t allow any batters to reach base until the 10th inning, and even then the ball did not leave the infield.
Dyrda came in in relief and let the go-ahead runs score, with the Trojans falling 8-3. He lost his streak of 21-straight scoreless innings streak. Despite the poor outing Friday, Dyrda had been spot-on for the Trojans.
“He has a good fastball and has been able to spot it up real well and mix in the curve and change when he needs to,” Hubbs said.
The rubber match on Saturday felt similar to Friday’s game. Again, the Trojans got out to an early lead but lost it late in the game.
Sophomore starter Marrick Crouse went 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits.
All three starters of the Stanford series went at least six innings, a big positive for the team. Previously, the starters had struggled early in the game, resulting in an overworked bullpen.
“We needed more of our starters going deep into the game to not wear our bullpen down,” Hubbs said. “When you’re having to use your bullpen as much as we have the past week, it’s taxing on them. To lessen the innings that everyone else has to do means that we will be fresher for the next game.”
Paulson hit his first home run of the season in the bottom of the first inning to give the Trojans the lead.
Crouse gave up a run on an RBI single in the third, but the Trojans retook the lead on a sacrifice bunt by Dempster in the bottom of the fifth.
Crouse was relieved by freshman Austin Manning, who had a blip in his strong season. He gave up three runs in just 0.2 innings of work, giving way to junior reliever Brad Wegman.
The Trojans tried to get their bats going in the bottom of the ninth and managed a run on a sacrifice fly by freshman pinch hitter Stephen Dubb. However, they fell to the Cardinals again 6-3.
The Trojans will next face No. 10 Cal State Fullerton on Thursday at Dedeaux Field at 6 p.m.