The Trojans can’t seem to catch a break.
Just as the pieces seem to be falling into place, something gets derailed and the baseball team finds itself in the same situation. The series against Cal State Fullerton ended the same way as the series against Stanford a few weeks ago, with USC losing the series after claiming the first game.
Game 1 on Thursday at Dedeaux was filled with highlights. Every time the Titans scored, the Trojans answered with just as many or more runs. The lead continued to switch until the Trojans broke out in the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring six runs and winning 13-9.
The Titans got out to an early lead in the first inning, but the Trojans responded in the bottom of the third inning after freshman designated hitter Blake Sabol scored on junior third baseman Adalberto Carrillo’s triple.
The Titans scored on a two-run double in the top of the fourth, but the Trojans answered with an RBI single by Rios, and a sacrifice fly by senior outfielder Corey Dempster. Senior catcher Cris Perez and Sabol hit back-to-back doubles to put the Trojans ahead by one.
“It’s been a work in progress,” Sabol said. “Having [head coach Dan] Hubbs give me some confidence going into this weekend was big.”
After freshman Chris Clarke allowed a three-run double in the top of the fifth, the Trojans scored six runs, as many as they did in the remaining two games.
The scoring spree started with redshirt senior left fielder David Edson and sophomore Brandon Perez’s back-to-back singles. Rios singled in another run after sophomore center fielder Lars Nootbaar’s sacrifice bunt and Dempster tied the game with another sacrifice fly.
“It’s definitely a big momentum swing, especially because their team was hitting the ball well, too,” Sabol said. “Whenever they scored, we found a way to score, too. We had a lot of fun out there.”
Cris Perez followed with an RBI single and Sabol brought a run home on an error by Cal State Fullerton shortstop Timmy Richards. Carrillo cleared the bases with a two-run double to cap the scoring for that inning.
Clarke finished his night going five innings with a strikeout and six runs allowed, five earned. He was succeeded by junior pitcher Brad Wegman, who gave up three runs.
Then came one of the highlights of the series in the final inning — Rios came up to bat against his brother, Josh, a reliever for the Titans. Frankie won the battle, doubling off of his younger brother and bringing in another insurance run for the Trojans.
Dempster doubled Rios in to finish off the Trojans’ high scoring start to the series at 13 runs. He also ended the game with a diving catch in right field to secure the win. The 13 runs that the Trojans scored on 17 hits was the most that they had scored since their win over Wake Forest in February.
Edson continued the Trojans’ call and response with the Titans, bringing home two runs on a single in the top of the third inning of Game 2 after two early Fullerton runs. The Titans had the upper hand in the fifth inning, scoring five runs off of sophomore starter CJ Stubbs.
The Trojans scored three runs in the top of the ninth on RBI doubles by Sabol, freshman outfielder Matthew Acosta and freshman outfielder Christian Moya; however, they could not overcome Fullerton’s 13 runs in a 13-5 loss.
In Game 3, sophomore pitcher Marrick Crouse went six innings, striking out two and giving up two runs. Fullerton’s starter John Gavin went seven innings, giving up one run. USC’s only run came on a solo home run by Cris Perez as the Trojans fell 2-1.
Though there were fewer moments for the highlight reel in the games at Fullerton, the Trojans had a good number of positive takeaways. Dempster hit safely in all three games, and Rios extended his hitting streak to eight games. Gates debuted and Crouse had the best Trojan start of the weekend.
“I think our team is better than that showing,” Sabol said. “It can be scary for other teams because they might fall asleep seeing that record, but I think we’re a really strong team.”