Trojans sweep Wildcats in three-game weekend series

The Trojans’ baseball team completed a sweep over the Villanova Wildcats to maintain their season opening surge. The Trojans extended their winning streak to six games following their opening day loss to Utah Valley and now hold an impressive 6-1 record.

Freshman shortstop Ben Ramirez looks to become a force on the Trojans’ offense. Tucker Judkins | Daily Trojan

Going into the series, the Trojans were 3-1 while the Wildcats were 3-0 after their emphatic sweep over Norfolk State in their opening series. Prior to the weekend, this series appeared to be a dog fight, but it proved to be otherwise as the Trojans won all three games with relative ease.

In game one, the Wildcats took an early 2-run lead in the second inning. However, it did not last long; the Trojans soon followed by scoring 2 runs in the third inning, and then a resounding 10 runs in the fourth inning to all but seal the game. The Trojans let the Wildcats beat themselves in that game, as Villanova walked them 15 times. Specifically, in the fourth inning when the Trojans scored 10 runs, USC was gifted 11 free bases. They were walked 10 times and redshirt sophomore catcher Kaleb Murphy was hit by a pitch. The Trojans were able to put up 10 runs on two hits, with all of their runs scored with two outs in the fourth inning.

“The guys made it so they just couldn’t get out of the inning, and I think being able to sustain the inning was huge for us,” head coach Dan Hubbs said. “Plus we made them use quite a few pitchers which that can only bode well for the rest of the series.”

The Trojans managed to win game one by a score of 15-6 on only nine hits, marking the second game in a row in which the Trojans had more runs than hits.

In game two, the Trojans got off to an early lead thanks to a grand slam courtesy of sophomore designated hitter Blake Sabol. The Trojans’ hitting didn’t stop in the first inning, as they managed a season-high 17 hits in a 12-6 game two victory.

“When Blake hit the ‘granny’ and, I think we had 5 in the first, that was huge for us because that got us off to the right start after we had scored [15] the night before,” Hubbs said. “So it was big to come out just blazing. I was real pleased with the guys and their effort, they were focused. It’s easy when you have a game that gets separated like it did on Friday for the guys to get lackadaisical, and think, ‘Hey we got this,’ but they came out focused and ready to go.”

Game three felt like a much tighter game than the first two games. Both teams saw spectacular pitching performances on the day, especially USC freshman pitcher Kyle Hurt. After rebounding from a shaky second inning on Sunday, he looked in control of the mound with eight strikeouts through five innings, while only allowing one hit and 1 run.

“I thought today what was big was [Hurt] being able to work through some command issues in the second and give us five on one run,” Hubbs said.  “I mean, that’s huge. Then it gets to our bullpen which was pretty fresh, and none of those four guys had thrown over the weekend, and so that’s been a strength of our team and it was nice to see that.”

Junior first baseman Dillon Paulson also came up big on Sunday with a 3-run home run in the third inning as the Trojans went on to win 5-2. Paulson became the fourth Trojan this year to go yard, demonstrating that this Trojan team does not just revolve around one or two big-name players. This weekend’s display demonstrated just how important each individual player is to the Trojans’ lineup. Even deep into the batting order, the players were producing when called upon, and eventually came out on top.

“Well I think the theme is a pretty tight team and I don’t think they care who gets it done as long as it gets done, and I think that’s a big thing when you have that in the clubhouse, when you have that in the dugout,” Hubbs said. “I think winning takes care of a lot that. But they believe in each other and they know if they don’t get it done they are rooting for the other guy to get it done. And it’s kind of next man up […] They can rely on a team effort and just concentrate on getting on base and someone’s going to get the big hit when we get there.”

There was one minor blip in an otherwise perfect weekend for the Trojans. While all the players looked impressive, a player that really stood out was freshman shortstop Ben Ramirez. Ramirez came out and hit just about everything on Friday night as he went three for four on the day with a walk and two RBIs.

Defensively, Ramirez was also superb, notably making an outstanding play in the third inning to save an extra base hit. However, on Saturday, the star freshman was hit by a pitch and broke his hand. According to Hubbs, “[Ramirez] is probably out four to six weeks.”

The Trojans will look to extend their six-game win streak in their next league play game against Loyola Marymount on Tuesday at Dedeaux Field.