The Trojans took down the Loyola Marymount Lions 3-2 as junior shortstop Chase Bushor hit a go-ahead solo shot late in the eighth inning.
The Trojans entered their game against the Lions with confidence after sweeping the Villanova Wildcats over the weekend to extend their winning streak to six victories in a row. On the other hand, the Lions’ season has gone quite differently as they came into this game with a record of 1-6. However, despite their record, the Lions have kept all of their games close this season.
The Trojans got off to an early lead in the first inning. Junior second baseman Brandon Perez got the inning started as he hit a double into center field with two outs, and junior first baseman Dillon Paulson soon followed that with a single to drive home Perez. The Trojans only managed to score one run in that inning, but the hitting did not stop there.
In the second inning, the Trojans had two runners on first and third with junior left fielder Lars Nootbaar up to bat with two outs. Nootbaar, who leads the NCAA in walks and walks per game, hit a hard ground ball into second, and the second baseman made a great diving play to get Nootbaar out at first and save a run. In the third, the Trojans also left runners in scoring positions, however, but also unable to put runs on the board.
Meanwhile, the Lions couldn’t get their bats going in the first two innings as senior pitcher Mason Perryman looked comfortable on the mound through the first two. However, in the third inning, Perryman walked right fielder Kenny Oyama who then stole second to get himself into scoring position. Afterward, infielder Nick Sogard hit a single into right-center field allowing Oyama to score. Sogard then stole second with two outs to get himself into scoring positions, but Perryman then struck out infielder Niko Decolati as the inning ended with one run apiece. Throughout the game the Lions looked for every opportunity they had to steal a base and get runners into scoring positions.
Head coach Dan Hubbs soon made a pitching change, bringing on freshman pitcher Brian Gursky in the fourth inning. He managed to get the next three batters out with relative ease, keeping the Lions at one run through four innings of play.
The Trojans great defensive play helped them get out of a tough fifth inning. With two runners on first and second and one out, a ball was hit to shortstop Bushor, who was able to make a play at second. Then Perez was unable to turn his throw to first into a double play, however, the Lions took an aggressive baser unning approach, sending their runner on third home, and first baseman Dillon Paulson made the throw to home to get the runner out and save a run. Prior to this game, the Trojans actually led the nation in fielding percentage, .996, with only one error allowed in their first seven games.
USC then followed that great defensive inning with some strong offense, drawing a couple of walks, and eventually ended up scoring a run courtesy of redshirt junior infielder Angelo Armenta’s sacrifice fly into deep center field with bases loaded, scoring Perez. That run gave them a 2-1 lead entering the sixth inning.
In the top of seventh, the Lions were finally able to score with runners on base as first baseman Jamey Smart singled into left-center with runners on first and third right after coach Hubbs sent junior pitcher Brad Wegman to the mound. Eventually, the Trojans turned a double play to close the top of the seventh. The Trojans then were unable to capitalize with two runners in scoring positions as the score became 2-2 going into the eighth.
The Trojans kept the Lions quiet in the top of the eighth and were able to capitalize with a big inning to take the lead. Bushor came up huge when he drove a ball deep into left field for a go-ahead home run to retake the lead 3-2 before going into the ninth.
Sophomore pitcher Connor Lunn came into the game for the Trojans to close out the ninth inning. He looked impressive as he closed the game with three strikeouts in the ninth inning. The Trojans managed to win the nailbiter with the scoreline of 3-2 as their record improved to 7-1 on the season.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how we won, as long as we won,” Hubbs said. “I was proud of the guys. It’s not easy to win in Southern California on a Tuesday night. It’s just not. And you know everybody’s just kind of using guys that anybody they have available. So you don’t get to see a starter for six or seven innings necessarily so it’s not easy to get a hit.”
The Trojans face a tough matchup in their weekend series as they face off against the fifth-best team in the country, the Arkansas Razorbacks, at Baum Stadium.