USC baseball swept by Stanford in three-game series

The USC baseball team ended a brutal series against NorCal rival Stanford Sunday afternoon with an 18-0 loss, ending a 0-3 series.

Sophomores pitcher Chris Clarke (center), and catcher Kaleb Murphy (left) gather with and head coach Dan Hubbs (right) at the mound. Tucker Judkins | Daily Trojan

The first game of the series was indicative of how the series would play out, as the Trojans fell by a score of 5-1. The Cardinal opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning when senior second baseman Beau Branton singled off Trojan freshman starter Kyle Hurt with the bases loaded to score a run. Senior third baseman Jesse Kuet followed with a sacrifice fly to tack on another run.

Stanford extended its lead in the following innings. In the third, sophomore catcher Maverick Handley hit a RBI single to right field. Two innings later, left fielder sophomore Kyle Stowers singled to the right side to score another run. True to its style, Stanford relied on its pitching and timely hitting to scrape out a 4-0 lead.

USC managed its sole run of the night when sophomore right fielder Matthew Acosta singled up the middle to score redshirt sophomore catcher Kaleb Murphy in the sixth inning. Handley, however, came right back with another RBI single in the next inning, giving the Cardinal the 4-run edge they would end the game with.

Stanford’s junior starting pitcher Tristan Beck was dominant, giving up just the one run on five hits in seven innings and striking out nine Trojans.

Everything that plagued the Trojans in game one only got worse on Saturday. The Cardinal blasted USC 11-1 as the third-ranked team in the nation went for a rare offensive explosion. USC junior starter Quentin Longrie started the game strong, shutting out the Cardinal and allowing only 2 hits through three innings.

Freshman pitcher Isaac Esqueda gave up another run on a one-out double by pinch hitter Will Matthiessen in the sixth, and head coach Dan Hubbs pulled him after he walked the following batter, putting fellow freshman Brian Gursky on the mound. Esqueda picked up another earned run when Matthiessen scored on a Kuet single. Gursky gave up a score of his own on an RBI single by Cardinal shortstop Nico Hoerner. At the end of the sixth, Stanford led 5-0.

The Cardinal would double their total in the next inning to blow the game open, taking advantage of the Trojans’ freshman pitcher Riley Lamb. Stowers hit a lead-off home run. Handley scored on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded. Two wild pitches with runners on third scored 2  more runs. Finally, Stanford junior right fielder Brian Wulff singled off of freshman John Beller to bring in another run and make the score 10-0 Stanford.

While Stanford stacked runs, its starting pitcher was shutting USC down. Kris Bubic had a perfect game through six innings until he walked Acosta in the seventh. In seven innings, he struck out six Trojans.

Again, Acosta drove in the Trojans’ only run of the day, hitting a single to score sophomore designated hitter John Thomas in the eighth. Stanford would score again in the bottom of the frame to make it 11-1.

Sunday’s game brought more of the same. Stanford wasted no time, scoring 4 runs in the first three innings, aided by two RBI singles from Wulff. The Cardinal broke the game open in the fourth; after an RBI single from center fielder Tim Tawa, Wulff again bit the Trojans with a three-run homer to center, bringing the margin to 8-0.

The Trojan pitching staff fell apart in this game. Two walks and a hit by pitch accounted for 3 of Stanford’s 5 runs in the fifth. The same thing happened in the seventh, bringing the score to a humiliating 18-0 favoring the Cardinal.

If the Trojans can take any silver linings from a series in which they were outscored 34-2, it’s that this can be a learning experience for a young team.

The coaching staff hope that the Trojans saw the way Stanford executed and that some of that will rub off on their guys. Stanford didn’t win this series by bashing the ball around; the Cardinal only had 2 home runs in the three games. Many of their runs came off of timely hitting with runners in scoring position, taking advantage of USC’s mistakes.

These are the things that set a team like Stanford apart from USC. The good news is that the Trojans have plenty of young talent to develop. USC’s time is yet to come, and there’s a lot of maturing to do before it reaches its full potential. If this team is resilient, it can spin this into motivation to improve for the rest of the season.