The Trojans improved their record to 12-9 after their midweek 3-1 victory against Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday. Coming into that game, the Trojans were desperate for a win, having lost their previous four games in miserable fashion.
“The offense going out and putting up a three-spot in the first was big,” sophomore pitcher Austin Manning said to to USC Athletics. “It being my first start of the year, there were obviously a few nerves, but them doing that helped me just focus on going out there and doing my job.”
Now, USC turns its attention to Washington for a weekend series. The Huskies are currently tied for fourth place in the Pac-12 with an 11-10 overall record on the year and a 4-2 conference record. The Trojans, meanwhile, are tied for sixth in the conference despite posting a better overall record than the Huskies.
Furthermore, after their most recent victory against the NCAA’s top ranked team in the country, Oregon State, the Huskies are entering this game with a ton of momentum. After losing their first two games in their series against the Beavers, the Huskies ended the Beavers’ 15-game winning streak in the third game with an impressive 8-4 victory.
“I’m just happy for our guys,” Washington coach Lindsay Meggs said to University of Washington Athletics. “We’re a little beat up and we were short-handed today. That is a great team, so this is a good win for us.”
On paper, this should be a pretty evenly matched series. Both the Trojans and Huskies post similar batting averages — .240 and .252, respectively — and a similar on-base percentage; the Trojans’ .336 just shy of the Huskies’ .340. However, the Huskies do have a slight advantage in ERA compared to the Trojans. As freshman pitcher Kyle Hurt and company proved in their no-hitter against Utah earlier in the season, the Trojans’ pitching staff is capable of rising up to the occasion.
Junior shortstop Chase Bushor is a player to watch in this series for the Trojans. After freshman shortstop Ben Ramirez sustained injuries, Bushor has stepped in and made an instant impact on this Trojan offense. He currently bats .317 on the season and has looked equally impressive in the field. Meanwhile, junior Mason Cerrillo is the player to watch for the Huskies in this series. On the year, he’s batting an impressive .393 in 56 at bats.
The Trojans took Thursday’s series opener 1-0 courtesy of a go-ahead solo shot by redshirt junior third baseman Angelo Armenta in the eighth inning.
“It felt good [to hit the homerun]. I was just trying to stay inside the ball and get a good piece so it felt nice,” Armenta said after the game. “It was a good win on Tuesday, and it was just important to get back on track and keep playing good baseball.”
Heading into the game, Armenta was batting .220 on the season with 4 RBI’s to his name. He batted ninth in the lineup, and Hubbs seemed satisfied with his performance and the depth of his lineup after the game.
“[His homerun] was big,” said Hubbs. “He’s been scuffling a little bit, but he’s been starting to swing a little bit better. Hopefully it’s a good sign to come.”
The Trojans pitched a shutout in Thursday night’s game as freshman pitcher Kyle Hurt pitched seven innings, allowing no runs on only three hits. He looked in control for most of the game, throwing eight strikeouts on the day.
“As poorly as we pitched the past week and half that’s how well we pitched the first two games this week,” Hubbs said. “I’m pleased I thought Kyle was strong for seven innings. His first time on short rest.”
After Thursday night’s victory, the Trojans improved their record to 13-9 on the season and 3-4 in the Pac-12. The next game will take place on Friday night at 6 p.m. and the following game will be a game on Saturday at 2 p.m. Both games will take place at Dedeaux Field.