The USC baseball team came into this weekend’s series at Arizona State needing a spark from its bats and though it started the series with a loss, the team finished on Sunday with an 8-4 win.
During Game One on Friday, USC was off to a rough start. Arizona State opened the scoring in the second inning when sophomore outfielder Hunter Bishop laid down a sacrifice bunt to score sophomore infielder Carter Aldrete.
ASU junior outfielder Gage Canning, who had the best batting average in the Pac-12 coming into the series, drove in the next two runs with a third inning solo home run and an RBI groundout in the fifth inning. In the eighth inning, a single from senior infielder Taylor Lane extended the Devil’s lead to 5.
The Trojans managed to bring in one run when freshman infielder Jamal O’Guinn walked with the bases loaded in the ninth. A possible Trojan comeback was snuffed out by back to back fly-outs, ending the first game at 5-1. Meanwhile, Arizona State’s sophomore starter Alec Marsh dominated the game, shutting out the Trojans in 8.1 innings.
Whatever went wrong for USC on Friday went right Saturday, as the Trojans dominated the Sun Devils 10-1. Freshman infielder Ben Ramirez and sophomore catcher Blake Sabol scored when junior second baseman Chase Bushor doubled down the right field line, bringing the margin to 3-0 for the Trojans.
Sabol’s double in the fourth drove in a run and started the scoring in another big inning, as the Trojans scored 2 more runs on a groundout by junior infielder Brandon Perez and a double from junior left fielder Lars Nootbaar.
The finishing blow came in the fifth with a Ramirez 3-run home run over the right field wall, extending the Trojans’ lead to 9-0. The homer gave the team its third 3-run inning and Ramirez his fourth RBI that day. Perhaps the most impressive part of the Trojans’ performance at the plate was that it came against ASU’s senior ace Eli Lingos.
After an RBI single by sophomore center fielder Matthew Acosta in the sixth, the Sun Devils mustered one run in the eighth but the game was already decided. USC junior pitcher Solomon Bates threw 7.2 shutout innings in his second start of the year to earn his second win, and he was relieved solidly by freshman pitcher Isaac Esqueda.
When asked what was working for him in a video posted on the team’s Twitter, Bates said, laughing, “I want to say everything, but [my] change-up was iffy, but I was just trying to hit my spots and get my boys a win today.”
On Sunday, the Trojans jumped on Arizona State early and rode the momentum to an 8-4 win. Perez tripled in the top of the first and eventually scored on a Nootbaar single. Perez scored again on junior first baseman Dillon Paulson’s third inning ground rule double to make it 2-0.
After Sun Devil Aldrete’s solo home run in the bottom of the fourth, the Trojans responded in the next frame with an RBI sacrifice fly by Nootbaar. Sabol’s squeeze bunt in the sixth scored Acosta from third and Ramirez followed up with an RBI single to give USC a 5-1 advantage.
A solo home run in the seventh inning cut the Trojans’ lead to 3, but Ramirez continued his hot streak with an RBI single the next inning to put USC back on top by four. Bushor chopped a high-hopping grounder over the third baseman’s head to score Ramirez and Sabol later in the eighth, making the score 8-2.
USC sophomore closer Connor Lunn held Arizona State scoreless in the ninth inning as the Trojans secured the series victory and improved the Trojans’ record to 16-12 on the season and 5-7 in the Pac-12.
Head coach Dan Hubbs complimented junior starter Quentin Longrie after the game, who allowed only three hits and one run in five innings Sunday. But the biggest factor was the success of the lineup, which had 14 hits for the second-straight game.
“The guys came through in the clutch in big spots and got hits,” Hubbs said on USC Baseball’s Twitter. “We were able to execute; we got bunts down when we needed to, moved guys up, balls in dirt and stolen bases, and we were able to play the way we need to play to score runs.”
The Trojans will need more hitting performances like these last two games if they want to continue to succeed. Next weekend the Trojans will welcome the Arizona Wildcats to Dedeaux Field for a three-game series.