Baseball wins two games in season opener weekend

Junior Chris Clarke pitches against Utah Valley. (Tucker Judkins/Daily Trojan)

The Trojans won two of their first three games against Nebraska Omaha to start the season 2-1. USC won in dramatic fashion on opening night, as senior second baseman Brandon Perez hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning to seal a 6-5 victory at Dedeaux Field Friday night.

USC put up a fight Friday as it was down 3-0 after the fifth inning. In the sixth inning, senior shortstop Chase Bushor hit a home run to bring the score up to 3-2.

The Mavericks added to their lead by scoring two more runs and bringing the score to 5-2 in the middle of the eighth inning. But the Trojans brought the game to within one run after sophomore right fielder Jamal O’Guinn hit a home run, a two-run blast over the right field fence.

The Trojans managed to stop the Mavericks from scoring in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half of the inning, junior center fielder Matthew Acosta hit a single, allowing junior infielder Tyler Pritchard to score a run to tie the game at five apiece. Later in the inning, Perez kept his composure as he singled to left center field, scoring Acosta and winning the game for the Trojans 6-5.

“It definitely felt good to come back and get that win,” Perez said. “We had some rust to shake off for it being the first game of the season, but I’m glad that we came off on top.”

The Trojans followed up their win Friday night with a commanding performance on Saturday. They claimed the second game of the series with a score of 11-0.

“When the ball goes up in the air, and it goes to the outfield, unless it’s barrelled up, I’m almost 100 percent confident that it’s going to get caught,” sophomore pitcher John Beller said. “Matt [Acosta] and Blake [Sabol] — they got wheels. Jamal [O’Guinn] has an absolute hose, so I have a lot of confidence when the ball goes into the air.”

Both teams were scoreless through the first three and a half innings of play, until USC scored eight unanswered runs in the fourth inning. The Trojans took the game with ease afterward.

“We were able to stay within and have zone discipline,” head coach Dan Hubbs said. “We got to their reliever and then we had the big inning. I think that coupled with Beller just continuing to throw zero, after zero, after zero made it tough on them because they couldn’t get anything going.”

Beller showed confidence and composure as he took the mound Saturday, throwing five strikeouts in seven innings and giving up two walks. Following the first inning, Beller seemed untouchable, and the Mavericks could not seem to get a hit. Beller threw the first shutout of the season on Saturday.

“I felt confidence throwing strikes today,” Beller said. “I knew the defense was going to play a great game behind me, so I just wanted to put the ball in play and make the plays behind me like they did.”

However, the Trojans were unable to claim the opening series sweep as they lost Sunday’s game 9-12.

The team dug themselves into a deep hole in the first inning, as freshman pitcher Chandler Champlain gave up five runs to start the game. Hubbs replaced him midway through the first inning with sophomore pitcher Isaac Esqueda.

Despite the change, the Trojans still allowed 12 runs in the first five innings. The team demonstrated resilience by scoring eight unanswered runs, but it proved to be too little, too late for the Trojans.

The Trojans look to continue their winning form as they host Arkansas next weekend at Dedeaux Field. The first game between the two teams will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, followed by 6 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday.