USC won two out of three games against No. 7 Arizona State over the weekend.
The Trojans kicked off the weekend strong with a 10-6 victory Friday night. USC jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on RBI singles by junior outfielder Matthew Acosta in the first and third innings.
ASU cut its deficit to 2 in the top of the fourth, but USC fired back in the bottom half with 3 more runs. After senior infielder Brandon Perez hit an RBI triple and junior outfielder Blake Sabol provided an RBI groundout, Acosta again drove in a run on a single for a 6-1 Trojan lead.
Whenever ASU chipped into the lead, USC responded to keep the game out of reach.
“[Scoring insurance runs] makes the pitchers way more at ease,” head coach Dan Hubbs said. “They know that they can make a mistake and can overcome it. It allowed [junior pitcher] Connor [Lunn] to pitch with a lot more freedom.”
When ASU made the score 6-3 in the top of the sixth, USC scored 3 more runs in the bottom half. Junior outfielder Brady Shockey scored when ASU catcher redshirt sophomore Sam Ferri made a throwing error on a double steal. Acosta doubled home Sabol, then stole home when Ferri tried to catch sophomore infielder Ben Ramirez stealing second.
An opposite field home run by Perez in the seventh gave the Trojans their 10th run of the game. ASU’s 3-run homer in the ninth was too little too late, as junior pitcher Austin Manning shut the door.
Lunn held one of the nation’s top offenses in check with 6.1 innings of 3-run ball. He was assisted often by incredible defense, highlighted by a SportsCenter-worthy home run robbery by Acosta in the third inning to steal 3 runs from ASU.
“Right off the bat, I thought it was gone,” Acosta said. “And then I was like, ‘I’ve got a chance for that,’ … I found the wall, got a good jump and I got that.”
Lunn credited the performance as a team effort.
“I was just trying to pound the zone … let them get themselves out,” Lunn said. “[The defense] is huge, it gives me time to relax and just focus, and I know that the guys behind me will do what they do.”
Sabol’s three hits added to the 14-hit attack for the Trojans, but Acosta led the charge with four, also collecting five RBIs on the night.
On Saturday, the Trojans came back from a small deficit early to win 7-3.
Sophomore infielder Spencer Torkelson gave ASU a 1-0 lead on a homer in the third inning.
However, the lead was short-lived. Sabol tripled home Perez to knot things up at 1. Redshirt junior catcher CJ Stubbs followed with his third home run of the year — a moonshot to left field — for the 3-1 lead. It was one of the longest home runs hit by any Trojan all season.
A home run by ASU sophomore infielder Alika Williams tied it up in the sixth. Acosta homered in the same inning to put the Trojans up 4-3. An error on a bunt by senior infielder Chase Bushor scored Ramirez, and an RBI single by freshman designated hitter Clay Owens gave USC a 3-run lead.
The red-hot Acosta homered again in the seventh inning. As soon as he hit it, Acosta stopped, watched it sail and gave an emphatic bat flip before breaking into his home run trot.
Junior pitcher Chris Clarke closed out the victory with two scoreless innings in relief.
On Sunday, the Sun Devils avoided the sweep by defeating USC 11-8.
ASU took a 2-0 lead in the first inning before Stubbs answered with his second home run of the series, a solo shot.
Perez tied the game with a triple in the second, but ASU took off from there. A 3-run home run from Torkelson helped the Sun Devils build an 11-3 lead.
Sophomore pitcher Kyle Hurt started for USC, struggling through 3.1 innings and allowing 5 earned runs. Freshman pitcher Chandler Champlain allowed 4 runs in the fifth inning but would settle down to shut ASU out the rest of the way.
The Trojans battled. Owens’ 2-run single in the fifth, sophomore first baseman Jamal O’Guinn’s RBI double in the sixth and Owens’ first career home run in the seventh made it an 11-7 ballgame.
After Stubbs struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth, O’Guinn walked to bring the winning run to the plate in Acosta, who lined out to right field to end the rally.
Despite the loss, the series victory against the Sun Devils was a positive sign for the Trojans, who move to 12-18 overall and 5-7 in conference play.
USC will take on Cal State Fullerton at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Dedeaux Field. The 14-14 Titans defeated USC 10-4 in March, but Hubbs is hopeful after Sunday’s promising performance.
“We know they’re good,” Hubbs said Sunday. “If we have at bats like we did today and all weekend … we’re going to be in good shape.”