The USC baseball team faced Cal State Fullerton Tuesday night at Dedeaux Field, rallying from behind for a gritty 6-5 victory. In the teams’ first matchup of the season, CSUF emerged victorious, 10-4.
Strong winds for most of the night meant that offense was hard to come by.
“It’s tough that way and you know that runs will be at a premium,” USC head coach Dan Hubbs said in a postgame interview on the team’s Twitter account. “You know, you’re worried that that’s going to be what causes you to lose a game.”
Neither team could get much going during the first three innings. In the first, the Trojans threatened early with a single by sophomore first baseman Jamal O’Guinn. The hit advanced junior left fielder Blake Sabol to third and O’Guinn tacked on a stolen base, but CSUF stranded the runners.
In the second and third innings, neither team could find any momentum. USC’s sophomore pitcher Brian Gursky struck out three batters in the second and pitched out of a second-and-third jam in the third.
With the game scoreless entering the fourth inning, the Titans finally threatened with a double down the right field line that advanced junior outfielder Isaiah Garcia to third. CSUF freshman catcher Kameron Guangorena followed up with an RBI fielder’s choice to score Garcia. CSUF would come up with another fielder’s choice to push a Titan run across, making the score 2-0.
Gursky allowed 2 runs on four hits through four innings for USC, striking out four and walking two.
USC responded in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double to left field by freshman designated hitter Clay Owens, cutting the Titans’ lead in half.
Sophomore pitcher John Beller came into the game in the fifth inning to relieve Gurksy. CSUF tallied two hits but failed to get back on the scoreboard in the inning, and USC went down in order.
In the sixth, the Titans threatened again with Guangorena advancing to third. However, a diving catch by junior outfielder Brady Shockey saved a run and prevented CSUF from adding to its lead.
The Titans tacked on 2 insurance runs in the seventh frame. CSUF sophomore infielder Sahid Valenzuela beat the throw on a fielder’s choice to score and expand the Titans’ lead to 2 runs. A sacrifice bunt with two outs scored Garcia to make the game 4-1.
Beller allowed 2 runs on four hits and two walks, striking out three through 2.2 innings, and freshman pitcher Carson Lambert finished the seventh by forcing a groundout.
Aside from a two-out walk, the Trojans couldn’t find any offense and entered the eighth down by 3 runs.
Lambert struck out a Titan to start the eighth, but a double and a wild pitch increased the Titans’ lead to 4 runs. USC’s offense had been struggling all night and a loss seemed imminent with only one and a half innings to go, but a leadoff single by sophomore infielder Ben Ramirez sparked a comeback.
With two more walks, USC loaded the bases with one out. Junior second baseman Tyler Pritchard and redshirt junior catcher CJ Stubbs hit RBI singles to pull USC within 2 runs with two outs in the inning.
O’Guinn then delivered a clutch bases-clearing double down the third base line to put the Trojans up 6-5. O’Guinn said he wasn’t trying to do too much at the plate before coming up with the decisive hit.
“Approach-wise, it’s all just get the next guy up to the plate,” O’Guinn said. “The more guys we get up to the plate, the more runs we score, and that’s how we win games.”
Lambert retired the Titans in order in the ninth inning to secure the victory.
O’Guinn credited the comeback effort to the players on the field, as well as the Trojan dugout.
“Our bench guys are always loud, rowdy, into the game,” O’Guinn said. “They do just as much off the field as we do on the field so it’s really all in.”
None of USC’s pitchers were particularly dominant on Tuesday night, but they all put up sufficient performances that proved to be just enough to eke out the win.
O’Guinn and Pritchard each collected multiple hits to contribute to the Trojans’ nine on the game.
USC will begin a three-game weekend series against Utah on the road Thursday. The Utes have struggled so far this year and enter the series with an 8-18 record overall and an 1-11 mark in Pac-12 play.
Thursday’s game begins at 5 p.m., and the last two games on Friday and Saturday begin at 10:30 a.m.