The USC baseball team earned an impressive road win over Cal State Fullerton Tuesday evening, defeating the Titans 7-1. A strong first inning kickstarted the Trojans as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead and did not look back.
Head coach Jason Gill was pleased with USC’s fast start to the contest.
“Offensively, come on — you start off with a 4-0 lead in the first, that gives you a little cushion to pound a little bit more on the mound and throw strikes,” Gill said.
USC’s hot start was spearheaded by sophomore first baseman Clay Owens’ 2-run triple to put USC up 2-0. A pair of ensuing RBI singles from graduate student designated hitter Ben Wanger and sophomore catcher Tyler Lozano put the Trojans up comfortably at the end of the opening frame.
Wanger was pleased with yet another strong offensive showing from the Trojans after scoring 11 unanswered runs in their Sunday win against San Diego State.
“It feels good to put up a bunch of runs against a good team,” Wanger said. “We hit their guys pretty well, so great momentum moving forward.”
On the mound, USC benefited from a strong start from junior lefty Brian Gursky, who gave Gill — a CSUF alumnus — and his team 3.2 innings of scoreless work, allowing just a single hit before being pulled for relief.
A brief scare for USC in the bottom of both the fourth and fifth innings saw the Titans load the bases with one out twice, but impressive work from freshman righty Ethan Hoopingarner and sophomore righty Carson Lambert saved the Trojans before the opposition could get on the scoreboard.
Gill was complimentary of the bullpen’s performance in the win.
“The bullpen did pretty good,” Gill said. “We had a couple hiccups in there, but guys came in and picked up other guys.”
USC’s bats were consistently active for the remainder of the evening, tacking on additional insurance runs by way of another Wanger RBI in the fifth inning and a double from freshman center fielder Rhylan Thomas. Senior second baseman Tyler Pritchard — who scored on the double — would have easily been caught at home plate if not for an error by CSUF junior catcher Austin Schell.
After adding an additional run in the top of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, the Trojans coasted to the win with a 6-run cushion.
Tuesday’s win marked the second consecutive road victory of Gill’s tenure as head coach and the best defensive performance of the season, an encouraging sight for the Trojans moving forward.
The win brings Gill and the Trojans to an overall record of 5-2 on the young season.
The Trojans also faced Keio University in an exhibition match Wednesday evening but fell 5-0. Keio, which plays in Tokyo’s “Big 6 Baseball League,” lost to CSUF Monday by a score of 6-3, followed by a loss to UCLA last night by a score of 15-1.
Wednesday’s matchup with the Trojans marks another stop on Keio’s West Coast exhibition tour, as it’ll head south for a contest with the University of San Diego Thursday.
The Trojans will continue their homestand in a three-game weekend series against Seton Hall. The Pirates come into the weekend series riding a brief two-game losing streak handed to them by Liberty University.
Seton Hall will come into the game with an overall record of 3-3 and will be led by senior infielder Connor Hood, who has started all six games so far for the Pirates. Hood leads the team with 11 hits and 8 RBIs in 27 plate appearances, good for a team-high .407 batting average.
USC can expect to face off against Seton Hall senior righty Noah Thompson, who has started two games for the Pirates on the mound already. Thompson has racked up nine strikeouts in 11.2 innings so far this season, posting an earned run average of 2.31.
The Trojans’ weekend series is set to begin at 6 p.m. Friday evening at Dedeaux Field. Saturday’s game starts at 2 p.m. and Sunday’s at 1 p.m.