The USC baseball team looks to snap its three-game losing streak tonight in Long Beach, Calif., as the Trojans take on the Long Beach State 49ers at Blair Field.
The Trojans (3-4), who lost to Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt and rival UCLA over the weekend in the Dodgertown Classic, are still unsure who will start tonight’s matchup. Sophomore starter Ben Mount was set to start the contest, but he pitched 4 1/3 innings Sunday after replacing injured senior Kevin Couture at Dodger Stadium. Couture was hit on his pitching hand on a come backer in the second inning.
With Mount now out of the mix for tonight’s matchup, USC will turn to juniors Brett Williams, Chris Mezger or sophomore Brad Douthit.
USC coach Chad Kreuter said that although injuries are upsetting they create opportunities for other players to step up.
“I’m hoping someone will expose themselves as a frontline guy,” Kreuter said. “That’s what you hope for when you have injuries and guys get an opportunity to play.”
The 49ers (3-3), on the other hand, have a few starting options to turn to because of Sunday’s rainout against Arizona. Long Beach State can either start sophomore Brandon Pinder on extra rest or skip Pinder’s turn in the rotation completely and go with freshman Eddie Magallon. Pinder (0-1) allowed four runs in six innings with two strikeouts in his first outing against Cal State Fullerton, while Magallon (0-1) gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings in a losing effort against UCLA last Tuesday.
The 49ers are hitting .269 as a team, compared with the Trojans’ .286, and their staff ERA is 4.58, compared with USC’s 5.71.
Although Long Beach State’s offense is not prolific in the power department, Kreuter said the 49ers use the humid air surrounding Blair Field because of its proximity to the ocean to their advantage by playing small ball. The 49ers are traditionally known to steal a lot of bases, drop many bunts, execute hit and runs, and play exceptional defense throughout their games.
Even though the ball doesn’t carry well at Blair Field, Kreuter said his team is prepared to adjust to the environment.
“I’ve been building this ball club to compete on both venues,” Krueter said. “We’re a small ball team, and then also, obviously, we have some guys that can hit some home runs too and hit for some power. We also feel our defense can defend against the small ball.”
The key for USC in tonight’s contest will be avoiding the little mistakes that followed it throughout the weekend. Kreuter said the Trojans need to speed up their delivery times to the plate, control the running game and stabilize the defense behind the plate to be successful.
By eliminating those mistakes, he believes his team can compete with anyone.
The coach said the best thing for his team right now is to get back on the field and forget about the losing weekend.
“This game is huge,” Kreuter said, emphasizing that his team needs to get back on the winning track as soon as possible. “This team has battle in it. We’ve got a lot of fight.”
First pitch at Blair Field is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.