The Pac-10 might be the toughest conference in all of college baseball, and tonight, the Trojans get their first taste of league play.
USC (11-10) begins its 2010 conference schedule in Palo Alto, Calif., with a three-game set against No. 19 Stanford (10-5).
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Andrew Triggs takes the hill in tonight’s series opener at 5:30 p.m. against Stanford righty Jordan Pries.
There are no easy weekends in the Pac-10, in which two teams are undefeated (Arizona State is 20-0, UCLA is 17-0) and nine of the 10 teams have winning percentages above .500 (Washington is 8-10).
But USC coach Chad Kreuter believes USC’s opening opponent is not unbeatable.
“I think everybody thinks that Stanford’s program is on this pedestal, and, really, it should be. They’re one of the best national baseball schools,” Kreuter said. “But they are beatable.”
Stanford had won six of seven games before losing Tuesday at Pacific, 9-4. In the defeat, the Cardinal committed two errors and left 14 men on base.
Kreuter stressed the loss to his team Tuesday night as proof of Stanford’s fallibility.
“They will make mistakes,” he said.
Stanford has made plenty of mistakes this season. The Cardinal have the worst team fielding percentage in the Pac-10 and a 5.35 team ERA, ninth in the conference.
The Trojans come into the weekend one game above .500 and in the middle of a grueling stretch of road games. They have played eight of their last 10 on the road, going 6-4 over that stretch. But Kreuter doesn’t want to settle at .500.
“I can’t stand it,” he said. “There’s nothing average about what I do or what I try to convey, and .500 is average to me.”
USC has proven it has the offensive firepower with six regular starters hitting above .300. Freshman infielder Cade Kreuter is on a tear, batting .346 with four home runs and 14 RBI.
Sophomore infielder Ricky Oropesa is hitting .341 after starting slowly and has a team-leading six home runs, and sophomore infielder Matt Foat has four home runs and 24 RBI to lead the squad.
Still, Kreuter wants more consistency out of his team.
“It seems like we win some series then slip a little bit and slide,” he said. “We need to take it to the next level.”
The Trojans lead the all-time series with Stanford, but would like to forget their last trip to Sunken Diamond. They lost the Friday opener 4-0 before dropping the Saturday game 26-5. USC salvaged the series finale with a 10-9 win.
But Kreuter said the events of two years ago are long gone.
“I don’t think guys even care what historically was done or what wasn’t done,” he said of that series. “They’re in the moment right now. There are a lot of guys that feel like they have to prove something right now.”
USC will throw sophomore pitcher Ben Mount in the second game of the series against lefty Brett Mooneyham. Mount has been solid for USC this season, pitching a 2-1 record and a 3.21 ERA. Mooneyham has struggled, going 0-2 with a 8.62 ERA.
Senior pitcher Kevin Couture will go into the series finale against another lefty, Scott Snodgress.
Both games will start at 1 p.m.