USC opens series with California

The USC baseball team looks to win its first Pac-10 series of the season this weekend as it hosts No. 30 California at Dedeaux Field beginning tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Minor slump · Junior infielder Joe De Pinto is one for his last eight and was held without a hit in USC’s loss to Cal State Bakersfield on Wednesday. - Geo Tu | Daily Trojan

The Trojans (15-14, 2-4) defeated CSU Bakersfield Wednesday behind a strong effort from the bullpen and a tie-breaking solo blast off the bat of sophomore first baseman Ricky Oropesa in the bottom of the eighth, giving USC a 4-3 victory.

Cal (17-10, 3-3), has been riding a five-game win streak heading into the contest. Most recently, the Golden Bears defeated then-No. 18 Arizona over the weekend and also beat their rival No. 22 Stanford on Monday, 2-0.

The Trojans most likely will turn to senior Kevin Couture (2-0, 5.66 ERA) to start the series. In his outing last Friday against Oregon State, Couture pitched five innings, giving up one run on five hits and striking out seven. He took a no-decision in the Trojans’ 4-1 loss.

Following Couture in the weekend rotation will be sophomore right-handers Ben Mount (3-1, 3.28 ERA) and Andrew Triggs (1-4, 4.11 ERA).

The Golden Bears will hand the ball to right-hander Erik Johnson (4-1, 2.70 ERA) Friday. Johnson, who has racked up 32 strikeouts in 33 and one-third innings, has set the tone for the Golden Bears’ rotation so far this season. Following Johnson will be left-hander Justin Jones (6-2, 3.07 ERA), who has two complete games this season, and right-hander Dixon Anderson (2-1, 3.38 ERA).

Cal is hitting .327 as a team with a staff ERA of 4.07 compared to USC’s team batting average of .287 and 4.51 staff ERA.

Trojan pitchers will have to look out for Cal catcher Chadd Krist, who is batting .406 on the season and leads the Pac-10 with 12 doubles. He also has a .713 slugging percentage and five home runs on the season. The Golden Bears’ All-Pac-10 first baseman Mark Canha also poses a threat to the Trojans. He is hitting .380 with a team-best 31 RBI.

USC has some firepower of its own on the offensive side. Oropesa hit his 10th home run of the season Wednesday night, leading the Pac-10. The sophomore is hitting a team-best .348 and has driven in a team-high 30 runs.

Sophomore left fielder Matt Foat also provides a big bat for the Trojans. He is hitting .321 on the season with five home runs and 27 RBI.

After Friday’s contest, the series will resume Saturday at 1:30 p.m. before concluding Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. USC leads the all-time series against the Golden Bears, 224-130-2, and has won five of the last six meetings at Dedeaux Field.