When you walk in to the USC baseball clubhouse after any given win, there are a few things you can expect to hear.
First is a rousing rendition of the So-Cal Spell-Out, led by USC interim coach Frank Cruz after he speaks to the team.
Second is the sound of Afro-Man’s “Colt 45” blaring over the speakers as the players shower.
Finally, there is the unbridled joy of victory. Players shouting for no apparent reason, good-natured jibs, laughter and of course, Afro-Man sing-alongs.
But those sounds haven’t been heard for more than two weeks, a span in which the Trojans have lost eight straight games.
“It’s rough,” Cruz said. “We’re not getting the big hits we need. But we gotta stick with each other and we know the hits will start coming.”
Yes, just a few hits here or there for the Trojans and their season thus far would be dramatically different. Five of their losses have been by just one run, and only one was by more than three.
USC hasn’t been getting beaten by mediocre competition either. Six of the Trojans losses came against either No. 18 Rice, or No. 6 Cal State Fullerton. Only UC Santa Barbara—the Trojans most recent loss—is arguably a more inferior opponent.
“You could see it wearing on the guys [in the UCSB game]” Cruz said. “They were sort of acting like ‘is this really gonna happen again?’ We just gotta get them to play baseball the way they know they can. Once the monkey’s off our back you’re gonna see a whole different team.”
USC will have three chances against three different teams to snap its losing streak. It takes on St. Mary’s on Friday and Georgia on Saturday at Dedeaux Field. Both the Gaels and Bulldogs have losing records. A win in one of those games is important, because on Sunday, the Trojans will face No. 13 UCLA at Dodger Stadium.
“It’ll be special,” Cruz said. “Any time you get a chance to play in a big league park it means a lot.”
Senior Logan Odom will get the start for USC on Sunday. He took a hard luck loss last Sunday against Fullerton after allowing just two runs (one unearned) on three hits over seven and two-third innings. This season, he’s been the Trojans best starter by E.R.A.
“Odom has been throwing the ball really well,” Cruz said. “All our pitchers have.”
Indeed it has been the hitting that has plagued the Trojans on their current losing streak. They scored just five runs in three games last weekend against Fullerton and have averaged less than three runs a game on their current streak.
The problem isn’t getting runners on, it’s getting them in. In their five one-run games the Trojans have put the tying run on base in the eighth or ninth inning every time, but simply haven’t gotten him in.
“If you put yourself in those situations like we have, you gonna win one eventually,” Cruz said. “A ball is gonna find a hole. Baseball can change quickly, and we know it.”
The Trojans could use quite a bit of change this weekend.