USC had to switch things up.
After being shut down by UCLA in the first two games of the weekend series, the Trojans (9-15, 1-2) went with a different lineup and defensive alignment Sunday afternoon at Dedeaux Field.
Interim coach Frank Cruz inserted walk-ons sophomore outfielder J.R. Aguirre and freshman catcher Kevin Swick into the lineup and moved senior Joe DePinto to centerfield, while pushing Kevin Roundtree to third base to get freshman Jake Hernandez into the lineup at catcher.
“[Aguirre and Swick] have been working hard in practice and have been taking some really good batting practice,” Cruz said. “They do everything that we ask of them.”
The move worked for Cruz. The Trojans got a pair of hits and runs from sophomore outfielder Aguirre and a huge day from junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa as they knocked off rival UCLA (11-8, 2-1) 6-2. The win evens the season series 2-2.
The Trojans got on the board early Sunday. Batting leadoff in his first career start, Aguirre got his first career hit on a double after UCLA’s right fielder Jeff Gelalich lost the ball in the sun.
A sacrifice bunt and an infield single by Oropesa got the Trojans on the board. USC manufactured another run in the second inning and Oropesa hit a two-run blast to centerfield in the third inning made the score 4-1.
That was enough for senior starting pitcher Logan Odom. For the second time this season, Odom held the Bruins’ bats at bay.
Odom allowed only two singles and one run in seven innings of work to lower his ERA to 3.31 and improve his record to 2-3.
“It’s always special to beat a crosstown rival, especially when it counts now for the Pac-10,” Odom said. “Gaining momentum going into the next series is really important. We competed all weekend long against a really good team, but it feels really good to get that win.”
In the first two games of the series, the Trojans couldn’t get enough runs against UCLA’s pair of junior aces, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. Both are likely to be first-round draft picks in Major League Baseball’s June amateur draft, and they showed why.
On Friday, USC got to Cole early with solo home runs by freshman shortstop James Roberts and Oropesa. But the Bruins responded with four runs in the fourth inning, three coming on a bases-clearing double by catcher Steve Rodriguez.
Though Cole didn’t have his best outing, he flashed the talent that could make him the No. 1 pick in the MLB draft, with reports that he hit 101 mph on the radar gun.
Cole allowed seven hits and four earned runs in six and two-thirds innings. His offense backed him up, but the Bruins tacked on three runs in the top of the sixth inning and another in the seventh, and USC didn’t get it closer than the final 8-4 tally.
Though Cole wasn’t his best, Bauer was nearly flawless.
It wasn’t until the seventh inning that Roberts ended Bauer’s perfect-game attempt with a walk. He drew another free pass in the ninth, an inning after sophomore infielder Adam Landecker broke up the no-hitter with a grounder through the middle.
Bauer baffled the Trojans with his five-pitch arsenal, including a fastball recorded at 97 mph on one of his final pitches in the ninth inning. He struck out 14 batters to become UCLA’s all-time career strikeout leader (329).