Former USC coach Mike Gillespie got his first glimpse of the scoreboard named in his honor Tuesday, and chances are he liked what he saw.
Gillespie and UC Irvine lit up the scoreboard against the Trojans, and Irvine starter Matt Whitehouse threw four and two-thirds shutout innings, no walks and four strikeouts, to lead the Anteaters (15-6) to a 4-0 victory over the Trojans (9-16).
Gillespie remains one of the most accomplished and renowned coaches in USC history. He won 763 games at the helm of the Trojans and led them to 15 postseason appearances, four College World Series appearances and a national championship in 1998. The Trojans recently named the Dedeaux field scoreboard the Mike Gillespie scoreboard.
Tuesday wasn’t the first time Gillespie had been at USC since leaving, however. Gillespie has been the coach at Irvine since 2007 and has taken on the Trojans every year since, beating them six out of eight times coming into this season. Now, it’s seven of nine.
While the Trojans came in having lost five of six games, the Anteaters had also lost five of six, including four in a row.
But they came out firing.
The Anteaters put men on in each of the first four innings against freshman Kyle Richter, who was making his first career start on the mound.
The promising southpaw got out of the first with a double play, then ended the second with a strikeout to strand a pair. He was lifted after a leadoff walk in the third for senior righthander Chris Mezger.
Mezger balked the runner to second, but managed to hold the Anteaters to just one run on a sacrifice fly.
Visibly dismayed by his team’s struggles, USC interim coach Frank Cruz could only muster a few words about his freshman.
“Richter pitched alright,” he said.
Irvine’s Whitehouse went four and two-thirds shutout innings, retiring the Trojans in order in the first, second and fourth before being lifted in the fifth after a pair of two-out singles.
The Anteaters got out of the inning, though, and got another run in the top of the sixth. Irvine then tagged on two more in the top of the seventh behind a pair of two-out knocks to put the Trojans in a 4-0 hole.
Unlike in previous games when the Trojans threatened often but rarely scored, they rarely threatened Tuesday.
Their best chance came in the eighth, when junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa stepped to the plate with two on and two out. But he was retired on a diving stop by Irvine first baseman Jordan Fox, and the Anteater bullpen finished off the game with four and one-thirds shutout innings of their own.
“I guess I could say I just didn’t have them prepared to play today,” Cruz said.
It marked only the second time this season USC has been shutout, the other being Saturday night on a dominant, one-hit performance by UCLA ace Trevor Bauer.
“We’re just struggling,” said senior second baseman and captain Joe De Pinto. “We gotta change things up.”
The team will report to Dedeaux Field bright and early for practice at 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning looking to do just that.
“We gotta do something,” Cruz said. “But really I’m just at a loss for words.”
The entire clubhouse echoed that statement. There were no talks of postgame plans, and many players headed right to the batting cage after the game. Assistant coach Doyle Wilson sat in his chair with his head in his hands.
It won’t get any easier for the Trojans, as they head up to Berkeley to face No. 13 California.