Following a six-game stretch during which USC scored just 14 runs, the Trojan bats have suddenly caught fire.
They’ve put 28 runs on the board in their last four games, including a 10-run outburst Tuesday against Loyola Marymount.
USC (11-18) jumped out in front early against USC interim coach Frank Cruz’s former squad. Junior center fielder Garret Houts reached on an error to lead off the game for the Trojans and advanced to second on a single. A few batters later, senior second baseman Joe De Pinto was hit by a pitch to load the bases with nobody out, paving the way for junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa’s sacrifice fly to left to put USC up 1-0.
After another single loaded the bases again, sophomore third baseman Adam Landecker hit what appeared to be an inning-ending double-play ball to shortstop.
The Lions (16-11) got the first out at second, but Jonathan Johnson threw the ball away trying to turn the double play, allowing junior catcher Kevin Roundtree and De Pinto to score, giving the Trojans a 3-0 lead after one inning.
Garcia held the Lions scoreless until the sixth, when he walked the leadoff hitter and was pulled after five-plus innings of solid work. That runner would score to give Garcia a final statline of three runs on five hits over five innings, striking out five and walking three.
“Garica gave us a nice outing,” Cruz said. “Probably one of his better starts of the season.”
Garcia was pleased with his start as well.
“As a Tuesday guy, you want to go five innings, maybe more,” Garcia said. “I got that done and the bullpen did the rest.”
USC added a run in the third when Oropesa smacked a double that one-hopped the wall in right-center, scoring De Pinto from first. The Trojans put up another in the fourth after De Pinto singled Houts home following a two-out triple.
The Trojans put the game out of reach in the sixth, when Roundtree whacked a two-out double. De Pinto followed that up with his second two-out RBI single of the day.
“It’s funny, because earlier in the season I felt I was hitting the ball hard and they were all being caught,” De Pinto said. “Now I don’t think I’m hitting them as well, but they’re finding the holes.”
Following an intentional walk of Oropesa, junior left fielder Matt Foat ripped a single to left-center that hopped past the Lions’ center fielder and rolled all the way to the wall, allowing De Pinto and Oropesa to trot home and give the Trojans an 8-3 lead.
“Two-out scoring is always important,” Cruz said. “That was really, really good to see.”
The Trojans added runs in both the seventh and eighth innings, the last run coming off a sacrifice fly by backup junior shortstop Ryan Bast — his first RBI of the season.
USC pitcher Austin Wood, who was knocked out of his Saturday start after only 19 pitches, came in for the ninth. The junior zipped it in to all four hitters he faced at a consistent 95 miles per hour and shut the door on the Trojans’ 10-3 win.
“I’ve been struggling a bit,” Wood said. “I haven’t been contributing as much as I wanted to. I just wanted to go out there, throw strikes and get my confidence back up.”
For the Trojans as a whole, confidence is growing.
“It’s been rare that we get good offense, good defense and good pitching in the same game,” De Pinto said. “But we got that today and hopefully we can use that as a springboard for this weekend.”
USC looks to continue its strong all-around play this weekend as it hosts No. 11 Stanford in a three-game series at Dedeaux Field.