Trojans take to the desert to face off against Arizona
After a four-game road swing, the USC baseball team had a home game Tuesday.
But with the way the team played in the 7-1 loss to Long Beach State, USC interim coach Frank Cruz is probably happy to get back on the road.
The Trojans (18-22, 8-7) will finish a swing in which seven of eight games have been away from Dedeaux Field this weekend when they travel to Frank Sancet Stadium to take on Arizona.
The Wildcats (24-16, 6-9) welcome USC on Friday night at 5 p.m. hoping to turn around recent struggles. Arizona lost to rival Arizona State for the fourth time this season Tuesday and has lost five of six games.
After being ranked as high as No. 11 following a 17-5 start, Arizona has run into trouble since starting Pac-10 play. The Wildcats are only 6-9 in conference games and have only won one series despite winning the series opener four of five times.
They’ve been so successful in game one because of the arm of Orange County’s Kurt Heyer. The sophomore right-hander has a 6-3 record, a minuscule 2.20 ERA and has struck out 95 batters in 86 innings while issuing only 20 base on balls.
Heyer, however, started on three-days rest Tuesday as the Wildcats tried to take down their archrivals, so it will be Kyle Simon on the mound Friday night. The 6-foot-5 righty has a 7-3 record with a 2.95 ERA. He is coming off a three-hit complete game against Oregon in his last start.
To beat Simon, USC will need junior Andrew Triggs (3-3, 4.52 ERA) to replicate his performance from last week when he threw a complete game five-hitter as the Trojans beat Washington 2-1.
Junior Austin Wood (4-5, 4.69 ERA) will start Saturday for USC. He will likely take on Tyler Hale (3-4, 5.26 ERA), who isn’t on firm ground. Hale is 0-4 in Pac-10 play, and his ERA jumped to 9.43 after he allowed four runs in one and two-thirds innings in his last start.
The series finale will feature senior Logan Odom (3-5, 3.49 ERA), who has helped the Trojans win their last three conference series. Odom won the rubber match in two of those series.
Arizona’s Sunday starter has still yet to be determined. But don’t be surprised to see Heyer return even though it’s unconventional to see collegiate starters pitch a midweek and weekend game. If he doesn’t start, he’s likely to be used as a reliever throughout the series.
If the Trojans want to improve on their fourth place standing in the Pac-10, they need to get into Arizona’s bullpen where the Wildcats have a 5.79 ERA this season.
USC will also have to contain an offense that averages 6.7 runs per game and is hitting .320 as a team. Joey Rickard (.402) and Cole Frenzel (.387) lead an Arizona offense that features six hitters batting .315 and above.
In comparison, the Trojans’ offense has only two batters hitting better than .300 with junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa’s .345 batting average, six home runs and 33 RBI leading the way.
The Trojans will try to return to their winning ways after their five-game streak was broken last week.
Before losing its last two games, USC had won eight of 10 games.