Trojans play host to Loyola Marymount

After a series against California over the weekend that was one of the most exciting in memory at Dedeaux Field, with all three games being decided in the ninth inning, it would be easy for the USC baseball team to lose a bit of focus on its game against Loyola Marymount on Tuesday.

Coolin’ down · Freshman pitcher Stephen Tarpley (above) will rest while freshman Nigel Nootbaar starts against Loyola Marymount. - Luciano Nunez | Daily Trojan

After all, it’s a midweek nonconference game against a sub-.500 team in the Lions (13-14). But USC coach Frank Cruz says the Trojans (19-10) can’t have that mentality and expect to compete.

“We can’t look past anyone,” Cruz said. “But that’s something I’ve really noticed about this team. They come ready to play every day.”

With an off day Sunday, the Trojans have had a bit of extra time to get ready for the Lions. LMU has won five of its last seven games but dropped the series to Brigham Young over the weekend.

Cruz specifically singled out LMU’s defensive ability. The Lions are fielding at a .973 percentage on the season, meaning the Trojans will have to hit the ball solidly to get runners on.

“It’s another Tuesday where any team could win,” Cruz said. “It’s probably going to come down to who’s more ready to play.”

As is often the case for midweek games, the starting pitcher for the Trojans is in flux until the last minute.

Cruz said he contemplated starting freshman Stephen Tarpley.

Usually the Sunday starter, Tarpley instead threw Thursday against Cal and wasn’t scheduled to start again until next Sunday, giving him a full four days rest each time.

Cruz, however, has chosen to rest his young lefty and start freshman Nigel Nootbaar, who has yet to allow a run this season — albeit with a very limited 5 2/3 innings of work.

Cruz said that Nootbaar would only go a few innings tomorrow before the game is handed over to the bullpen. He is hesitant to throw anyone for too long in order to save them for the weekend.

There could be a very interesting backstory to tonight’s game, as Cruz was the head coach at LMU from 1997-2008. Though no one currently on the Lions played for Cruz, some of the seniors there recruited were by him.