Fresh off a series win against Cal and an early-week victory against Cal State Fullerton, baseball rode a three-game winning streak into its series against No. 17 UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.
After dropping the first two contests at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, the Trojans returned to Los Angeles on Saturday trying to avoid a sweep in the series finale. They defeated UCSB 9-5.
Redshirt junior Joe Navilhon was sharp in his second start of the season. The righty gave up 2 runs in his first three innings of work but then settled down, shutting out the Gauchos across the next three frames. He exited after the longest start of his career with one out in the seventh and a 9-2 lead. Junior Jeff Paschke entered in relief and gave up a 2-run triple, completing Navilhon’s line.
“Joe picked us up today,” head coach Dan Hubbs said. “He minimized [the damage]. He didn’t let innings be big innings. Everything was small.”
Navilhon is still in the process of adjusting to his new role in the rotation after spending the early years of his Trojan career in the bullpen, but he was comfortable starting on the mound on Saturday.
“I felt pretty strong as the game went along,” Navilhon said. “I wish I could have finished that seventh inning, but I knew my teammates were going to come in and get the job done if I didn’t.”
Senior center fielder Timmy Robinson led the way for the Trojan bats, belting 2 long homers and driving in 5. The first four hitters in the USC lineup accounted for all of the RBIs, as senior AJ Ramirez, redshirt junior David Edson and junior Jeremy Martinez combined to drive in the remaining 4 runs in the Trojans’ victory.
“Everybody did their part,” Robinson said. “It was a great team win. We had people consistently getting on base, which is what makes for all those RBIs.”
Hubbs agreed with his slugger.
“Up and down the lineup, we had good at-bats,” Hubbs said.
The win brought USC back to .500 at 11-11 on the season and it salvaged a tough three-game set, which had not gotten off to a good start in Santa Barbara. The Trojans fell 10-1 on Thursday, as senior Brent Wheatley took the ball for the series opener.
The veteran right-hander struggled, scattering eight hits and three walks across five innings of work and giving up 5 runs (4 earned). Sophomore Mason Perryman and redshirt freshman Bryce Dyrda came on in relief combining to also give up 5 runs in two innings. USC’s bats were kept silent all night, as sophomore Shane Bieber worked seven strong innings for the Gauchos, giving up just one run en route to a comfortable fourth win of the season.
Sophomore Brad Wegman toed the rubber on Friday, and the offense staked him an early lead with runs in the first and third innings. Wegman began to labor in the fourth, however, and departed with one out in the fifth inning after giving up 3 runs — 4 earned, the last on another costly USC error. The Trojans were blanked across the remaining frames, losing the game, 5-2, and the series.
“[UCSB] did a really good job over the first two days,” Hubbs said. “They played good defense, they didn’t give us any free passes and they kept the ball down.”
Hubbs said the team is at its best when players don’t try to do too much, but he admitted they had begun to press in Santa Barbara.
“We got a little bit frustrated during the first two days because they pounded the zone below the knees, and we gave them too much,” he said. “[On Friday], we only gave up three hits, but then we gave them 5 runs.”
Hubbs and company will hope that Saturday’s positives are a springboard into the upcoming grind of conference play.
“We still have a lot of season left,” Robinson said. “Hopefully we can carry on.”
Next up for USC is Loyola Marymount, as the Lions visit Dedeaux Field on Tuesday night. The two sides met at LMU in February, with the Trojans taking a close 4-3 victory. USC will then head north for a series on the road against Stanford.