Baseball kicks off Dodger Stadium Classic

The Trojans (6-2) get the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic underway on Friday against San Diego (4-2) at 6 p.m. at Dedeaux Field.

Historically the Trojans have had few problems against the Toreros, boasting a 20-4 record in past outings with the latest being a 3-2 Trojans win in 2008.

Junior ace Mitch Hart will most likely take the mound Friday night, with junior pitcher Brad Wegman and sophomore pitcher Marrick Crouse to follow in the games against Michigan (6-2) on Saturday night and UCLA (4-3) on Sunday afternoon.

“On the mound, whether it’s Mitch Hart or Brad Wegman or Marrick Crouse, we’re going to need those guys to really step up and be significant weekend starters in our league,” head coach Dan Hubbs said.

The College Baseball Classic has been around since 2010 and has always involved the two hometown teams, USC and UCLA, as hosts. However, the other two teams featured in the tournament have been a revolving door of talent from across the country.

This year the classic will feature Michigan and San Diego, while past classics have featured reputable teams such as Vanderbilt and TCU.

Michigan and San Diego are making their first appearances in the classic and will play the first game of the doubleheader at Dodger Stadium on Sunday morning after playing each of the other teams throughout the weekend.

Historically, UCLA has had the upper hand, winning four of the six matchups. Last year, UCLA pulled out a victory in a 14-inning 5-3 win.

Despite UCLA initially being ranked ahead of USC in preseason standings, the Trojans sit at No. 3 in the Pac-12, and UCLA stands at No. 8. USC is also currently ahead in team batting average (.293 to .250) and team fielding (.986 to .980).

“The UCLA series is always fun since they’re our hometown rival,” senior outfielder Corey Dempster said on the two teams’ first matchup of the season.

The Trojans are coming off a 2-0 win against Duke in North Carolina with a career-best performance from junior pitcher Mason Perryman. They have had a few days to recover from the cross-country road trip.

Players to look out for are Dempster, redshirt junior Frankie Rios and sophomore slugger Lars Nootbaar. Nootbaar follows with an average of .462 in 26 at bats with a Pac-12-leading four home runs.

He is also tied for second with 12 RBIs. In addition, freshman infielder John Thomas is No. 6 in Pac-12 batting average (minimum three plate appearances) with an average of .500.

Dempster recently returned to the starting lineup with a bang. He hit two home runs over the road trip to North Carolina. 

“Dempster had a really good year for us last year in the outfield and hit .290,” Hubbs said. “He is returning as one of our top home-run hitters.”

The Trojans have been wielding a hot bat and should have few issues with run production this weekend. USC will have to rely on its pitching to hold down the offenses of San Diego, Michigan and UCLA if it wants to find success this weekend.