The Trojans claimed one victory in their three-game series against No. 1-ranked UCLA over the weekend.
USC won the first game of the series 7-2 at Dedeaux Field. The Trojans got off to a hot start with an RBI single from junior left fielder Blake Sabol in the first inning. The team quickly added another run in the third inning, courtesy of sophomore designated hitter Jamal O’Guinn.
The Trojans took complete control of the game in the fifth inning, scoring 3 more runs and taking a 5-0 lead. Junior center fielder Matthew Acosta piled on the runs as he hit a 2-run home run in the fifth, his second of the year. The Trojans went on to score 1 more that inning, courtesy of senior shortstop Chase Bushor.
The Bruins had trouble handling Trojan junior pitcher Connor Lunn, who started the season as the Trojans’ go-to closer, pitched nearly the entire game and departed the contest just one batter shy of going the full nine innings. He threw eight strikeouts and only allowed 2 earned runs against the top-seeded team in the country.
“So that actually is the longest outing of my career,” Lunn told the team’s official Twitter account after the game. “I kind of felt like everything was working today. I was pitching off my fastball a lot. I was throwing the slider a little bit. I was trying to mix locations a little bit and take it slow.”
USC head coach Dan Hubbs praised both his team and his star pitcher after the game.
“I told our guys after the game, I thought this was our most complete game of the year when you factor in how Connor pitched and how we played defense,” Hubbs said. “I mean we made some really nice plays on defense.”
However, the Trojans were unable to maintain their form from Friday’s game for the rest of the series, losing the second and third games 7-1 and 9-2, respectively.
The Bruins came out fast and firing in the second game of the series as they put up 3 runs in the first inning thanks to a 3-run shot from senior designated hitter Jake Pries. The Bruins were in complete control throughout the game and were up by 7 runs by the end of the fourth inning.
UCLA redshirt junior pitcher Jack Ralston was nearly unhittable in the game. Like Lunn in the series opener, Ralston was just one out shy of pitching a complete game. He was lights out on the mound, allowing only 1 earned run and throwing four strikeouts.
“Their kid threw really well,” Hubbs said after the game. “I mean that’s kind of the game, right? Yesterday Connor threw really well, and we beat them 7-2. Today their kid threw really well, and they won 7-1.”
In the final game of the series, the Trojans got off to an early lead in the first inning with an RBI sacrifice fly from sophomore third baseman Ben Ramirez. The team was only able to score 1 run in the bottom of the first despite loading the bases.
UCLA quickly countered with 2 runs of its own in the top of the second, but the Trojans scored 1 on a UCLA throwing error in the second inning to level the score.
However, the Trojans were unable to score any more runs for the rest of the game and allowed the Bruins to score 7 more to take the game, 9-2.
The game marked yet another loss for sophomore pitcher Kyle Hurt, who has been unable to replicate his promising freshman season. Hurt, who came into the season as the Trojans’ number one starting pitcher, has yet to win a game this year, currently sporting an 0-4 record.
The Trojans now sit at 10-16 on the year and will continue to face tough opponents both in and out of conference play.
USC will follow up this series with an away game at UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos have looked impressive this season with a record of 19-5 on the year. Earlier this season, the Gauchos defeated the Trojans at Dedeaux Field by a score of 2-1.
The matchup will take place at UC Santa Barbara at 3 p.m. Tuesday.