The USC baseball team won two out of three home games against Washington State over the weekend, with the final game ending in a tie.
USC opened the series Thursday with a 4-0 win. The Trojans took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when redshirt junior catcher CJ Stubbs scored on a single from junior right fielder Brady Shockey.
This score proved to be all they needed that night. Junior pitcher Connor Lunn put up a dominant performance for USC, hurling a complete game shutout while surrendering just four hits and no walks.
Lunn said he had been battling illness in the days before his start, but it didn’t seem to affect him on the mound. He lowered his earned run average to 2.3 on the season — the best mark on what has at times been a shaky USC starting staff.
The Trojans tacked on another run in the third inning on a groundout by sophomore third baseman Ben Ramirez, scoring senior shortstop Chase Bushor.
In the eighth, USC gave Lunn a cushion by adding 2 more runs. Junior first baseman John Thomas singled in Ramirez and an error later in the inning scored Stubbs for the 4-0 lead.
The Trojans had 11 hits Thursday, including two each from Shockey, freshman first baseman Clay Owens and junior left fielder Blake Sabol.
On Friday, USC jumped ahead early and maintained a big lead en route to a 10-1 victory. Junior center fielder Matthew Acosta’s RBI single scored Stubbs for a 1-0 lead in the first inning. USC added 5 runs in the second inning, highlighted by 2-run singles from Stubbs and Acosta.
“[The early lead] takes away Washington State’s offense,” Stubbs said. “They want to get guys on base and move them over with the bunt and hit-and-run, because they’ve struggled offensively … by taking that away, we allow our defense to just go to work.”
Junior second baseman Tyler Pritchard scored Owens on a sacrifice fly in the third inning, his second RBI of the game. After a fourth inning RBI single by Ramirez and sacrifice fly by Bushor, the game was well out of reach at 9-0. Freshman designated hitter Preston Hartsell’s RBI fielder’s choice in the fifth gave the Trojans their 10th and final run of the game.
“I thought we were pretty relentless,” head coach Dan Hubbs said.
Sophomore pitcher Isaac Esqueda started the game with six scoreless innings for USC. Pitchers sophomore Kyle Hurt, junior Austin Manning and freshman Calvin Schapira each threw one inning. WSU’s lone run came on a passed ball in the eighth inning.
“It’s just basically getting the curveball for a strike on a 1-1 or 0-0 count,” Esqueda said of slowing the Cougars’ bats. “Just having that good command on 0-2 just to put them away, getting it over just to get ground balls and have my defense behind my back [helping] me out.”
Saturday’s game wasn’t quite as smooth, ending in a 10-10 tie after the 12th inning. Sophomore designated hitter Jamal O’Guinn gave the Trojans a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a 2-run homer to right-center field, but the Cougars piled on 6 runs in the third against freshman pitcher Carson Lambert. WSU had six hits in the inning, including a grand slam.
The teams traded 2-run innings in the sixth to put the Cougars up 8-4.
WSU increased its lead to 5 runs in the ninth inning. What seemed then like a meaningless run proved crucial.
USC strung together three consecutive singles to load the bases with one out in the ninth. Stubbs hit a pinch-hit 2-run single to cut the lead to 3. Sabol became the tying run with an RBI single. Ramirez later came to the plate with the bases loaded, down a run with two outs in the ninth.
Ramirez was hit in the leg with a pitch, scoring Sabol to complete the improbable comeback. WSU got out of the inning, and the teams headed for extras.
“The kids believe in each other,” Hubbs said of the rally. “They’ve done it enough that they believe they can do it again.”
The Cougars went down 1-2-3 in the 10th. In the bottom half, Hartsell aggressively tried to score from second on an error but was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
After another 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 11th, O’Guinn was picked off at second with two outs to send the game to the 12th.
WSU took a 10-9 lead on a suicide squeeze in their half. Again, USC answered back. Shockey’s RBI double tied the score at 10. The Cougars escaped the inning, and in somewhat anticlimactic fashion, the game was ruled a tie due to travel restrictions for Washington State.
Still, the Trojans took the series, moving to 17-20-1 overall and 8-9-1 in Pac-12 play. USC will host UC Irvine at Dedeaux Field Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Anteaters are 25-9 and are 6-1 against Pac-12 teams this season.
“We’re going to have to bring it because they’ve been beating a lot of really good teams,” Hubbs said of the Trojans’ upcoming match against the Anteaters.