USC sweeps Dixie State in three-game weekend series

Jamal O'Guinn swinging at a pitch in a game against Dixie State.
Redshirt junior outfielder Jamal O’Guinn hits a double in the sixth inning of USC’s 10-3 win over Dixie State Saturday. O’Guinn leads USC in RBI’s this season with 29. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan)

USC won 6-5 Sunday to complete a clean sweep of the Dixie State Trailblazers at Dedeaux Field. The wins have continued a turnaround after a rough 3-6 start for the Trojans. They now sit at 15-11 overall with a 5-4 record in conference play, putting them at sixth in the Pac-12. 

In the series opener Friday, the Trojans dominated, logging season highs in both runs and hits. The Trojans started the game hot, and Dixie State had no answer. In the first two innings, USC scored nine runs. Junior infielder Ben Ramirez hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the first, and sophomore first baseman Clay Owens followed with one of his own shortly after. 

Dixie State struggled to respond, scoring just one run on a single from sophomore outfielder Ben Petty-Hull in the seventh inning. In the same inning, the Trojans scored four of their own, ending with redshirt junior outfielder Bart West scoring on a flyout. 

The resounding 14-1 win in Friday’s series opener was a genuine team effort, with RBI’s coming from eight different players. 

On the defensive side, junior pitcher Isaac Esqueda had a great day at the mound, setting the tone by holding the Trailblazers scoreless in his six innings pitched. Esqueda has had a fantastic season, and is 4-1 on the year with a 1.99 earned run average, eighth in the entire Pac-12

On Saturday, the Trojans continued their success at the plate, scoring seven runs in the first two innings. Redshirt junior outfielder Jamal O’Guinn set the tone in this one with a three-run homer in the first after Ramirez did the same on Friday. 

Sophomore first baseman Clay Owens and sophomore infielder Tyler Lozano also hit home runs in the third and fourth innings, respectively. Owens’ homer brought in Ramirez, who scored his third run of the game to extend USC’s lead to 10-0. 

Freshman first baseman Chase Rodriguez’s two-RBI double for Dixie State in the seventh inning was the first response to the Trojans’ barrage of scoring all day. However, it was not enough to stop USC, who solidified the series win on Saturday, winning by a score of 10-3.

“I thought we executed well,” head coach Jason Gill said. “We got on base, we moved guys over, we situationally hit really well.” 

After two blowout wins, only one win stood between the Trojans and a series sweep. 

The game Sunday would prove to be more of a challenge for Ramirez and company. USC went down 1-0 after a wild pitch from sophomore starting pitcher Alex Cornwell. Ramirez immediately responded with a game-tying solo homer. 

After freshman infielder Shane Taylor’s RBI for Dixie State and O’Guinn’s for the Trojans, the game stood at 2-2 going into the sixth inning. 

“It starts on the mound in Alex Cornwell, and our defense played really well behind Alex,” Gill said. 

Cornwell’s pitching in this game and the entire USC defense prevented Dixie State from breaking away even after a slow start at the plate for the Trojans. 

Finally, the Trojans started rolling with four runs in the sixth frame. A two-run homer by O’Guinn led to two of the runs. O’Guinn is leading the team in RBI’s this season with 29.

The end of the game was not a breeze. Dixie State returned with a vengeance and scored in the eighth and ninth innings, putting the score at 5-6. The Trojans were able to hold the Trailblazers off to complete the sweep, but it was a nerve-racking ending. 

When asked about the close ending, Gill responded, “We are just going to prepare, go to work, and look at the video and see if there’s anything we can tweak.” 

The Trojans must be at their best heading into their game against Fresno State on Tuesday, followed by a crucial series against a Pac-12 opponent in Oregon this weekend. The first pitch between USC and Fresno State is at 6 p.m.