Baseball swept by Huskies

Nick Lopez slides into home, scoring a run for the Trojans. Lopez has 31 RBIs and 6 home runs this season. (Patrick Hannan | Daily Trojan file photo)

If USC baseball wanted to make a late-season run at the Pac-12 tournament, it was crucial that they win some games against Washington. 

Unfortunately, missed opportunities were the theme of the weekend, and the Trojans lost three-straight frustratingly close games against the Huskies. 

“We’ve got to get better all the way around. We’re in last place in the Pac-12, so I think there’s no question that we need to get better at pitching, defense and offensively, and we’re in the process of making those improvements,” Head Coach Jason Gill said. 

In the first game of the series, the Trojan pitching was excellent. Sophomore right-hander Jaden Agassi had an excellent start, going five and one-third innings while only surrendering a single run. Redshirt junior righty Carson Lambert and redshirt sophomore righty Kyle Wisch combined to only give up one additional run in relief. 

However, the Trojan offense couldn’t score enough runs to beat that total. Redshirt sophomore outfielder Rhylan Thomas laid down a perfect bunt single to knock in redshirt sophomore infielder Johnny Olmstead in the fifth inning, but that proved to be the only run the Trojans could muster. To make matters worse, they left 10 men on base throughout the course of the game. 

Huskies freshman outfielder AJ Guerrero hit a solo homer in the eighth inning to put his team on top for good. Washington walked away with a hard-fought 2-1 win. 

Game two on Saturday was the opposite story. The Trojan offense was on fire, and the team scored 11 runs. Redshirt junior catcher Tyler Lozano, filling the DH role for the day, hit a two-run homer, Olmstead had a three-run bomb of his own, and the team had 18 total hits. 

Despite a dominant performance at the plate for USC, the same cannot be said for its pitching staff. Washington crossed the plate 16 times, out slugging the Trojans on their way to a 16-11 victory. 

The Trojans finally showcased a balanced attack in Sunday’s game. Sophomore right-hander Charlie Hurley and Lambert both had solid outings on the mound, limiting the Husky damage on offense. Tyresse Turner hit a crucial three-run home run to give the Trojans a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning. 

The Trojans wouldn’t trail again until the final inning. USC had pushed the lead to 6-4 before Wisch was brought in to close it out. Instead, he surrendered four runs, including yet another go ahead homer from the Huskies’ Guerrero. Washington was suddenly on top 8-6. 

The Trojans had no answer in their final opportunity to get a win in the bottom of the inning, and Washington prevailed 8-6, sweeping the series.

“[A loss] certainly affects you emotionally quite a bit differently knowing you’re three outs away from a possible win. But they all sting. None of them feel good,” Gill said. 

Despite the results, Gill saw the Trojans’ effort in the series as a silver lining. 

“I felt like they competed their tails off and it just didn’t go our way,” Gill said.  

The Sunday win was the Huskies’ ninth in their past 11 games. They are riding an end of season turnaround straight toward the inaugural Pac-12 tournament. 

USC, on the other hand, finds itself on the brink of elimination from the tournament after the crushing sweep.

But, they still have one final week of the season to make something happen. 

The Trojans will travel to Santa Barbara for their final non-conference matchup Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m., before heading to Stanford for their final Pac-12 series on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

“The goals are the same, we’re going to go out there and play as hard as we can and try to win the game, it hasn’t changed the whole year,” Gill said.