But it wasn’t even the most important baseball game played in Los Angeles.
The city’s bragging rights were at stake a mere six miles away, as USC hosted archrival UCLA in the rubber match of a three-game set at Dedeaux Field. The Bruins had won Saturday’s contest 14-4, while the Trojans responded with a 5-1 Sunday.
But Monday night saw the visiting Bruins pull away to a 13-0 lead through five innings, eliminating the possibility of any dramatics. UCLA (7-13, 2-1 Pac-10) eventually cruised to a 17-2 victory to claim a series win in the first weekend of conference play.
“The players always get up to play USC,” UCLA coach John Savage said.
“It was a huge win,” said Bruin infielder Casey Haerther. “Any win on the road is big in the Pac-10. Hopefully this will turn our season around.”
Haerther got things started by breaking a scoreless tie with a monstrous three-run home run in the third inning. The junior’s tape-measure shot cleared a 100-foot high net in left-center field.
“From the at-bat before he kept throwing me changeups,” Haerther said. “I sat on a changeup, got it, and put a good swing on it. I think that got us rolling tonight.”
As Haerther said, things only worsened for USC (8-10, 1-2) from that point on.
The Bruins piled on three more runs in the third before junior outfielder Justin Uribe capped a seven-run fifth with a grand slam to right field. The Trojans didn’t help their cause, committing six fielding errors.
The run support was more than enough for UCLA right-hander Charles Brewer. The junior from Paradise Valley, Ariz. struck out seven batters in 6.1 innings.
“Brewer has made some adjustments to his delivery,” Savage said in reference to Brewer’s early-season struggles. “The fastball is really coming out of his hand right now. He’s throwing strikes.”
Despite being overwhelmed on the field – Monday night’s defeat was the worst ever for USC in the crosstown baseball rivalry – the bigger loss might have occurred before the game began. USC shortstop Grant Green, a prized major league prospect, felt discomfort while fielding ground balls during pregame drills. But in order to keep one of his best hitters in the lineup, USC head coach Chad Kreuter moved Green from shortstop to a less-demanding position at first. After an uneventful top half of the first inning defensively, Green’s condition worsened when he stepped into the batter’s box. Green fouled a pitch off of his leg before striking out on a breaking ball off the plate. He limped back to the USC dugout and gestured that he was done for the night.
It was later announced that Green suffered an ankle injury and is listed day-to-day.
The series victory, in Savage’s view, had implications that extend further than who is tabbed as the city superior.
“I don’t necessarily agree on playing a Pac-10 series a day after taking finals,” Savage said. “But I think our players really stepped up and they did what they had to do in the classroom. You’ve got to give our players credit for concentrating on the academic side and coming out to win a series we really needed to win.”
Blair Angulo is currently the Assistant Sports Editor for The Daily Bruin. He will occasionally check in with articles for The College Baseball Blog during the season.