LONG BEACH, Calif. — On Saturday and Sunday, Brandon Garcia propelled USC to victory with his bat, knocking home runs in both games. Tuesday night at Blair Field, the senior co-captain used his right arm to help the Trojans to a 4-2 victory against Long Beach State.
Garcia picked up the win on the mound pitching 5 2/3 innings. He gave up two runs, one earned, on five hits and one walk while striking out four.
With Garcia pitching, Jake Hernandez took his spot at designated hitter and went 2-for-4 with an RBI double. Matt Foat also picked up the slack going 3-for-5 with a double.
For Long Beach State, Brennan Metzger was one of the only bright spots. He had three of the Dirtbags’ five hits.
5 Things to Take Away
1. Making Things Happen – Last season, USC stole only 33 bases led by since-graduated Joe De Pinto’s nine. No other Trojan had more than three. While this year’s squad isn’t going to set any stolen base records, the team has been more aggressive.
USC has three stolen bases but has deployed the hit and run to success several times already this season, including twice perfectly executing it Tuesday night.
The game-winning run came in the fourth inning after Hernandez hit a hard grounder through the right side where the second baseman would have been. Runnin on the pitch, Alex Sherrod never slowed down, advanced to third base where he eventually scored on a groundout. In USC’s final at bat, Garret Houts was able to load the base with a dribbler that only went about 100 feet, but was perfectly placed where the second baseman had vacated to cover second base.
2. Disappearing Bats – The top of Long Beach’s lineup never showed up tonight. The infielders, which batted 1-4 in the lineup, were a combined 0-for-15 Tuesday night. (In comparison, USC’s 1-4 hitters combined for eight hits.) Jeff McNeil, Michael Hill and Matt Duffy’s early season struggles continued. The trio is a combined 7-for-37 (.189) through four games.
Head coach Troy Buckley talks about USC making things happen and the Dirtbags’ disappearing bats:
3. Long Ways Away – USC is now 4-0. The last time they started the season 4-0 was 2005. That also happens to be the last time the Trojans made the NCAA Tournament. What does coach Frank Cruz think about that?
“We’re a long ways away,” he said with a chuckle. “We’re just trying to get better. Take a day off tomorrow, come back Thursday and try to get ready for the weekend.”
And if the Trojans win this weekend against Akron? Then they’ll be in company with the last USC team to make the College World Series. The Mark Prior-led 2001 Trojans started the season 6-0 en route to a 45-19 record and a trip to Omaha.
4. Unhittable – Relievers Brad Douthit, Matt Munson, Bobby Wheatley and Wyatt Strahan pitched the final 3 1/3 innings without allowing a single hit. Lefties Douthit and Wheatley each recorded a single out. Munson got a pair.
The big, redheaded righty, Strahan, pitched the final two innings. Even with fifth-year senior Martin Viramontes, who closed out Sunday’s win, warmed in the pen, Cruz chose to give the freshman the opportunity for the save. Strahan was drafted in the 27th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks coming out of high school, but chose to attend USC and could become USC’s full-time closer in the future.
5. Resilient Trojans – In the second inning, the USC defense let down Garcia. An easy popup behind first base fell between three fielders after a miscommunication. After a stolen base and an infield single, Garcia balked in a run. An error by shortstop James Roberts allowed another runner to reach. A single to center field gave the Dirtbags a 2-1 lead.
The last two years I’ve seen a similar inning turn into four or five runs and completely turn the tide of the game. On Tuesday night, Garcia continued to have faith in his infielders. He got another ground ball and was out of the inning.
Instead of letting one inning change the entire game, USC responded by tying the game the next half inning and taking the lead the inning after. From there, the Trojans were solid on defense, not committing another error.
Also check out the full photo gallery from Tuesday night’s game at Blair Field.