LMU put together three singles in the top of the seventh inning taking a 1-0 lead on Mitchell Esser’s nubber that barely made it past the home plate dirt cut out. But USC quickly responded with a single run that came when Adam Landecker doubled home Kevin Swick.
In the eighth inning, it was all the new guys. Penn transfer Greg Zebrack singled and advanced to second on a sacrifice. Freshman Vahn Bozoian knocked home the game-winning run with a single to left field.
The Game Changer:
Sometimes it’s not the plays you make, but the plays you can’t make — the balls that are an inch or two from being outs or being home runs or are distinguished as fair or foul by only a baseball width. That was the case for LMU on Wednesday night.
Junior Kevin Garcia, a transfer third baseman from San Diego City College, appeared to be the game changer in a positive way in the seventh inning when his instinct and agility helped put the Lions on the scoreboard. With a runner on first and Garcia on third, Esser nudged a ball up the third base line around the home plate circle cut out. Garcia never hesitated taking off down the line, even though catcher Garrett Stubbs was quick to the ball. Stubbs tried to field and tag all in one motion, but Garcia leapt over the tag of the crouched Stubbs to score the game’s first run.
Fortunes can change quickly and they did for Garcia. In the Trojans go-ahead inning, Zebrack led off the frame with a sharply hit ball toward Garcia. The third baseman turned his chest as he tried to glove the hopper. The ball bounced away and went to the shortstop. Following a sacrifice, Garcia had a chance to keep Zebrack at second and keep the game tied.
But Bozoian ripped a bouncer past Garcia, who couldn’t knock the ball down, and the ball rolled into the outfield where the left fielder had no chance of nabbing Zebrack at the plate.
Best Defensive Play: With the game still scoreless, LMU appeared to have taken a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. The Lions had a runner on third with two outs when Brice Savage hit a hard grounder into the hole. Third baseman Kevin Swick lunged to his left, but wasn’t close enough to make a dive. Shortstop James Roberts wasn’t letting the ball get into the outfield, however.
Roberts extended his entire body as he dove to his right. The ball bounded into his glove. He hopped to his feet and flashed his strong arm, firing the ball across the diamond with a sidearm fling. Dante Flores barely had to move his glove at first base as the throw nailed Savage by a half step.
Best Pitch: Freshman reliever Kyle Davis had a rough start to his college career. On Saturday against Cal State Bakersfield, Davis threw only nine pitches. Eight of those were balls. That’s not the “look what I can contribute, Coach” type of debut you want to have. After an appearance like that, some freshmen don’t see the field again for weeks, if not months.
But USC head coach Dan Hubbs showed confidence in his young pitcher, throwing him back out in a tight game the very next day. Davis bounced back and produced 2 2/3 scoreless innings, including back-to-back strikeouts with runners on second and third in the top half of the ninth inning. When the Trojans put together a final-at-bat rally to tie and win the game in walk-off fashion, Davis was the beneficiary getting his first collegiate win.
One of the reasons Hubbs has faith in Davis is a 76 mph changeup that Davis considers his best pitch, though he said Hubbs disagrees. Davis used his fadeaway changeup against left-hander Mitchell Esser to end the game. The 6-foot, 190-pound right hander threw a one-strike changeup that Esser swung over as the bottom went spelunking down into the depths of catcher Garrett Stubbs’ glove.
Davis followed with another changeup in a similar spot on the outside corner, but beginning mid-thigh rather than just above the knee. By the time, the ball finished diving away from Esser it was perfectly at the top of the knee. Esser reached out and poked at the pitch, but because of the location, he could only squib the ball out toward the mound where Davis picked it up and fired to first to give USC the win.
USC freshman OF Vahn Bozoian is off to a hot start. He talks about his 5-for-9 start, USC’s freshman class and his game-winning hit Wednesday night:
USC head coach Dan Hubbs discusses his freshman contributors and how the team has been able to win back-to-back games with late rallies:
Loyola Marymount starting pitcher Patrick McGrath talks about his successful outing (6 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 4 K) in the cold conditions and the expectations he has to live up to as the midweek starter for a team with a strong weekend rotation:
- Patrick McGrath - 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, BB, 3 K
- Cullen Mahoney - 1-for-2, 2 BB
- Brent Wheatley - 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K
- Adam Landecker - 2-for-3, RBI
- Vahn Bozoian - 2-for-4, GW RBI
The Bottom Line:
Both teams left a ton of runners on base early in the game and when you do that, the smallest of errors, can cost you the game. Both starting pitchers looked good and both were adept at pitching with runners on base — something they had to do often.
USC’s youth will continue to get stronger every game, especially if the veteran leadership from guys like Adam Landecker and James Roberts continues to push the young bucks. For the Trojans to have success this season, they will need those young guns to mature quickly, like Kyle Davis has already.
For the Lions, they have to wake the bats up. Outside of a pair of five+ run innings Sunday, LMU has only scored five runs in three games. There are veteran bats in the top and middle of the lineup that should be propelling this team, but a lack of execution has hampered them so far this season. On Wednesday, nearly everything LMU tried to do backfired. USC catcher Garrett Stubbs threw out all three potential runners while the Lions had a couple of bunt situations that were anything but textbook.
LMU has no time to focus any practice effort to the issue as the Lions board a flight Thursday for a weekend series at Oregon. USC has a unique home and away split series with Cal State Northridge this weekend. The venue will change back and forth from Dedeaux Field to Matador Field and back to Dedeaux for the series finale.
Also check out the 13-shot photo gallery from the game.