It was tough sledding for the Southern California programs this weekend as only the cream of the crop came away with a winning record.
USC and UCLA hosted the Dodgertown Classic, bringing in a pair of ranked squads for competition. San Diego also hosted a tournament at its new Fowler Park, inviting three Northern squads to come down and enjoy the sunshine and quality baseball.
Cal State Fullerton hosted an SEC squad while UC Riverside and Loyola Marymount went on the road to face squads that could vie for the Mountain West and Big 12 championships.
We provided you with live updates on Twitter (@SoCal_CBDaily) throughout the weekend, but here’s a recap of all the weekend action:
There were two tournaments being hosted in SoCal this weekend with the Dodgertown Classic and the USD Tournament, so we’ll start this week’s rundown there:
#12 UCLA in Dodgertown Classic— The Bruins struggled scoring runs throughout the weekend, but earned the non-existant Dodgertown Classic title with a 2-1 record. Eric Filia pushed the Bruins to a 2-1 extra inning win on Friday night against No. 22 Notre Dame. Adam Plutko was solid through seven innings (4 H, ER, 4 K), but received a no-decision.
Against Oklahoma on Saturday, UCLA ran into a buzzsaw named Jonathan Gray, who was at his best, hitting 100 mph on multiple occasions and 101 on a few radar guns. Nick Vander Tuig pitched well for the Bruins, but made one mistake (that wasn’t even that bad of a pitch) and Matt Oberste drove the ball out of the park for a three-run homer. The Bruins got the bats going a little bit against USC, knocking 10 hits, but stranded 14 hitters in a frustrating 6-1 victory. Grant Watson (see Diamond Studs below) was spectacular for UCLA in the win.
USC in Dodgertown Classic – The Trojans further cemented the fact that they are a talented, but young team. They went 1-2 against three ranked teams for the weekend, but execution of a squeeze kept them from potentially winning Saturday’s game against Notre Dame. On Friday night, Adam Landecker (3-4, 2B, 4 RBI) returned from a hamstring injury to lead USC to a 5-3 win over Oklahoma. The Trojans knocked around OU’s Dillon Overton, one of the top left-handed pitchers in the country, for 13 hits and five runs.
With runners on the corners and one out in the bottom of the ninth Saturday, Jake Hernandez popped up a suicide squeeze, leading to an easy double play to end the game, allowing Notre Dame to escape with a 2-1 win. The Trojans weren’t as competitive on Sunday against rival UCLA due to 11 free bases (nine walks and two hit batsmen) issued by the pitching staff, falling 6-1.
San Diego in USD Tournament— The Toreros had a nice little run going, having won eight of nine, but they stumbled through their own tournament because of inconsistency — something they are likely to battle against all season. San Diego has the frontline pitching and the bats to be a contender in June and July, but there are big questions about the bullpen and defense. On Friday night, Michael Wagner was strong in an abbreviated start (5 IP, ER), but as soon as he came out St. Louis pounced all over Wes Judish, who gave up two hits and two walks before being removed without recording an out.
San Diego’s offense carried the team in a pair of games Saturday, getting a measure of revenge against the Billikens with an 11-3 win and dominating Holy Cross 17-2. But Michigan took a 5-2 win on Sunday, scoring four unearned runs in the eighth inning when USD reliever Trevor Bayless made an error fielding a bunt. In total, the Toreroes committed six errors on the weekend. Not a recipe for success even with the week Kris Bryant produced (see Diamond Studs below).
Pitcher of the Week:
Grant Watson (UCLA) —Last season’s swing man between the bullpen and weekday starts, Grant Watson fine tuned his repertoire in the offseason and has been UCLA’s most effective pitcher and that includes preseason All-Americans Adam Plutko and David Berg. Against USC on Sunday, he threw only 77 pitches as he strolled through seven innings, allowing only three hits, no walks and giving up his only run on a solo home run. Watson improved to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.35. He has a 17 to 2 strikeout to walk ratio and has given up only 15 hits in 26 2/3 innings this season.
Honorable Mention: Justin Garza (Fullerton), Louie Lechich (San Diego), Matt Whitehouse (Irvine), Bobby Wheatley (USC), Colin Welmon (LMU), Michael Cederoth (San Diego State).
Player of the Week:
Kris Bryant (San Diego) —Monster. Beast. Fierce. Terrifying. Several other applicable descriptions. They should all be used in reference to Kris Bryant’s week because he just went off on opposing pitching. Bryant currently leads the country in walks (21) and runs (27), is tied with New Mexico’s DJ Peterson for the home run lead (8) and trails only Peterson in total bases (52). He also is in the top five in slugging percentage (.897) and, though NCAA.com doesn’t track it, he has to be near the top of OPS with a 1.453 mark. He ranks so highly after a week that saw him go 9 for 19 with a double, five home runs (coming in the final four games of the five-game homer streak he had snapped Saturday night), nine RBI and 12 runs scored.
Honorable Mention: Richy Pedroza (Fullerton), Connor Joe (San Diego), Joe Chavez (Riverside), Connor Spencer (Irvine), David Edwards (LMU), Adam Landecker (USC)
Caught in ‘The Rundown’
#8 Cal State Fullerton vs. Texas A&M—Thomas Eshelman suffered his first loss of the season, but the Titans rallied for the final two games of the weekend to take the series. Justin Garza (7 IP, 5 H, BB, 6 K), Koby Gauna and Michael Lorenzen combined for a seven-hit shutout Saturday night and Lorenzen held off a ninth-inning rally for his fourth save on Sunday to push the Titans to a 13-3 record. Richy Pedroza batted .500 for the weekend, getting on base eight times at the top of the order. Austin Diemer contributed a pair of hits in both of his starts.
UC Riverside at New Mexico— The Highlanders could be a surprise team that could compete in the Big West. They split a four-game set with a New Mexico squad that is expected to be one of the frontrunners in the Mountain West. There was a ton of offense in the four games as the teams combined for 86 runs with the average score being around 12-9. Four different UC Riverside hitters recorded a four-hit game, one of which was freshman Joe Chavez, who was named Big West Player of the Week after recording multi-hit performances in all five games last week.
Disappointing Series Loss:
Cal State Northridge at Sacramento State— Northridge made 16 pitching changes, but couldn’t find the exact formula needed to take a series at Sacramento State. The Hornets took a walk-off win on Friday after scoring the tying run in the eighth and winning in the bottom of the ninth. The Matadors bounced back with a come-from-behind victory on Saturday. They scored four runs in the eighth inning with five consecutive singles, an error and a sac fly and held on for a 5-3 win. In the finale, Brandon Warner got hit around for five runs in 1 1/3 innings and Northridge was never able to catch up. Nate Ring had five hits, and in each game, he drove in a run.
UC Irvine at Brigham Young – BYU used a big inning on Thursday and Friday to beat Irvine aces Andrew Thurman and Matt Whitehouse and take the series. But Andrew Morales, who now leads the nation with five wins, helped the ‘Eaters salvage a win with the help of Connor Spencer and Ronnie Shaeffer, who combined for five hits and five RBI in the series finale.
Loyola Marymount at Oklahoma State — Once again, LMU fell just short. On the cusp of a series win, the Lions allowed the tying run and the winning run to score in the eight and ninth innings on Sunday to allow the Cowboys to take the series. Loyola Marymount closer Bret Dahlson twice had to put his head down and walk off the field after giving up a walk-off home run in the 10th inning of Friday’s 2-1 loss and a game-winning single with two outs in the ninth Sunday.
The Lions got great “starting” pitching all weekend. Despite only two hits of offensive support, Colin Welmon went seven innings on Friday. His scoreless inning streak was snapped, but he hasn’t allowed an earned run in 24 innings now. Patrick McGrath pitched two innings in the second game before normal Saturday starter Trevor Megill entered and pitched five solid innings of a 5-2 win. Aaron Griffin pitched into the eighth inning of Sunday’s 4-3 loss.
Long Beach State at #23 Arizona State—The Dirtbags got 11 hits…all weekend. Arizona State won by a combined score of 21-2 thanks to back-to-back shutouts by Trevor Williams and the combo of Ryan Kellogg, Alex Blackford and Matt Dunbar. Long Beach State finally got on the board in the fifth inning of Sunday’s matchup, but only after giving up a nine-run fourth inning. This is a weekend the Dirtbags will prefer not to remember ever happened.
San Diego State at #16 Arkansas—The starting rotation kept San Diego State in all four games, but the bullpen allowed 10 runs in 7 1/3 innings, including a walk-off homer by Joe Serrano in the second game. Much like against Oregon State, the Aztecs again struggled to put enough runs on the board against a top 20 opponent. Their two biggest catalysts, Greg Allen and Tim Zier, combined to reach base six times, but they need the duo on base more and creating havoc when they are.
Pepperdine vs. Seton Hall— Seton Hall is not likely to compete with Notre Dame and Louisville at the top of the Big East, but it did a number on Pepperdine this weekend. The Pirates entered 0-9, but swept the Waves. Pepperdine scored only six runs and had only 19 hits. The Waves, already without second baseman Hutton Meyer, also lost catcher Nate Johnson likely for an extended period of time with a knee injury. Aaron Brown returned to the mound, after hamate bone surgery, but struggled on Sunday and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. Ace Scott Frazier gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings and the defense committed five errors.