USC looks to end four-game losing skid

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first_imgUSC baseball interim head coach Frank Cruz knows his team can play with ranked teams, but he’s anxious to see how his team plays against a top-10 opponent.Taking the hill · USC ace Andrew Triggs will get the start on Friday. Triggs has struggled so far this season with a 6.75 ERA through two starts. – Daily Trojan file photo Cruz will find out this weekend when the Trojans (3-5) take on No. 7 Cal State Fullerton (6-3) in a split home-and-away weekend series that will begin tonight at 7 p.m. at Goodwin Field in Fullerton, Calif.The two teams will again face off at Goodwin Field Saturday at 6 p.m. before playing the series finale Sunday at Dedeaux Field at 1 p.m.USC has lost four consecutive games, each time giving up the lead in the final three innings. But Cruz seemed confident it won’t take much for the Trojans to get over the hump when asked about what needs to change.“Timely hitting and not giving up the walk or hit by pitch in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings,” Cruz said. “It’s just baseball.”The Trojans have left an average of 9.5 men on base per game, including 14 in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings during their current four-game losing streak.Instead of worrying about the opportunities it has let slip away, USC is looking to take advantage of its time on the national stage.“We’re not looking back on what hasn’t happened. We’re looking forward on what can happen,” Cruz said. “If we play well and get a few Ws this weekend, no one will remember what happened last week, so we’re really excited about that.”Wins won’t be easy to come by this weekend with the Trojans playing the Titans, one of the top college baseball programs in the country. Fullerton has made six College World Series appearances in the last 10 years and has not missed the NCAA tournament since 1991Fullerton coach Dave Serrano, who has won at least 41 games in each of his three seasons as coach of the Titans, has a strong pitching staff this season led by Noe Ramirez.Ramirez was a second team All-American last season after finishing with a 12-1 record and a 2.54 ERA in 16 starts. This season, he has a 2.08 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 13 innings.Ramirez will likely face off with Trojans’ ace Andrew Triggs on Friday night. Triggs (0-0, 6.75 ERA) has yet to find his groove in his first two starts this season.“He’s fine to go Friday night,” Cruz said. “He’s a veteran and that’s why we have him there.”Cruz said he is more concerned with how the junior will handle the Titans’ heavily left-handed lineup.“He and [senior Logan] Odom have been working hard on pitches to get left-handers out.  It’s going to be a really good test for them,” Cruz said. “Fullerton has a lot of left-handers. UCLA and Arizona State in the future will have a lot of left-handers. This is a good way to get ready for conference.”Odom, who is coming off a strong start against No. 22 Rice, will start Sunday, most likely against Colin O’Connell (1-0, 1.29 ERA).Junior Austin Wood (1-0, 3.86 ERA) will get the ball Saturday against Tyler Pill, who received a no decision in Fullerton’s first of two wins at No. 4 Rice last weekend.The Trojans do have an advantage on the offensive side, as their team batting average is 32 points higher than the Titans’ average. USC has four batters hitting above .365, led by senior Joe De Pinto’s .500 average and team-leading nine RBIs.The Titans’ Richy Pedroza was named the Big West Player of the Week earlier this week and is currently batting .406, but Fullerton’s best hitter is first baseman/closer Nick Ramirez.Like USC junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa (.281, 0 HR, 5 RBI), Ramirez has yet to find his power stroke with the new BBCOR bats this season.After hitting .346 with 16 homers and 75 RBI last season, Ramirez hasn’t hit a home run this season. He leads the team with six RBIs, however.The Trojans will have to contain Ramirez and get some timely hits to knock off one of the premier baseball programs in the country.“I continue to tell these guys, it’s about continuing to persevere and continuing to battle and knowing that something good is at the end of the line,” Cruz said. “We’re looking forward to that.”last_img

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