USC: Adam Landecker

Baseball: Oropesa's three-homer game goes to waste in loss

May, 29, 2010
5/29/10
12:04
AM PT
USC first baseman Ricky Oropesa hit and hit and hit on Friday night against Washington, but it was to no avail.

Despite a record-breaking night from the sophomore slugger that included three home runs, 14 total bases and five RBIs, the floundering Trojans fell 9-7 to the visiting Huskies in the first game of a three-game weekend series.

USC (26-32, 5-20) took the lead in the first inning on a solo shot from Oropesa but quickly gave it up in the second when sophomore right-hander Ben Mount — making his final start of the season — struggled to get the third out of the inning. When Oropesa doubled to lead off the third, the Trojans trailed 3-1, but RBI singles from Cade Kreuter and Adam Landecker soon followed to tie the score.

Oropesa also hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to bring USC to within two runs at 7-5 and belted another two-run homer in the ninth to again bring the Trojans within two runs — this time at 9-7. But while Oropesa went 4 for 5 on the night, his teammates combined to go a lackluster 7 for 30 (.233).

Oropesa (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif/Etiwanda) now has 19 homers on the season, putting him in a tie for seventh with Mark McGwire for most in a single-season in USC history. He is also tied for ninth on the all-time list with 32. His three-homer game also marked the first time the feat was accomplished since 2003, when former USC slugger (and current Pittsburgh Pirate) Jeff Clement did so in a game against Washington State.

The Trojans' winning percentage in Pac-10 play is now a dismal .200 as they return to Dedeaux Field on Saturday at 2 p.m. to face Washington.

Baseball: Walk-off homer gives UCLA the series sweep

May, 16, 2010
5/16/10
6:46
PM PT
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday's series finale and a UCLA runner on first, USC coach Chad Kreuter held a meeting at the mound with his pitcher and catcher to discuss the plan to pitch to UCLA's Cody Keefer.

Having in large part shut out the Bruins' offense for 8 2/3 innings, USC was ahead, 1-0 — one out away from what would have been the Trojans' first 1-0 victory since 2002. Kreuter said he told righthander Chad Smith and catcher Kevin Roundtree to pound the ball on the outside of the strike zone to Keefer, a lefthanded hitter.

"We're gonna call it," Kreuter recalled saying. "Stick with it. Don't deviate off it."

But when Kreuter put his head down in the dugout with the count at 2-1 to Keefer, he missed a crucial deviation from Smith. The sophomore shook off Roundtree's call for an outside pitch, instead choosing to deliver a fastball directly in Keefer's wheelhouse.

Cue a two-run walk-off homer. Cue massive celebration from the UCLA dugout. Cue a 2-1 victory for the Bruins in front of 1,531 fans at Jackie Robinson Stadium and a 3-0 series sweep over USC.

"That pitch never should've been thrown in that situation," a livid Kreuter said after the game. "Our catcher should've known better and our pitcher should've known better — especially since I had just had that meeting on the mound."

Before the fateful pitch, Smith had been on point for the Trojans. Relieving starter Kevin Couture (five innings, two hits, no runs) to start off the sixth inning, Smith had kept the Bruins scoreless in his first three innings of work and appeared to be in line to earn his third save of the season.

But the pitch changed things around quickly. Kreuter and assistants Frank Cruz, Tom House and Doyle Wilson held a meeting in right field after the game with the pitchers and catchers to discuss the play.

"We basically had an air-out session — I don't know if it's called an air-out — it's a come-to-Jesus moment, with what happened there," Kreuter said.

Offensively, USC (23-28, 5-16 in the Pac-10) struggled to put together rallies against UCLA starter Rob Rasmussen. Only twice did the Trojans have more than four at-bats in an inning, and only four USC players reached the basepaths — shortstop Joe De Pinto (2-for-4), designated hitter Cade Kreuter (2-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI), second baseman Adam Landecker (2-for-4) and right fielder Garret Houts (1-for-3). Kreuter's solo homer to left in the top of the fourth was USC's only score of the day.

USC was outscored 30-10 by UCLA in the three-game series. UCLA's vaunted triumvirate of weekend starters — Rasmussen and righthanders Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole — had a so-so weekend, combining to throw 19 innings and allow eight runs, but the Bruins bullpen often picked up the slack.

"You have to tip your hat to their pitching staff," Kreuter said. "That is one of the best pitching staffs in the country right there, bar none."

Notes: The homer was UCLA's first of the walk-off variety since February 23, 2008...USC center fielder Mike O'Neill's hit streak ended at 13 with his 0-for-4 performance Sunday...With two strikeouts in Sunday's game, the younger Kreuter notched his way to the fourth-highest single-season strikeout total in USC history. Kreuter now has 54 strikeouts in 126 at-bats on the season.

Two losses for USC baseball

April, 10, 2010
4/10/10
7:15
PM PT
Pac-10 play isn't exactly going well for coach Chad Kreuter and the Trojans. USC is 2-6 through eight conference games, including blowout losses Friday and Saturday to California at Dedeaux Field.

Saturday, the Trojans fell 7-1 after the Bears scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie. Friday, USC committed a season-high six errors and gave up 18 hits as Cal (18-10, 4-3) earned a 16-9 victory.

Defense has been the team's undoing. Sophomore righthander Ben Mount, who started Saturday, was solid through four innings, scattering three hits, but unraveled after the errors in the fifth and exited after recording one out in the seventh. His final line was 6 1/3 innings and seven runs — but only four earned.

USC's only run of Saturday's game came in the seventh inning, when junior infielder Joe De Pinto's RBI fielder's choice scored shortstop Adam Landecker from third.

Friday starter Kevin Couture had a nightmarish day on the mound, giving up nine runs (seven earned) in 2 1/3 innings. Kreuter was forced to turn to six relievers to eat up innings, but none found sustained success. Junior Chris Mezger, who had been USC's most effective reliever this season, gave up two runs while finishing out the third inning and pitching the fourth.

The Trojans had 14 hits Friday, with eight of nine starters recording at least one hit. Junior third baseman Matt Hart had three hits and an RBI, and sophomore first baseman Ricky Oropesa had a three-run homer in the first inning that helped stake USC out to a 4-1 lead. The Trojans did have one more big inning — a five-run seventh, sparked by a three-run homer from shortstop Taylor Wrenn — but it wasn't enough to unseat the Bears, who scored 13 unanswered runs between the first and seventh innings.

USC has one more shot at Cal — Sunday at 1 p.m. — before a big three-game series at No. 1 Arizona State next weekend.

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C. Kessler361236296820
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