USC: Cade Kreuter

Notes on Chad Kreuter's firing

August, 9, 2010
8/09/10
7:49
PM PT
Today's firing of Chad Kreuter by new USC athletic director Pat Haden means a great deal for the future of the Trojans' baseball program. Let's dissect it a bit:
  • For one, it quickly proves that Haden's emphasis on baseball that was present in his letter to the Trojan Family was not just for show. He immediately set out to change what he was not happy with.
  • Second, it means that this year's recruiting class will likely suffer. A number of Trojan signees were drafted in June's MLB draft -- they have until next Monday, Aug. 16, to decide whether to sign with the organizations that drafted them or enroll at USC for the fall semester. Even though the season doesn't start until February, it's essentially the same situation as firing a football or basketball coach at this time of the year, because all recruits have to start school two weeks from today. "It's frustrating," outfielder Joc Pederson said Monday evening. "Coach Kreuter was a great guy and I was really looking forward to playing for him. He has so much baseball knowledge -- he could have taught me a lot." Pederson, an 11th-round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was often touted by Kreuter as an immediate starter in the Trojans' outfield. He said all he received from Kreuter was a text message earlier today saying he had been let go. The other prize prospect of the 2010 class -- right-hander Austin Wood, a fourth-round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays -- lit up the Cape Cod Baseball League over the summer to the tune of a sub-1.00 ERA. It will be tough to lure in a player of his magnitude with no guarantee of who will be coaching him past this season.
  • Despite Kreuter's public persona as a bit of a fiery character, he tended to take on a calm tone with his team, often leaving the flair and dramatics to assistant Frank Cruz over the last two years. With Cruz now the interim coach, Haden has essentially chosen a risk-reward type to be his next coach -- albeit while not making any sort of long-term commitment to him. But Cruz, who spent 12 seasons as the head man at Loyola Marymount, hasn't had much success either. His career winning percentage checks in at .480; Kreuter's was .487 with the Trojans.
  • And, lastly, it has a sizable effect on the Trojans' cleanup hitter for much of last season. That hitter? 19-year-old Cade Kreuter, a sophomore-to-be. The younger Kreuter hit .283 with eight homers and 24 RBI in 2009. He underwent shoulder surgery this offseason to fix a torn labrum that forced him to play designated hitter throughout the season. It will be interesting to see if he stays at USC.

Baseball: Trojans get big victory on Senior Day

May, 30, 2010
5/30/10
11:00
PM PT
USC center fielder Mike O'Neill stood, smiling, at the top of the Dedeaux Field dugout steps after Sunday's game, an 11-5 win over Washington that capped off the Trojans' disappointing 2010 season.

O'Neill, a senior, had just had perhaps his best game in his collegiate career, a 4-for-5, one home run, four RBI performance that sparked the Trojans. He was right in the middle of explaining how much the Senior Day victory meant to him — right in the middle of finishing up the second syllable in the word "speechless."

Then he got a faceful of shaving cream to the face from teammate Joe De Pinto as a host of Trojans watched from the dugout steps, piling up to see O'Neill's shining moment. O'Neill had no idea it was coming, but he would later say it was a good example of the team's camaraderie even in the face of failure.

The Trojans oozed camaraderie Sunday. On a day in which four of the team's five graduating seniors shined, the Trojans (28-32, 7-20 in the Pac-10) did both the little and big things right, holding a potent Washington attack to five runs and putting together a seven-run eighth inning to take control of the game.

But it was a bittersweet victory for fourth-year USC coach Chad Kreuter, who finished the season out of an NCAA Regional for the fourth consecutive year and sporting a 111-117 overall record and 39-63 conference record as a collegiate coach.

To the 15-year big leaguer, Sunday's win represented what could've been for the Trojans.

"It's a good feeling to get the win," Kreuter said after the game. "Especially with all the seniors doing so well. But, again, we could've been here all year."

With the win and Saturday's 10-5 win, USC took two out of three from Washington, only the Trojans' second conference series win of the year.

As for Sunday's game, O'Neill and fellow senior outfielder Keith Castillo each had four hits to kickstart USC's 16-hit attack. Freshman designated hitter Cade Kreuter had the sharp single that started the Trojans' seven-run eighth inning and added a sacrifice fly later in the inning. Sophomore first baseman Ricky Oropesa was pitched around all game along and went just 1-for-2 with three walks — but the one hit was a 400+ foot homer to right field to lead off the fourth inning.

On the mound, sophomore Brandon Garcia started and was reasonably effective, throwing five innings of four-run ball. But USC got key relief from a variety of sources to stymie the Huskies as Chris Mezger pitched two innings and Adam Dedeaux, Shuhei Fujiya, Logan Odom and Brad Douthit shut out Washington for another two innings to finish out the game.

Fujiya and Dedeaux are both seniors. The team's other senior, right-hander Kevin Couture, pitched Saturday and helped the team to a win in his final game.

Notes: Oropesa powered his way into the USC record books this season. On the year, he led the Trojans in each of the triple-crown categories with a .353 battering average, 20 homers and 67 RBI, but the sophomore slugger also finished tied for sixth for homers in a single season in USC history, seventh in total bases and tied for fifth in doubles...O'Neill batted a team-high .391 in Pac-10 conference play, a big contrast from his .303 non-conference average...On the year, the younger Kreuter tied the USCsingle-season record for strikeouts, with 64 in 153 at-bats.

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.

Gillespie returns to USC

May, 25, 2010
5/25/10
6:35
PM PT
Much has been made of Mike Gillespie's unceremonious departure from USC in 2006, and with good reason.

Gillespie spent 20 years as the the Trojans' head baseball coach, and his teams qualified for an NCAA Regional 15 times. They twice made it to the national championship game and won the title once, in 1998.

But in three of his last four seasons at USC, Gillespie's Trojans finished under .500. And in June of 2006, as quickly and as quietly as possible, USC replaced him with his son-in-law, former major leaguer Chad Kreuter.

At the time, USC's press release said Gillespie retired, and the university has stuck to that stance since. But the ever-forthright Gillespie admitted Monday that he was indeed fired and did not retire or resign.

"To be brutally frank and candid, I got fired there," Gillespie said. "Over the period of the 20 years that we were there, I don’t have any false pride or humility in saying that we had a great run.

"By and large, we had a great run. But in 3 of the last 4 years, we didn’t and I got fired."

Shown Gillespie's comments, a USC spokesperson maintained that Gillespie retired, as was detailed here.

As the story goes, soon after his firing Gillespie took a job managing the Staten Island Yankees, New York's Single-A affiliate. Just 17 months from the time he left USC, he was hired to take over a prestigious program at UC Irvine. He has directed the Anteaters to two consecutive playoff appearances and the program's first-ever midseason No. 1 ranking.

And he's on pace for another playoff run this year, ranked in the Top 25 nationally by multiple outlets. But Gillespie harbors no ill will towards the USC baseball program or anyone in the administration, he emphasized.

Kreuter has struggled to the tune of a 108-116 overall record in four seasons at the helm of the USC program and no postseason appearances, leading to louder and louder calls for his firing at the end of this season. But, if it was up to Gillespie, Kreuter would keep his job.

"People can criticize Chad Kreuter all they want, but they’re morons," Gillespie said. "They do not know what’s going on. Chad’s a premier baseball guy, and he’s got a lot of help on that coaching staff. They’ve just been cursed."

Gillespie dismissed Kreuter's recruiting misses over the years, calling his son-in-law a "good recruiter" and mentioning the scholarship problem that Kreuter has brought up many times over the years. Simply put, a 50 percent scholarship to play baseball at USC means less to many middle-class families than a similar scholarship to a state school does, because of the increased cost of attending a private school the caliber of USC.

Said Gillespie: "If Chad Kreuter is stupid, the other 280 coaches in the country are stupid as well."

Gillespie and Kreuter will match up tonight (7:15 p.m., Dedeaux Field), in the Irvine coach's third time returning to USC since the coaching switch. In each of the two previous games, UC Irvine topped USC. In fact, when the Trojans beat the Anteaters, 8-6, at UCI earlier this month, it was Irvine's first loss to USC under Gillespie.

Gillespie, who also turned 70 earlier this month, talked Monday about the frustrating loss. In the game, USC rallied to score three runs in the ninth after entering the inning trailing 6-5. Trojans freshman designated hitter Cade Kreuter — Kreuter's son and Gillespie's grandson — also hit a solo homer to tie up the game in the fourth inning.

"It was a good win for them," Gillespie said. "They played well, but the thing that was memorable was that my grandson hit one out of here."

Baseball: Trojans top New Mexico State on extra-inning walk-off

May, 19, 2010
5/19/10
12:02
AM PT
Infielder Ricky Oropesa has come up big for the Trojans all season long, with a conference-leading 14 home runs entering play Tuesday, nine of which had come in the seventh inning or later.

The sophomore slugger did it again Tuesday. Oropesa hit a solo home run to right to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning for USC and give the Trojans the 9-8 victory over visiting New Mexico State.

USC (24-28) needed extra innings after giving up five runs in the the top of the seventh. The Trojans had taken an 8-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth when they used three errors, three singles and a wild pitch to score five runs, but starter Logan Odom wasn't effective when he came out to start the next inning.

Pitching-starved USC was forced to rely on right-hander Shuhei Fujiya (4-1) for an extended relief outing, and, remarkably, the senior threw 4 1/3 innings of scoreless ball to earn the win.

Offensively, Oropesa drove in USC's first two runs of the night on an RBI double in the first inning and the Trojans tacked on one more when Cade Kreuter scored on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Roundtree. New Mexico State's high-octane offense totaled 13 hits on the night but failed to convert key scoring chances (runner on first, no out, runners on first and second, no out) in the eighth and ninth innings.

Marquee hitter Leo Aguirre, a power-hitting first baseman hitting .395 with 11 home runs on the season, went just 1-for-6 on the night. Freshman second baseman Parker Hipp went 3-for-6 with two RBI.

Now, in a rare occasion for a midweek game, the two teams will be back at it Wednesday night, facing off at Dedeaux Field at 4 p.m. Neither team has named its starting pitcher.

Notes: In attendance Tuesday, among others, were USC athletic director Mike Garrett and baseball super-agent Scott Boras, the father of USC infielder Shane Boras. ... Wednesday's game will be the regular-season finale for New Mexico State. ... Every hitter in USC's starting nine had at least one base hit on the night.

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.

Baseball: USC drops second game to UCLA

May, 15, 2010
5/15/10
6:55
PM PT
Now that wasn't pretty.

On a gloomy Saturday afternoon in Westwood, the No. 11 Bruins took a bat to the visiting Trojans — literally. UCLA's power-packed offense scored five runs in the fourth and sixth innings and 15 runs overall while starter Trevor Bauer limited USC to two runs in seven innings of work as the Bruins cruised to a 15-2 victory before 1,360 fans at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

USC (23-27, 5-14 in the Pac-10) committed only one error in the game, but, for the second straight day, a number of possible outs were lost with misplays by the Trojans' defense. USC coach Chad Kreuter recited a mental list of each of the plays after the game before resorting to what has been a common refrain from him in recent weeks.

"It's embarassing, what happened there," Kreuter said. "We can't catch balls, again."

The Trojans scored first, putting together a run in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by Ricky Oropesa. On the mound, USC starter Chris Mezger escaped the first three innings relatively unscathed but ran into trouble in the fourth, when an error, five hits and a wild pitch gave the Bruins five runs.

Earlier in the inning, the unraveling began for the Trojans. With runners on first and second and no outs, freshman designated hitter Cade Kreuter was picked off at second. Only a few pitches later, the inning was over and USC wouldn't score again until the seventh inning.

"That's a big momentum swing for them," Kreuter aid simply.

UCLA (36-11, 12-8) was led by second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla, who went three for five with an RBI hitting out of the third spot in the lineup. Every player in the lineup for the Bruins recorded at least one hit, with UCLA totaling 20 hits on the day. Bauer, a sophomore righthander who Kreuter recruited out of high school, wasn't on his game. He issued a career-high six walks and gave up seven hits but struck out 11 Trojans.

"Bauer was off," Kreuter said. "But he's still extremely good, because his stuff is amazing."

In 13 games against UCLA over his four-year tenure, Kreuter is now 3-10. Asked to explain his lack of success against the school, the coach said the two teams had different levels of depth — especially pitching-wise, where Kreuter said USC is "running on fumes."

That doesn't bode well for Sunday's game, where USC will turn to senior right-hander Kevin Couture to oppose UCLA left-hander Rob Rasmussen. In 12 starts, Couture has posted a 6.83 ERA; Rasmussen's ERA is 3.36.

Notes: USC center fielder Mike O'Neill extended his season-high hitting streak to 13 games with an eighth-inning single. ... With his 11-strikeout performance, Bauer supplanted teammate Gerrit Cole as the Pac-10's leader in strikeouts. Bauer leads Cole 111-109 in that category. ... UCLA's 36 wins are the most for the program since the Bruins posted a 36-28 record in 2000.

Baseball: Trojans can't make the formula work

May, 14, 2010
5/14/10
11:01
PM PT
USC coach Chad Kreuter talked at length this week about his team's need to be more efficient on offense.

He had a formula: score in four or more innings and score "crooked" numbers multiple times — in other words, more than one run per inning. With the formula, he said a win was "more than likely."

Kreuter's formula didn't work Friday.

Despite scoring four times and scoring two runs on three different occasions, the Trojans visited crosstown rival No. 11 UCLA and lost, 13-7, Friday night before 1,707 fans at Steele Field at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

USC committed two errors and suffered from them dearly, with four unearned runs. Second baseman Ryan Bast also dropped a ball in the eighth inning that allowed two UCLA runners to score, but it was ruled a hit.

Add it all up and solid defense could have saved the Trojans six runs on the night — exactly the margin of UCLA's victory. That fact wasn't lost on Kreuter.

"We did not play defense," Kreuter said. "Again. Our defense let us down, and that's the bottom line on this one."

Bright spots for the Trojans (23-26, 5-14) offensively were center fielder Mike O'Neill and first baseman Ricky Oropesa. O'Neill had two hits and a walk to extend his now-12 game hitting streak, during which he's hitting .500. Oropesa hit his 14th home run of the season to come within five homers of USC's top 10 all-time list. In all, the 1-3 spots in the USC lineup combined to go eight for 13 with a walk and five RBIs, but the rest of the team went just three for 22.

On the mound, starter Ben Mount had his shortest start of the season, lasting just three-plus innings after allowing the first four runners to reach base in the four innings. He was charged with seven runs (three earned). Short-on-pitching USC used three relievers for the duration of the game, but only lefty specialist Brad Douthit (2/3 of an inning, one walk) was effective.

With two more games looming against UCLA on Saturday and Sunday, Kreuter said there was some positive to take away from the contest.

"I leave tonight excited that this team battled and fought and came back and kept themselves within a swinging distance of the game," the fourth-year coach said. "But not excited, not happy at all about the errors, the non-plays."

Notes: USC assistants weren't happy with the umpires or the opponents. Hitting coach Doyle Wilson was ejected in the bottom of the fourth inning for arguing balls and strikes. After the game, volunteer assistant Frank Cruz had words with UCLA coach John Savage regarding what he thought was UCLA throwing at Trojan designated hitter Cade Kreuter, Chad's son. The elder Kreuter also said after the game that third base umpire Darren Hyman admitted he missed a call at second in the top of the eighth inning. ... At three hours 57 minutes, the game was the longest the Trojans have played this season.

Baseball: Trojans sweep visiting Utes

May, 9, 2010
5/09/10
5:35
PM PT
Three up, three down for USC.

The streaking Trojans (23-24) managed their first sweep of the 2010 season with a three-game thrashing of visiting Utah, concluding with Sunday's 11-6 win at Dedeaux Field. USC got three hits from catcher Kevin Roundtree and two hits from three others to break open the game, posting four runs each in the third and eighth innings.

Logan Odom started on the mound but exited early after giving up four runs, meaning reliever Chad Smith was called on for the second consecutive day. The sophomore delivered once again, firing 4 1/3 one-run innings to earn his second win in as many games.

First baseman Ricky Oropesa hit his 13th homer of the season for USC and reached base twice. Shortstop Joe De Pinto hit a big three-run homer in the eighth to break open the game.

Utah (19-24) had an opportunity to pile on the runs in the top of the first inning but came up empty with the bases loaded and no outs. After left fielder Gavin Green tripled to lead off the game and scored on a throwing error by USC's Ryan Bast, the Utes put together a walk, an error and a bunt single to load the bases. But Odom struck out the next two Utah players and forced right fielder Rick Cornu to ground into a fielder's choice.

Just one day after hitting a walk-off double to win the game for USC, cleanup hitter Cade Kreuter struggled, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. The freshman designated hitter now has 47 strikeouts in 114 at-bats on the season.

The Trojans have won four straight and six of their last seven games -- their best such streaks of the year -- and look to face Long Beach State on Wednesday in an attempt to reach .500 for the first time since April 9.

Baseball: Kreuter's walk-off double wins it in the ninth

May, 8, 2010
5/08/10
7:51
PM PT


USC continues to find ways to win.

Tuesday against UC Irvine, the Trojans used a ninth-inning rally for a come-from-behind win. Friday, they used a strong pitching performance from Ben Mount and timely hitting to take the first game of a weekend series against visiting Utah.

And Saturday, the streaking Trojans got a big hit from a freshman to take back the lead they had surrendered and beat the Utes (19-23) in dramatic fashion.

Freshman designated hitter Cade Kreuter, the son of USC coach Chad Kreuter, smacked an RBI double to left with two on and one out in the bottom of the ninth to give USC a 6-5 victory, the Trojans' third consecutive win and five in their last six tries. Kreuter came to the plate after Utah reliever Stephen Streich walked leadoff hitter Mike O'Neill to start the ninth and intentionally walked USC big bopper Ricky Oropesa. Streich got the count to 0-and-2 before Kreuter fought off a pitch and proceeded to deliver the game-winning hit.

Junior right-hander Chris Mezger started the game for USC and went eight strong innings, giving up three earned runs. He cruised through the first four innings but ran into trouble in the fifth when four singles, two wild pitches and an error gave the Utes four runs. Mezger didn't give up an extra-base hit on the day; righthander Chad Smith came in and pitched a perfect ninth to earn his third win.

The Trojans (22-24) have an opportunity to extend their streak to a season-high four games Sunday, when they conclude their series with Utah at 12 p.m. at Dedeaux Field. A key midweek battle with Long Beach State then awaits them Wednesday after the university's finals conclude.

Baseball: USC takes two out of three from Cal Poly

February, 21, 2010
2/21/10
10:33
PM PT
USC baseball's season-opening series in San Luis Obispo was "very successful," coach Chad Kreuter said Sunday.

The Trojans managed victories on both Friday and Sunday over Cal Poly, despite falling behind early in each game.

Friday, starting hurler Andrew Triggs gave up three quick runs in the first inning, putting USC in a deep hole. But the Trojans fought back slowly but surely, taking the lead on a bases-loaded walk by senior outfielder Mike O'Neill in the fifth inning and never relinquishing it.

And Sunday, sophomore infielder Ricky Oropesa broke a 4-4 tie with a solo home run to lead off the ninth inning, opening the floodgates in what would become a 9-4 victory for the Trojans.

'There are some big hits within this club,” Kreuter said by phone on the team's long, loud bus ride home from San Luis Obispo. “There are some guys with extraordinary talent that are capable of stepping up at any time.”

Asked if he expected the standout performances of newcomers Matt Foat and Matt Hart, who combined for a .462 average, 12 hits and 7 RBI over the weekend, Kreuter laughed.

“That’s good recruiting,” he said. “We recruited those guys to come in to be immediate contributors and replace some of the guys we lost in the draft.”

"We're really excited about both Matts."

USC did lose six players to the draft after last season, including shortstop Grant Green and catcher/pitcher Robert Stock. But while many analysts predicted the Trojans would experience a drop-off from their 28-28 record in 2009, Kreuter disagrees.

Kreuter, in his fourth season at USC, feels like he's assembled something this year he hadn't in years prior: a team with a collective identity.

Whether that identity results in anything remains to be seen — but in the meantime, "there’s a lot of character and a lot of fight in our ballclub," Kreuter said.

USC has a packed schedule in the coming week. A home game against Loyola Marymount comes Tuesday, an exhibition against the Japanese Rikkyo University is Wednesday, and big games against Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

And there's the all-important Sunday game against UCLA.

Kreuter said the plan is to approach the three weekend games as one series, and thus play accordingly.

"We want to get two of them," he said. "Or even three."

Notes: Two players with Trojan connections had memorable debuts over the weekend. Kreuter's son, the freshman Cade, hit a key two-run homer in the eighth inning of Sunday's game to give the Trojans a 4-3 lead, and catcher Richard Stock — also a freshman and the younger brother of Robert — hit the first pitch he saw in college "roughly 500 feet" for a home run in a pinch-hit appearance Saturday...Sunday's game against UCLA will be held at 2 p.m. at Dodger Stadium as part of the inaugural Dodgertown Classic.

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