USC: Kevin Couture

Ex-Trojans finding early success in minors, recruits staying unsigned

July, 2, 2010
7/02/10
5:45
PM PT
It has been three-plus weeks since the 2010 MLB draft.

In other words, it's time for a checkup on the state of the USC baseball program. Four 2010 Trojans were selected in the June draft — right-hander Andrew Triggs (24th round, Cleveland Indians), outfielder Mike O'Neill (31st round, St. Louis Cardinals), right-hander Kevin Couture (32nd round, San Francisco Giants) and first baseman Beau Brett (35th round, Los Angeles Dodgers).

Three have signed.

O'Neill agreed less than a week after the draft with the Cardinals and reported to the Class-A Batavia Muckdogs, where he's hitting .333 with three RBIs, a double and a triple in 21 at-bats. Couture signed June 17 and has found success as a reliever with the Class-A Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, throwing 4 2/3 scoreless innings and earning a win.

Brett, draftable as a 21-year-old sophomore, signed with the Dodgers on June 21 and is hitting .158 in 19 at-bats for the Arizona League Dodgers, a rookie-level team.

Triggs has yet to sign. Nursing a sore throwing shoulder, he said before the draft he planned to wait to sign until later in the process.

Meanwhile, shortstop Angelo Gumbs (Torrance, Calif./Torrance), a Trojans signee, remains unsigned as a second-round selection of the New York Yankees. A fourth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays and fellow USC signee, junior college right-hander Austin Wood (Niceville, Fla./St. Petersburg College), also remains unsigned.

In fact, except for outfielder Frankie Christian (Upland, Calif./Upland) all eight Trojans recruits are currently unsigned.

Christian, a 19th-round selection, signed the week after the draft with the Mariners and is playing rookie ball in the Arizona Legaue, but 11th-rounder Joc Pederson (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) and the Dodgers have yet to agree on a contract. Pederson is spending the summer playing in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League, hitting .303 with no homers and four RBIs in 33 at-bats for the Waimea Waves.

Outfielder Omar Cotto (Puerto Rico/Bonneville School), catcher Jake Hernandez (Los Osos, Calif./Los Osos), left-hander Kyle Richter (Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita) and shortstop James Roberts (San Francisco/Archbishop Mitty) all remain unsigned.

The deadline for players to sign is still a long way away — roughly six weeks from now, on Aug. 16, coinciding almost directly with the start of USC's fall semester.

Former USC shortstop Grant Green agreed to a deal with the Oakland Athletics "30 seconds" before the deadline a year ago, he said.

Three Trojans selected on draft's final day

June, 9, 2010
6/09/10
5:21
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Three USC baseball players were drafted Wednesday on the third day of the 2010 MLB draft, giving the Trojans four draftees in this class after right-hander Andrew Triggs was chosen Tuesday by the Cleveland Indians in the 24th round.

The St. Louis Cardinals selected outfielder Mike O'Neill in the 31st round (949th overall), the San Francisco Giants took right-handed pitcher Kevin Couture in the 32nd round (978th overall) and the Dodgers chose first baseman Beau Brettin the 35th round.

O'Neill and Couture graduated last month; Brett was a draft-eligible sophomore.

O'Neill, who played center field during his senior season, was announced as a left fielder by the Cardinals. He finished his final season as a Trojan by hitting .391 in Pac-10 Conference play to raise his average to .344 for the season.

Couture posted a 2-4 record and 5.99 ERA for USC in 2010, his worst season in terms of earned-run average. His best came in 2008, when he went 6-2 with a 4.27 ERA.

Brett, the nephew of Hall of Famer George Brett, had just 30 at-bats for the Trojans this season, hitting .300 (9-for-30.

Two more players recruited by USC were also selected Wednesday: left-handed pitcher Kyle Richter (Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita) went in the 44th round to the Colorado Rockies and shortstop James Roberts(San Francisco/Archbishop Mitty) was chosen by the Giants in the 42nd round.

Over the three-day draft, eight players who have either signed with or committed to USC were selected.

Green's first year a success

June, 7, 2010
6/07/10
9:45
PM PT
A year ago today, former USC shortstop Grant Green waited patiently to hear his name called in the 2009 MLB Draft.

Yes, patiently — not anxiously. Being anxious isn't really Green's style. But he didn't have to wait too long, as the Oakland Athletics chose the Anaheim Hills native with their first pick, 13th overall, quickly anointing him as the organization's shortstop of the future.

And in the 363 days that have passed since draft day, Green has made himself into a mainstay in the Billy Beane-led organization made famous by the 2003 book Moneyball. Reminding many of Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young, the 22-year-old Green possesses the gap-to-gap hitting ability major-league teams so covet.

Playing all but one game this season for the High-A Stockton Ports, Green is hitting a team-high .308, with two home runs and 22 RBI. His 15 doubles and three triples also lead the Ports, who, with a record of 24-33, currently sit in eighth place in the ten-team California League.

Green did take a while to sign with the A's, waiting until what he termed "30 seconds" before the MLB-mandated 9 p.m. deadline on August 17 to sign a deal containing a $2.75 million signing bonus, orchestrated by super-agent Scott Boras, Green's longtime advisor. But just one week later, he was playing for the High-A Stockton Ports. Two months later, he was lighting it up in instructional league.

"I could tell right then that he was serious about what he wanted to do," says Steve Scarsone, his manager both in instructional league play and for the Ports. "I've seen guys get drafted high and they come in and they kinda go through the motions for a little while and wait for it to hit them in the face."

"Grant came in and immediately wanted to get better."

And get better he has. At the start of the 2010 season, he was named the Oakland's No. 3 prospect by Baseball America. That was before he appeared in three games for the A's major-league side in spring training.

Courtesy Stockton Ports
In 56 games for High-A Stockton, former USC shortstop Grant Green is leading the California League squad with a .308 average. His 15 doubles and three triples are also team-highs.



Now, he's hitting second for the Ports and enjoying a torrid hitting streak. He's hitting .489 in his last 10 games, including a 4-for-5 (with two doubles and two runs scored) performance Sunday.

Of late, he's carrying his team — just as he did in 2009 for the Trojans, when he hit .374 with four homers and 32 RBI while hitting third in the lineup with almost no protection on either side of him. That USC squad finished 28-28 on the season, falling short of postseason play for the fourth consecutive season.

"A lot has changed," Green says. "But a lot has still stayed the same, in a sense. I'm happy with where I am now."

Scouts say Green's hitting may soon warrant a callup to the next level of minor-league ball — Double-A, which for the A's is based in Midland, Texas — but his defense is still considered a work in progress. His 17 errors — which translate to nearly 50 over a full major-league season — lead the Ports, and some question whether he can stay at shortstop for the long haul.

A move to third is a possibility. His 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame tends to look more natural manning the hot corner than it does anchoring the infield at shortstop, but the A's are not ready to give up hope just yet.

"He's doing the work, and he's showing improvement all the time there," Scarsone says. "That's his biggest challenge for right now, though — getting more consistent defensively."

Green and Scarsone — each graduate's of Anaheim's Canyon High School — have developed a rapport over the course of the year. Player and coach talk, continually.

"We're constantly talking about all sides of the game — hitting, defense, the things he needs to do as a shortstop to keep the rest of the team in tune," Scarsone said. "He's slowly starting to open himself up that way and become more of a leader on the field, and that's something that the higher levels are going to be hoping for."

Green, who counts himself as a proponent for going to college and investing in one's future — even when passing up immediate dollars out of high school — seems pleased with his progress. With the 2010 draft set to start today (3 p.m. PT, MLB Network) Green says he has improved during the year since he departed USC. He has kept up with the 2010 Trojans and said he hopes to see a number of USC players drafted over the next three days, including former roommate and right-hander Kevin Couture as well as outfielder Mike O'Neill and catcher Keith Castillo.

Still, just as he did while in college, he speaks without superlatives, tempering his words and refusing to overly praise himself. Essentially, his words reveal the purpose — with the intentions, if you can read into it that much — of someone who is already focused on becoming a major-league player.

But not too focused that he can't continue day-by-day improvement.

"He's not looking for shortcuts," says Scarsone, who spent eight years in the majors. "If anything, he's saying, 'What do I need to do to make sure that not only can I make it, but that I can stay there?'"

Adds Green: "I'd love to be get up there in the next couple years, but there's no specific timeframe. If i need some more tutelage and instruction then that's fine, because I don't want to go up to the majors and then be one of those guys who goes up and down."

"I want to be one of those guys that goes up there and stays there."

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: USC uses unlikely combination to beat Washington

May, 29, 2010
5/29/10
7:58
PM PT
USC used an uncharacteristically patient offense and bend-but-don't-break pitching to beat visiting Washington on Saturday at Dedeaux Field, 10-5, in the Trojans' penultimate game of the season.

The Trojans (27-32, 6-20) put together 13 hits and seven walks to break out for three three-run innings. Washington (28-27, 11-15) put together 13 hits as well but left eight runners on base — a product, USC coach Chad Kreuter said, of timely pitching by a tired Trojans pitching staff.

"It was all pitching," Kreuter said after Saturday's game. "I mean, obviously we had some hitting, but we were able to get enough guys with healthy arms in there and that was big."

After hitting three homers in a 9-7 loss Friday night, USC slugger Ricky Oropesa was pitched around frequently by the Huskies' pitchers in Saturday's matinee. Oropesa went 1 for 3 but reached base three times by walking twice and scored two runs, serving as a table-setter for senior catcher Keith Castillo and the other hitters following him in the lineup.

The four hitters directly behind Oropesa reached base a combined 10 times in 16 tries.

"What he did last night affected what we did today," Kreuter said.

Senior right-hander Kevin Couture earned the start for the Trojans and pitched fairly well, exiting after three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. Reliever Chad Smith pitched effectively in his stead but had to leave the game after the sixth inning with what Kreuter termed a "tired arm", and junior Ryan Cabral picked up for him but didn't have much success.

Cabral gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning before giving way to lefty specialist Brad Douthit and right-hander Shuhei Fujiya. Fujiya, who was expected to be the Trojans' closer this season, earned just his second save of the season Saturday after pitching two scoreless innings. Smith (5-6) got the win.

At this point, Kreuter and his Trojans have just one game left on the season (Sunday, 1 p.m.) and are mathematically eliminated from NCAA Regional contention, meaning the focus is largely on preparing for the 2011 season.

Shortly after the game, the fourth-year coach mentioned that a key commit was in the middle of a playoff game in the Bay Area. Much of Kreuter's recent post-game talks with the media have been centered on recruits for the next season and targeting players at specific positions.

Notes: With the win, USC snapped an eight-game losing streak in Pac-10 conference play, the school's longest in 25 years...With a 3-for-5 performance Saturday, center fielder Mike O'Neill raised his average to .331, second-best on the team behind only Oropesa...Washington starter Andrew Kittredge was charged with the loss after allowing four runs in 3 1/3 innings, giving the sophomore righthander seven wins and seven losses on the year and a team-high 14 decisions in 15 starts.

Baseball: USC swept by Washington State

May, 23, 2010
5/23/10
9:14
PM PT
Sunday's effort was better than Friday's and Saturday's for USC, but not by enough to earn a series-salvaging win.

The slipping and sliding Trojans held No. 24 Washington State in check for the first seven innings of Sunday's game before the host Cougars unloaded for five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to break the game open, take the 8-2 victory and send USC home without a win.

Senior righthander Kevin Couture continued his hot streak on the mound, throwing six innings of two-run ball before giving way to reliever Chad Smith. Smith retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a solo homer to Washington State outfielder Garry Kuykendall and loading the bases with Cougars.

He proceeded to get out of the inning but allowed three of the four batters he faced in the eighth to reach base and was charged with four earned runs on the day. Couture has given up two runs his last four appearances, spanning 18 innings.

USC's only runs in the game came on a double steal in the third inning that cost the Trojans a run and an RBI single from center fielder Mike O'Neill in the eighth inning. Third baseman Matt Hart scored both runs.

After losing 20-7 on Friday and 18-4 on Saturday, USC (25-31, 5-19 in the Pac-10) allowed more runs in the weekend series than it had in any other three-game series in the history of the program.

The Trojans are also now locked into the last spot in the conference standings — at 5-19, with a conference winning percentage of .208, USC is a full five games behind ninth-place Oregon State. And, barring a three-game sweep of the Washington Huskies next weekend, coach Chad Kreuter's team will also be the only conference squad to register an under-.500 record on the season.

USC now needs to win each of its last four games in order to avoid the worst regular season of Kreuter's four-year tenure, with a mid-week game with Big West power UC Irvine looming Tuesday before the Washington series.

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 blown out at home

May, 13, 2010
5/13/10
7:09
PM PT
And there goes that.

Winners of their last four and six of their last seven games, the Trojans came into Wednesday's game with Long Beach State hotter than they had been all season, but the visiting Dirtbags quickly dispatched any possibility of the streak continuing with a five-run seventh inning to take care of the Trojans, 9-1.

USC (23-25) committed four errors, including three in the fateful seventh inning.

"I'm embarrassed," USC coach Chad Kreuter said after the game. "I'm embarrassed for my staff, I'm embarrassed for these young men that are out here."

Up 2-1 heading into the seventh, the Dirtbags (22-23) had only two hits in the inning but patched together five runs on a walk and the three errors.

Six Long Beach State pitchers combined on a four-hitter, as starter Nate Underwood pitched four innings of one-hit ball. USC starter Kevin Couture was effective — but not effective enough. The senior right-hander gave up six hits and two runs in six innings. Kreuter used five relievers to finish out the final three innings.

Center fielder Mike O'Neill had two of USC's four hits, including a sixth-inning home run that landed in the parking lot just beyond the right-field fence. First baseman Ricky Oropesa, the Trojans' big bopper, went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. Other than O'Neill's homer, USC had just two runners reach second base. No more than four Trojans batters came to the plate in any one inning.

With a three-game weekend series with rival UCLA looming Friday, Kreuter said he was counting on a solid performance from his squad Wednesday. He emphasized he was in no way pleased with his team's performance.

"There was probably only a handful of guys who came onto the field ready to play," said Kreuter, who brought up the fact that USC finished finals Wednesday but simultaneously dismissed it. "That's no excuse when you walk out and you have the opportunity to get back to .500 tonight and continue the success that we've had, put ourselves on a good roll heading into UCLA."

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.

Baseball: No. 21 Oregon State tops USC in extras, 4-1

April, 2, 2010
4/02/10
2:21
PM PT
The Trojans were thisclose to beating No. 21 Oregon State on Thursday in the first game of a key Pac-10 weekend series at Dedeaux Field — thisclose being about two inches.

With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, USC (13-13, 1-3) had a runner on second with two outs and pinch-hitter Keith Castillo at the plate. Facing Oregon State reliever Kevin Rhoderick, Castillo hit a fast-moving grounder in the gap between Beaver second baseman Keith Jennette and first baseman Jared Norris.

USC head coach Chad Kreuter, in his typical post as third base coach, immediately began to wave Matt Hart home from second base, as it looked like the ball would find its way into the outfield and Hart would have the opportunity to score the game-winning run.

But there was no such luck for the Trojans, as Jennette made a stunning dive to his left, cornered the ball in his glove and threw to first to end the inning. And instead of a 2-1 victory, USC was left with a disappointing 4-1 loss in 10 innings, as the Beavers — winners of two of the last four national titles in college baseball — scored three runs in the top of the tenth inning to break open the game.

"That's baseball," Kreuter said afterward. "We did what we needed to do, we just needed a break somewhere along the line and they ended up getting it in the tenth there."

Joe De Pinto stole home in the third inning for the Trojans' only run of the night. The feat was a fairly remarkable straight steal — and it was made even more remarkable by the fact that the Trojans' hitter at the plate, big bopper Ricky Oropesa, is left-handed.

Kreuter said he noticed that Oregon State's Greg Peavey was slow to the plate early on and called for the steal as soon as De Pinto got to third. Kreuter said De Pinto "got cold feet" the first time he called the steal, but used the second time to study some of Peavey's tendencies. Then, on the third call, De Pinto took off — and scored.

"I thought he did a great job of getting down there," Kreuter said. "And it wasn't even close."

De Pinto was one of two Trojans to collect two hits on the night, the other being third baseman Matt Hart. Collectively, USC amassed just seven hits while striking out 10 times against Peavey.

The Beavers had only nine hits on the night but got crucial tenth-inning hits from Parker Berberet and Rob Folsom. Peavey also pitched a strong seven innings, allowing just six baserunners. USC got a solid five innings from starter Kevin Couture (five innings, one run) and impressive relief from Chad Smith, who pitched five innings and didn't allow a run until the tenth

Kreuter talked afterward about the disappointment of suffering another close loss, the thought process behind De Pinto's steal, and more:

Sunday links and notes

March, 7, 2010
3/07/10
5:49
PM PT
A bunch of USC-related news on this Sunday:
  • Trojan baseball is in the middle of a doubleheader with New Mexico as we speak. Saturday's game was rained out at Dedeaux Field, so the Lobos and Trojans are playing two today. USC won the first game, 6-2, on the strength of a strong outing from new weekend starter Ben Mount. Mount gave up just one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. But Kevin Couture, on the mound to start the second game, didn't have similar luck. Couture faced nine batters and retired just two of them — with a final line of four runs in 2/3 of an inning. And it's gone downhill from there, as the Trojans currently trail 16-7 in the ninth inning. Follow along here.
  • In more USC news, men's basketball lost Saturday afternoon in Arizona to end its season on a five-game losing streak, but the women are on an exact opposite streak. Ashley Corral and Co. have won five in a row, culminating in a 62-52 win at home against Arizona State on Saturday. Each of the past five victories for the Women of Troy have come by margins of 10 points or less.
  • USC-bound forward Bryce Jones of Woodland Hills Taft had a monster game in last night's City Division I title game. Jones, at times matching up against former USC commit Dwayne Polee, exploded for 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He also had 12 rebounds, by far the most active player on the Galen Center court. But his Taft team fell, 70-60, to Westchester for the second consecutive time in the city finals. We profiled Jones in advance of Saturday's game, and you can also hear from him after the loss.
  • A few links: Stanley Havili is interviewedby USCfootball.com, the Daily News' Tom Hoffarth tells a remarkable storyof USC long-distance runner Greg Woodburn, and an Arizona Daily star columnist writeson USC coach Kevin O'Neill's blowup at the end of Saturday's game.

Baseball final: UCLA 6, USC 1

March, 1, 2010
3/01/10
2:50
PM PT
A while after Sunday's 6-1 loss to UCLA in the finale of the inaugural Dodgertown Classic, USC coach Chad Kreuter stood with his team, huddled in the middle of right field at Dodger Stadium.

He didn't look happy.

A few minutes after the talk began, Kreuter let his pitchers go. But the position players stayed, a product of what Kreuter called "disappointing" clutch hitting in each of their three games over the weekend.

"It's two, three nights in a row where we had opportunities to score early runs, and we haven't — and that can't happen," Kreuter said. "We're preaching it, and that's why we're eyeballing the hitters and trying to put the onus on them."

The Trojans (3-4) had plenty of opportunities to score. In three of the first four innings, they had a runner at third with one out. Each time, they failed to drive the runner in successfully.

It resulted in a less than pleasant affair.

"It was fun — for the first six innings," second baseman Joe De Pinto said. "But we gotta hit, and we gotta finish the game, and we're not doing that.

"It's on us."

The Bruins (6-0) used a variety of pitchers to stymie USC. Rob Rasmussen started the game and lasted 4 2/3 innings, giving up one run. Erik Goeddel provided 2 1/3 innings of no-hit relief, and lefthander Matt Grace and closer Dan Klein finished off the game.

USC starter Kevin Couture wasn't charged with any runs, but he recorded just five outs before exiting midway through the second after being hit by a comebacker. He will get X-rays on his right thumb — on Monday morning, Kreuter said. Reliever Ben Mount (0-1) picked up for Couture and pitched the third and fourth innings with ease but ran into trouble beginning in the fifth.

The Trojans' only one run came on back-to-back doubles by Cade Kreuter and Mike O'Neill in the fifth, but the Bruins put together a single, balk, error and double to score a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Then UCLA's Justin Uribe opened the floodgates with a two-out, two-run single in the seventh, and Niko Gallego added a homer as part of the Bruins' three-run eighth inning.

Notes: The announced attendance at the stadium was 14,588. The Trojans played before fewer than 400 fans on Friday and Saturday nights. Fans nearly filled the field level of the stadium and much of the left field pavilion. ... Also appearing in relief for the Trojans were righthanders Shuhei Fujiya and Ryan Cabral and lefthander Adam Dedeaux. ... Said De Pinto: "During the pregame, it looked like everybody was nervous. But after the first inning, that should really wear off."

Baseball: USC vs. UCLA preview

February, 28, 2010
2/28/10
2:05
PM PT
UCLA might be in great shape heading into the final game of the Dodgertown Classic today at Dodger Stadium, but USC sure isn't.

The Trojans have had a rough week. They beat Loyola Marymount on Tuesday but have fallen in three consecutive games since — including a 10-1 laughter at the hands of Vanderbilt last night.

But today's 2 p.m. start should be different, they say. It's been a focus of this USC team for a long time.

"We’re all looking forward to it," junior second baseman Joe De Pinto said. "I think we’ll be real pumped up.

"Hopefully, we’re not rattled or anything.”

De Pinto, from St. Francis High in La Canada, has a connection to UCLA's slated starter today. Bruin left-hander Rob Rasmussen went to nearby Pasadena Poly High. The two schools are natural rivals, and De Pinto said both he and Rasmussen had made up their minds on schools early on — creating a sense of competition between the two.

Said De Pinto: "I have a little beef with that guy."

Well, USC has a little beef with UCLA. The last time the two schools matched up, last March, the Bruins beat the Trojans 17-2.

On the mound for the Trojans today is senior right-hander Kevin Couture, who gave up three runs in seven innings in his first start of the season against Cal Poly.

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