In the first game of this weekend's inaugural Dodgertown Classic, the Trojans battled — and battled hard, until what would've been their last at-bat — to stay close with visiting Oklahoma State.
But in the end, their efforts weren't enough. The Cowboys put together a methodical rally in their half of the 11th inning and beat USC, 6-4, in 11 innings.
“They weren’t anything we hadn’t seen before,” said USC right-hander Andrew Triggs, who started the game and lasted 5 1/3 innings. “They didn’t wow us, but they got the job done.”
Down 4-2 in the ninth, USC first had to rally to push the game into extra innings. With two outs and two runners in scoring position, second baseman Joe De Pinto (two for six, two RBIs) hit a two-run double to tie the score. The Trojans would strand him at second, though, and their offense grew stagnant for the duration of the game.
“Oh, I thought it was over from there,” Triggs said. “I thought there was no chance we wouldn’t win that game. It’s disappointing, especially with how close we got and how much it drug out in the 11th."
USC coach Chad Kreuter said his team's offense wasn't the same after the ninth.
“What happens when you get into extra innings is guys start trying to take real big swings — trying to be the hero,” Kreuter said. “All of the sudden, the guys’ approaches changed.”
But the collective mood after the game, when each of the players came out to lay down a tarp on the field, was still positive. Triggs said he was impressed with how the Trojans continued to battle despite being down for much of the game.
“Over the course of the year, we’re going to have a few more games like that," he said. "But I think if we keep that same mentality, we’re gonna come out on top more times than we’re gonna lose."
A bit of a stat roll from the game: USC's Matt Foat and Matt Hartcontinued their torrid start, combining to go three for 10 with a triple and a homer. Oklahoma State's starter — left-hander Tyler Lyons— went a crafty seven innings, mixing up a mid-80s fastball and solid breaking pitch to confuse the USC hitters.
Said Triggs: "That’s senior savvy right there. He’s not gonna do anything that’s gonna blow up the radar guns or overpower you, but he worked well with what we had."
A highlight in Friday's game came early on when Oklahoma State's Dusty Harvard made a spectacular diving play on a deep drive by Foat to center field. At the time he caught the ball, Harvard appeared to be almost completely horizontal.
The Trojans were more than complimentary of the catch afterward.
"That was the best play I've ever seen in my life," De Pinto said. "He was flying."
Next up for USC is a Saturday 6:30 p.m. game against Vanderbilt. The Commodores have been a noted college baseball powerhouse in past years, but Kreuter said his team wouldn't be making any adjustments.
“There’s no need to change anything,” Kreuter said. “We just have to get better at the little things.”
Triggs, a native of Nashville, Tenn., said he often attended Vanderbilt games growing up and was looking forward to seeing his hometown school.