After two blowout victories by the Trojans, the Dixie State Trailblazers nearly made a ninth-inning comeback in the series finale. USC escaped with a nail-biting 6-5 win to close out the first ever series matchup between the two schools at Dedeaux Field.
On Sunday, the Trojans got off to a much slower start, struggling to plate runs and narrowly avoiding a Trailblazer comeback in the eighth and ninth innings.
With Dixie State taking its first lead of the series in the top of the first, redshirt junior third baseman Ben Ramirez answered with his sixth home run of the season to tie the game up 1-1.
Although redshirt sophomore left-handed pitcher Alex Cornwell held the Trailblazers scoreless in the second, third and fourth innings, the Trojans also struggled to put runs up on the board. Four runs in the sixth inning including a two-run homer from redshirt junior right fielder Jamal O’Guinn ultimately landed the Trojans the win.
“I don’t think the hits were falling as much today as they did the first two games and I think we figured out that we needed to execute a little better and we did with some bunts and got some guys over on some pop-ups and some sac flies,” Ramirez said Sunday. “So that was good to see that when the hits weren’t coming in we were still playing baseball and finding ways to score some runs.”
Dixie State came back scoring once in the eighth and looked as if they might tie the game up in the ninth after three batters were hit by pitches, allowing the Trailblazers to bring the tying run just 90 feet away.
However, when Dixie State junior shortstop Mathew Ivancich tried to score on a wild pitch, redshirt freshman right-handed pitcher Ethan Hoopingarner tagged the tying run out just in time on a throw from redshirt sophomore catcher Tyler Lozano. Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Garrett Clarke ended the ninth with the final two outs.
USC managed to escape with a 6-5 win to sweep the series.
The Trojans started the series off strong Friday with a 14-1 win over the Trailblazers. In the first inning alone, the Trojans put up seven runs on eight hits and sent 11 batters to the plate.
Ramirez boosted the Trojans’ early lead with a three-run homer to right field. Redshirt sophomore Clay Owens followed the next at-bat with a solo home run.
After scoring seven runs in the first inning, USC put up two more in the second and one in the fifth. The Trojans added four more runs in the seventh with redshirt junior right fielder Bart West sending a big two-run triple to left field.
It wasn’t until the seventh inning where Dixie State put up their only run of the game. USC finished with a season-high of 14 runs on 16 hits.
Friday’s game featured a couple of other firsts. Freshman second baseman D’Andre Smith saw his first appearance as a Trojan with two hits and one run scored. Redshirt junior Riley Lamb got his first hit and run scored, pinch hitting for redshirt senior shortstop Tyler Pritchard.
While the Trojans’ offense shined early on in the series opener, redshirt junior left-handed pitcher Isaac Esqueda also kept Dixie State scoreless through six innings on the mound. Esqueda now holds a 1.99 ERA and is 4-1 on the season.
All three starting pitchers this weekend threw a strong six innings.
Redshirt sophomore right-hander Chandler Champlain allowed only three hits and one walk in his six innings on Saturday. Champlain struck out a career-high 10 batters before USC went to the bullpen.
After a few wild pitches in the first frame, Cornwell held the Trailblazers to two runs, five hits and struck out seven batters on Sunday afternoon.
The Trojans continued with the double-digit offensive production with a 10-3 win on Saturday, taking the lead early in the game again.
To kick start the first inning, O’Guinn drove in a three-run homer, sending Thomas and Ramirez to the plate. O’Guinn later had a two-run double in the second inning to mark a career-best five runs on Saturday.
The Trojans had two more runs in the second inning off RBI singles from Ramirez and freshman left fielder Carson Wells.
Lozano followed in the third inning with his first career home run to center field in his first appearance of the season. Lozano also caught two Trailblazers stealing to take care of the baserunners in the third frame.
In the fourth, Owens hit another homer, this one a two-run shot to make the score 10-0.
After a quiet next two innings, the Trailblazers came back with a seventh-inning rally to score their only three runs of the game, making the final score 10-3 on 13 hits for the Trojans.
The Trojans’ early leads on Friday and Saturday allowed other players to get more reps in as well.
USC used 18 different position players and four pitchers on Friday and 15 position players and four pitchers on Saturday.
Ramirez expressed optimism following the series win.
“Anytime you get three wins, it doesn’t matter what team you’re playing, it definitely puts a good vibe in the air for the team and that’s just something you want to build off of and it starts on Tuesday with that mid-week game,” Ramirez said. “So, just taking it one game at a time and taking care of Tuesday and getting prepared and getting ready for the weekend ahead.”
The Trojans will face off on Tuesday against the Fresno State Bulldogs at 6 p.m.