USC takes down Fresno State in bullpen game

The Trojans used 11 pitchers in their first game in front of fans in over a year.

sports, baseball

In a true team effort from their bullpen, the USC Trojans squeaked out a 2-1 win over Fresno State at home on Tuesday night.

Instead of attempting to get serious length from anybody on its pitching staff, USC elected to go with a bullpen game, in which it would use a variety of different bullpen pitchers in shorter stints to put together 27 outs. Redshirt junior left hander Brian Gursky started the game for the Trojans but gave only one inning of scoreless ball, allowing one hit before head coach Jason Gill began to make changes on the mound.

Gursky’s short but effective outing was a microcosm of what USC got pitching-wise in this game. Pitchers came in for a short period of time, pitched extremely effectively and gave the ball to the next guy one inning later. Freshman Nate Clow, who earned the save for the Trojans, pitched the longest in terms of innings, going one and a third after being asked to get one extra out in the eighth inning. Redshirt freshman Kyle Wisch threw the most pitches for USC, with 22 in a one-hit, one-walk, scoreless third inning.

Bullpen games like this one can often be dangerous, because it forces a team to rely on many different pitchers to avoid mistakes, as opposed to the traditional approach where a team’s success in run prevention is predominantly reliant on the effectiveness of one starter.

However, this unit was more than up to the challenge. Eleven Trojan pitchers took the mound Tuesday and allowed only one run off of seven hits while striking out nine Bulldogs.

The staff also worked together to show strong resiliency at different points of the game. Fresno State’s first major scoring chance took place in the top of the fifth after three of its first four batters walked, loading the bases with one out. But redshirt sophomore Garrett Clarke worked out of the jam, striking out sophomore third baseman Andrew Kachel and forcing a flyout on the subsequent at bat to strand all three runners.

Redshirt senior left hander Quentin Longrie found himself in a similar predicament in the seventh, as he entered the game with runners on first and second with one out. He also stepped up in that situation, as he got the ground ball he needed for his defense to execute on a double play to keep a zero in the Bulldogs’ run column.

Fresno State finally got on the board in the top of the eighth on an RBI single from junior center fielder EJ Andrews Jr., but the damage could have been much worse. Clow, brought in for the four-out save, got the fly out he needed with the bases loaded and two outs to keep the Trojan lead intact. Clow would follow up with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his third save of the season.

For the most part, it was a quiet offensive night for the Trojans, but when they did reach base, they put the necessary pressure on the Bulldog defense to manufacture some runs. In the fourth inning, redshirt freshman center fielder Tyresse Turner led off with a triple down the left field line. Redshirt junior right fielder Jamal O’Guinn then did his job, hitting a sacrifice grounder to second to score Turner with one out and ended up reaching base on an error anyway.

USC put the ball in play enough times in the ensuing inning as well, as Turner hit an infield single to short that would wind up scoring redshirt freshman left fielder Rhylan Thomas from second on a throwing error. That second run would give the Trojans just enough support for their pitching to pull out the victory in this standalone matchup.

The non-conference win improves the Trojans’ record to 16-11 on the year and held extra special significance for the program as a whole. Due to loosened restrictions in Los Angeles, Dedeaux Field was able to welcome a limited number of fans to the ballpark for the first time since March 2020. Fifty-six family members and guests of USC players and coaches made it to the ballpark on Tuesday, providing a little extra motivation and spark for the team.

USC will stay home this weekend as it takes on the first-place Oregon Ducks in an important three-game conference series beginning Friday at 6 p.m.