Early mistakes give Pepperdine 5-2 edge over USC

The Waves completed a season sweep of the Trojans, who have lost four straight games.

The USC baseball team would probably prefer to forget that the past five days ever happened. In that time, the Trojans have dropped four games and have been outscored 31-17 by their opponents. On Tuesday night, USC was put away 5-2 by Pepperdine at home.

“It was terrible,” head coach Jason Gill said of Tuesday’s outing. “It’s the first time since I’ve been in this uniform that I felt like we were not ready to play a game. We’ve lost games before, and it’s not really about winning and losing, it’s about how you go about it, and today we did not go about it the right way. We were not ready to compete.”

The victory gives the Waves a season sweep of the Trojans. Pepperdine won 11-5 when the two teams met at Dedeaux Field March 6, and the second matchup set for March 9 was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols within Pepperdine’s program.

Initially, it was the Trojans’ mistakes that made the difference on the scoreboard Tuesday. In the second inning, a throwing error by redshirt junior third baseman Ben Ramirez put two runners on with one out, and a wild pitch advanced those runners to second and third, leading to a relatively easy two runs for the Waves.

Then redshirt junior lefty Brian Gursky began to struggle, hitting two batters and walking one to load the bases. The Waves emerged from the fourth inning with a 4-0 lead, and Gursky was pulled midway through the inning after another tough outing. On Saturday against Arizona, he came in as a reliever and gave up four runs while recording only one out.

Pepperdine ended up scoring its five runs on only seven hits.

USC had few answers for Pepperdine’s offensive outburst. The Trojans are eighth in the Pac-12 in hitting this season and struggled with putting up runs early during the weekend series against a tough Arizona team. In this game, the Trojans’ offensive woes lingered past the first few innings, as they never had more than two hits in an inning and stranded 11 runners, including two leadoff batters.

“We have to take better at bats,” Gill said. “We have too many guys striking out and not putting the ball in play, too many guys either trying too hard or taking selfish at bats. It was frustrating tonight, for sure.”

As stagnant as the USC offense has been lately, Pepperdine junior lefty Tyler Murrah deserves credit. He gave up only two hits in five scoreless innings and struck out six batters while walking two. After giving up a leadoff double to redshirt junior right fielder Jamal O’Guinn in the fourth, Murrah induced three quick outs to get out of the inning.

The Trojans managed two runs against Pepperdine’s relievers but were unable to provide any serious challenge for the Waves.

USC will next face Stanford in a three-game set Friday through Sunday at Dedeaux Field. The Trojans are looking to improve from a 6-9 conference record after the Arizona sweep. The Cardinal boast a 22-7 overall record and are 8-4 in Pac-12 play.

“We’re just focused on Friday,” Gill said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position in the Pac-12 race where we need to just focus on winning one game at a time. We can’t look at winning series or any of that stuff. We have to just be at practice tomorrow and try to get after practice, and then Thursday same thing and then Friday get going.

“I feel like we’re capable of going on a run, we’re capable of getting things turned around. It’s just a matter of guys stepping up and getting their job done when they’re supposed to get it done and understanding their roles on the team.”