USC capitalizes on fast start, ekes out win against UCSD

Relief pitching came in clutch for the Trojans, as they held on to 4-3 victory.

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It was Stankiewicz vs. Stankiewicz Tuesday night at Dedeaux Field.

Andy Stankiewicz, the head coach for USC, got the chance to exchange lineup cards with his son Dane, a volunteer assistant coach for UC San Diego. It was the more senior Stankiewicz who came away with the win, as the Trojans toppled the Tritons 4-3.

“That was fun. That was cool by [UCSD head coach Eric] Newman to have Dane bring out the card and me go out there and share that moment with my son,” Stankiewicz said. “So that was cool to exchange cards with him for sure.”

But the pleasantries were soon over for the father-son duo as the Trojans quickly shot out of the gate. Senior third baseman Johnny Olmstead, USC’s cleanup hitter, came up to the plate in the bottom of the first inning with two runners on and hit a two-run single to kickstart the Trojan offense. Senior designated hitter Nick Lopez came up to the plate two batters later and knocked in Olmstead, who was standing on second base after advancing on a wild pitch, to give the Trojans a 3-0 lead.

The offense then came to a grinding halt, only amassing four hits and one run for the rest of the game.

That was all the Trojans needed though, as the USC relieving corps pitched 4.2 innings without giving up an earned run. This was only the second time in the last nine games that every USC relief pitcher was clean in the earned run column.

“Everyone thought we were gonna put up more [runs] than we did after that first inning,” redshirt senior pitcher Garrett Clarke said. “The ‘pen did a great job of holding it down and picking up the offense tonight.”

Sophomore pitcher Fisher Johnson was the first to come out of the bullpen for the Trojans, entering during the top of the fifth inning to pitch with the bases loaded and only one out. Johnson was able to strike out the first batter he faced, then forced a flyout to strand all three runners and keep the score at 4-2.

“Tonight was about our relieving core, they all did a great job,” Stankiewicz said. “Fisher Johnson came in a big situation, got a strikeout and got us out of a jam … We got to find wins when we’re not really on it. And we weren’t really on it here tonight offensively, but we’re going to take it for sure.”

Even though seniors like Clarke, Lopez and Olmstead did much of the damage for the Trojans, five different true or redshirt freshmen were in the starting lineup and produced for USC. Freshman outfielder Austin Overn and redshirt freshman infielder Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek scored on Olmstead’s RBI single.

“I don’t really look at anybody on our roster as freshmen, and if we feel like they’re ready to play, they’re ready to play,” Stankiewicz said. “I think those guys have worked hard, and they put themselves in a position to get on the field on a regular basis.”

USC will likely lose many of its 12 seniors and redshirt seniors for next season, but the Trojans have multiple young players already producing at a high level. Overn leads the nation in triples, while Martin-Grudzielanek is tied for third for the team lead in doubles.

The combination of veteran and freshman production helped the Trojans win their fourth straight midweek game. Despite starting the season 0-3 in midweek games, USC has now gotten into a rhythm, going 6-1 since.

“Sometimes we get caught up in the opponent, and we just gotta play the game,” Stankiewicz said. “That’s been the message on our midweeks is don’t necessarily worry about the opponent, but just play good, fundamental baseball. And if we do that on a night-in, night-out basis, I feel like we’re going to be in a good spot.”

This win marks the 25th win of the season for USC, matching its win total from last year with 16 games still left on the regular-season schedule.

The Trojans will have a break from midweek games as they travel up to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies this weekend, looking to improve on their 11-7 conference record.