USC Wins, Louisville’s Coach Talks and Liz Rocks

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on March 16th, 2011 in Uncategorized
 

Sometimes you just don’t get what you expect. I know, because today was one of those days for moi. For my first full day back in SoCal, I wanted to make sure to catch Louisville while they were on the last day of their west coast swing. But instead of getting just a look at the Cardinals pulling another W in all their No. 19-ranked glory, I came away with a possible new revelation of the Trojans.

Ricky Oropesa (33) did his part, knocking three hits on the day to lead the Trojans at the dish.

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WHAT I SAW OUT AT DEDEAUX FIELD TODAY.

Well first and foremost, it’s what I DIDN’T see that matters here. I didn’t see the sad sack Trojans that I’d gotten used to the last few years. I didn’t see a team that suffered through an eight-game losing streak to put their season behind the eight ball again. Also, I didn’t see the suffocating pitching and defense that led the Cards to last weekend’s sweep at Pepperdine and an 11-3 start.

Ben Mount got his first win of the season, going five solid innings for the Men of Troy.

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LINESCORE:

Louisville – 010 000 210 – 4  8  2

So. Calif. – 303 002 10x – 5  9  3

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WP: Ben Mount (1-0)

LP: Dace Kime (1-2)

Save: None

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Top Hitters.

- L’ville:

Ryan Wright, 2-for-4, BB, SB

JJ Ethel, 2-for-4

Zak Wasserman, 1-for-5, RBI, HR

- USC:

Ricky Oropesa, 3-for-4, RBI, BB

Alex Sherrod, 1-for-2, 2RBI

Alex Glenn, 2-for-3, RBI, HR

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IN A NUTSHELL.

Yesterday, the Cardinals allowed USC to go 2-0-2 in the first three frames of game one between these two. That 4-0 lead would be a tad too much for the Black and Red to overcome. Today, it got a little worse. They allowed the Trojans to go 3-0-3 in the first three innings, while scoring just a single run in the 2nd inning themselves and yes, it proved too much to overcome again. The Trojans and Cardinals traded a trio of runs in the latter innings but nothing changed as that five-run advantage stayed to the last out.

UofL’s frosh hurler Dace Kime issued a leadoff double to SC’s Kevin Roundtree and then issued a trio of walks (one of which brought home a bases-loaded run), threw a wild pitch, gave up an RBI single and a run-scoring sac fly, leaving coach Dan McDonnell scratching his head since his team has had a good start, playing sound, fundamental baseball. Until today.

You get the picture. It was a horrid start for a team that seems to be slightly running out of gas as the road trip winds down.

Two innings later, the gift-giving continued. The Trojans piled on three more game-clinching runs with the help of three walks, two errors, one passed ball, an RBI single by Sherrod and a partridge in a pear tree.  Game. Set. Sweep. Trojans cue the “Conquest” song.

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TOUGH FIRST IMPRESSION.

I really looked forward to getting my first look at Louisville relief ace Derek Self, who entered the contest in the 3rd inning to take over for starter Dace Kime. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of impression I was hoping for – and Derek was hoping for as well, I’m sure.

Taking over with men on 1st and 2nd and no out in the 3rd frame, Self immediately gave up single runs in the first three batters, including Sherrod’s RBI single, a sac fly RBI by Brandon Garcia and a throwing error on a would-be groundout by Jake Hernandez. In all, Self gave up three hits, one run, one walk and two strikes in his 3.0 inning stint. Hopefully I’ll catch him again when he’s more on his game than today.

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MAYBE USC IS COMING AROUND.

The turmoil of the last few seasons and the eventual upheaval of Chad Kreuter as head coach has left this writer wondering if the Trojans of yore are ever going to make a comeback. But today was a pretty good indication that interim coach Frank Cruz could very well have infused a new mentality in South Central.

To beat a ranked team two days in a row is pretty good. To couple those two wins over No. 19 Louisville with last Sunday’s win at Dodger Stadium against No. 16 UCLA and you’ve got a team that is on a bit of a roll. The batting order is still not the most imposing, but does have Ricky Oropesa, a real power stick, and a lot of slap hitters that can move baserunners around.

The Men of Troy have winnable games with Pacific (3) and UC-Santa Barbara (1) in the next week before UCLA comes calling again for the opening weekend of Pac 10 play. Keep an eye on the Trojans and see if they’re serious about making a move back to the big time again.

Coach Dan McDonnell has taken over tossing batting practice to his team to get an up-close look at their recent batting woes.

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Q&A WITH COACH MCDONNELL.

I had a chance to ask a few quick questions with the Louisville Cardinal miracle worker before today’s game. I’ve been waiting to meet him for a long time now, so I was pumped to get a face-to-face with the man that has done one of the better program building jobs in the last decade.

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Me:

I have a feeling I know what you’re gonna say, but what has surprised you, both good and bad, so far with your team this year.

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Coach McDonnell:

I would say the offensive challenges with the bat would be the obvious bad side. I mean, I’m hard-headed anyway and we like the philosophy and the system that we’ve had a lot of success with, but with a young team like we’ve got it’s forced us to tweak the philosophy a little bit. And yeah, you’ve gotta bunt more and hit more line drives, I mean the three-run homer that we were getting off of last year’s swing is going to stop at the warning track now. We kinda had an American League style and recruited around that and now we have to learn to change with the times. And we will.

We’ve pitched extremely well and we’ve played good defense, so the reality is if you do those two things you’ve got a chance to win every game, and that’s why we are 11-4 at this time. But clearly, to do some damage in the post-season we know we’re going to have to be more offensive with our system.

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Me:

I know this may be jumping ahead a lot, but do you see glimpses that this team could be an Omaha-type team eventually?

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Coach McDonnell:

I think so from the standpoint that we’re special on the mound and we’re gonna make plays defensively. Fortunately in college baseball, these kids grow up quick. So whether it’s the third or two-thirds point of the season our freshmen won’t be freshmen anymore and they’ll start to figure it out and play with a lot more confidence. So I wouldn’t put anything past these guys. Now with that in mind, boy…. that’s a long way from now.

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Me:

And I did ask you to dream a little here.

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Coach McDonnell:

I mean, we haven’t even had the same lineup on the field back to back yet this season, I believe. So we’re still putting the pieces together and we’ve got 12 or 13 hitters that are all competing hard. So I like that about us as well.

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Me:

Tell me a little bit about your pitching staff. You’ve touched on it a little bit already, but I’m guessing you like where you guys are at right now?

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Coach McDonnell:

Yeah I do, ya’ know. We’ve got three sophomores on the weekend and all of them are strike-throwers with great breaking balls and good control. They all field their position very well and they give us a chance to win. Yesterday’s 4-0 deficit was almost uncharted territory and I challenged our offense to help us out. So we’re not used to being in those positions and that’s because our pitching has been so good.

Our relief staff is a good mixture of young and old, guys like Derek Self and Tony Zych are very good out of the bullpen and great leaders for our team. Then the young guys like Chad Green, Jeff Thompson, Cody Ege, Travis Tingle and Andy Flett, they’re all having success right off the bat so it’s a great base for us to build around. Every day we come to the ballpark, no matter how good the team your playing is, we know we’ve got a chance to win. And that’s a big thing.

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Me:

I’m guessing you’re pretty happy with your defense as well?

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Coach McDonnell:

Yeah, you know. Starting as young of an infield as we do, we’ve still only had one real meltdown of a game, and that’s going to happen from time to time. I think our defense was at .980 as of last weekend, so we’ve done well. But I still think fielding percentage is one of the most overrated stats in baseball so I don’t put too much emphasis on that. You know, if you have an error and nobody scores, that doesn’t really hurt you. It’s more a case of when you’ve got men on 2nd and 3rd, are you going to make the routine play? That’s when it matters.

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Me:

Talk for a second about the Big East. Of what you know so far, what do you think about the conference this year?

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Coach McDonnell:

I think we’re really good this year, no doubt. What people have to remember is that everyone was really high on the Big East going into this season: especially Connecticut, ourselves, St. John’s. And if you were believers of us before the season, you HAVE to stay believers. Because what you have to understand is that UConn is going to play their first 15 games on the road. Same with St. John’s. Same with Pitt. We’re a little fortunate because we’re more of a southern school and can play early home games. So those teams will have some bumps early on. Any team like that would.

Ya’ know, a couple years ago, we were pre-season top 25 and opened the season at Florida and after we lost people just dropped us off the radar like we were nobody. Florida ended up playing in a Super Regional that year, and so did we. Seeing UConn, St. John’s and Rutgers going through some early-season struggles doesn’t surprise me at all. But I’m tellin’ ya’, when things warm up and they get their reps, they’re all going to be something big to reckon with at the end of the year.

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Me:

Just to echo what you’re saying, I saw Rutgers beat Miami when I was in South Florida for opening weekend and on top of that, the two games they lost were both nip-and-tuck games that could’ve gone either way. So I was pretty big on Rutgers from the get-go.

Last question. Are you tired of always hearing your name when the coaching carousel comes around each off-season?

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Coach McDonnell:

Well, it’s a compliment to myself and our program, for sure. But honestly, things have started to quiet down for me on that front the last year or two. I think people finally realize that we’re building something really special at Louisville. We’ve got a stadium expansion coming up, we’ve got a great following and Louisville is a great sports town too. So I think they know we’re not going anywhere and have a great situation where we are.

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A FEW MORE PICS.

Here are some additional images from today’s USC win over Louisville.

SC's Joe DePinto slides in just before Louisville catcher J.J. Ethel can make the tag for the games' first run.

UofL's Zak Wasserman gets props for a fence-scraper of a home run to give the Cards hope.

A high throw to 2nd base allows Ryan Wright to steal his fourth base of the season, which is tops on the Louisville team.

"Why Me?": Coach Dan McDonnell doesn't have the answers for his teams pitching woes today, especially since they've been so good at times this season.

Ricky Oropesa makes another good hack at a Louisville offering. Oropesa pulled his average above .300 with his 3-for-4 day.

Coach Frank Cruz has brought back the vintage yellow-tops uniforms that the legendary Rod Dedeaux made famous back in the Randy Johnson/Mark McGuire days of the early 80s.

Louisville All American reliever Derek Self had a rough outing, giving up three runs after the first three batters he faced.

Billionaire Scott Boras watches the action. His son Shane plays on the Trojan team this season.

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THE REASON THIS WRITE-UP IS A LITTLE ON THE SHORT SIDE.

I had to cut out of the USC victory a few innings early (sorry Coach Cruz, I wanted to wrap witcha afterward, but we’ll save it for another day), because I had to haul ass into Hollywood to see indy rock darling Liz Phair at the world-famous Troubadour tonight. She put on a solid 19-song set, playing new and old material, including a number of tunes off her seminal 1994 debut “Exile in Guyville”. Enjoy a few pics:

Liz Phair put on an energetic show, strumming her rhythm guitar and crooning with aplomb.

No soppy ballads here, Liz was crankin' out some rock-and-roll jigs that would make the Ramones proud.

For those of you with a foot fetish... here you go.

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Okay, I’m lookin’ forward to the weekend already.

G’night.

 

COMMENTS:

March 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm
college baseball fan says:

Great article…any win by USC from a ranked out of area team is a good RPI boost for those West Coast schools that play the Trojans. You mentioned that the Trojans have a winnable game vs. UC Santa Barbara…The Gauchos beat the Trojans last week. The Gauchos last 3 losses were by one run. They are not a pushover.


March 18, 2011 at 2:37 am
Brandon says:

I saw the Tuesday game. Alex (ha, ha) Sherrod (you are) had an awesome game. And what more can be said about Oropesa? I’ve seen four Trojan games this season and EVERY game he’s had at least TWO at bats when he completely crushed the ball. Also, I’m no scout, and though he went just 1-4, somehow you can just see the great approach Ryan Wright brings to the plate.

Oh, and thanks for the foot pics.