As we get ready for this weekend's series with USC, we got together with Evan from Conquest Chronicles, the best Trojan site there is, to exchange scouting reports. Here's our answers to Evan's questions.
1. With some must-win games earlier in the week (only one of which was won), USC started its Friday and Saturday pitchers on Monday and Tuesday. What's the plan for the rotation this weekend?
According to what head coach Dan Hubbs said earlier in the week, the plan is to start Wyatt Strahan and Brent Wheatley at some point during the series. Wheatley has been announced for Friday, mostly because he left after 0.2 IP on Tuesday and should be fresh right now. The Trojans might give Bob Wheatley the baseball on Sunday but he has been very inconsistent and USC can’t afford to let any game slip away at this point. Strahan meanwhile has been a horse this season, throwing over 100 pitches in all but two starts this season so I don’t worry about his stamina. Luckily USC has some former starters in Kyle Twomey and Brooks Kriske that can throw four-to-five innings of relief in a given appearance.
2. Um, what happened in Tuesday's 17-3 loss at Cal State Fullerton?
Please don’t remind me, as I am still trying to burn that image out of my mind just like the players are trying to do. USC scored three runs in the first inning against a Senior pitcher making his first start of the season, but not much else went the Trojans way moving forward. Brent Wheatley left the ball right over the plate and the red-hot Fullerton bats came to play. Basically ever player on Fullerton’s roster was crushing the baseball, and USC was struggling to stop any situations with RISP and things just got out of hand real fast.
3. What should we expect to see out of the USC bullpen? A mixture of relievers, or just a long reliever and a closer?
USC’s bullpen has been extremely indicative of the team’s success, and it all starts on the back end with closer Kyle Davis. The sophomore throws an incredible slider generated from his downhill action to the plate that make him very deceptive. USC has some long relievers, but the majority of its bullpen consists of situational specialist in James Guillen (submarine righty), Marc Huberman (lefty with good slider), and Sean Adler (3/4 delivery lefty) at coach Hubbs’ disposal. Obviously USC would like to use the starting rotation for as long as they can, but their bullpen is formidable enough to close out games and the Trojans are 16-1 when leading after six innings this season.
4. Do the Trojans play a lot of small ball like Oregon State, or will we rarely see any sacrifice bunts?
USC does play a fair deal of situational baseball, which more times than not results in sacrifice bunting. What I mean is that USC will also do a fair deal of hit-and-run attack along with some drag bunting with nobody on base to try and manufacture offense. In terms of sacrifice bunting, USC’s actually 7th best in the nation with 73 sacrifice hits but if you were just watching the game, you wouldn’t get the sense that the Trojans are overdoing their small-ball attack.
5. I've got USC completely off the bubble after that embarrassing loss at Fullerton. But if the Trojans sweep this weekend and some things break their way elsewhere across the country, I could see them sneaking into the field of 64. Do you view things the same?
Plain and simply put, USC can’t afford to lose a single game to make the postseason tournament. I understand the scenarios and all so USC will need to get that RPI closer to 55 or 60 if they want to have any real chance of sneaking into the tournament. Since you could argue might have already happened in that Fullerton game, USC will be playing to not only make the tournament this weekend but to also (and this will happen over the course of the weekend) look to build some major confidence against a great team like Oregon State heading into next season.
6. Who do you want to punch in the face?
If I could have one nasty punch, I would annihilate the NCAA for those gosh darn scholarship rules. USC is stricken by the fact that they can only offer 11.7 scholarships per year which as you know makes it nearly impossible to cover a full team with scholarship worthy players. Since USC is very expensive, and as a current student I suffer from the same lofty student debt, athletes and their families struggle to pay for the education side of things. If we could recruit like Football, we would be a top-10 program every single year like we were in the 1970s and early 1980s.
7. Prediction for this weekend's series?
USC will certainly fight and claw every game of the series but I definitely see the Beavers winning two of three games in the series. I think based on the pitching match ups, USC will drop the first game with Wheatley on the mound and some nasty shadows that will cover the plate with the terrible 4 p.m. start time, which I completely blame the Pac-12 Networks for scheduling. That said, I feel that you will see the best from Wyatt Strahan, who is probably pitching in his last start as a Trojan to end his junior draft-eligible season. The finale could go either way but I feel like the Beavers bats will come alive and you will win the series that will much more competitive as opposed to last season.
Thanks! It will be interesting to see what happens.