Trojans Battle at No. 22 Cal State Fullerton, But Fall 3-2 in Season Opener
Feb. 15, 2013
FULLERTON, Calif. - The Trojans opened the 2013 season on the road at No. 22 Cal State Fullerton, and despite a two-run home run from James Roberts and a stellar outing from starter Bob Wheatley, USC was unable to overcome a slow start and fell to the Titans, 3-2 on Friday evening.
Trojan starter, junior lefty Wheatley (Villa Park, Calif./Orange Lutheran HS) kept USC in the game when the bats got off to a slow start, going 5.1 innings, allowing only three runs on six hits and striking out one in just his third career start. Titans' freshman starter Thomas Eshelman held the Trojans hitless through 4.2 innings.
Cal State Fullerton's offense struck in the top of the first with one run, but Wheatley settled in to follow up with four innings of zeros.
In the top of the fifth with two outs, junior third baseman Kevin Swick (La Canada, Calif./Loyola HS) broke up the Titans' starter Thomas Eschelman's no hitter with a rocket to the third baseman. The Trojans were unable to capitalize on their first base runner of the game, however and headed to the bottom half of the inning, still trailing 1-0.
The Trojans struck in a big way in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs, Adam Landecker (Calabasas, Calif./Calabasas HS) reached on an error by the second baseman, as his throw pulled their first baseman, Carlos Lopez, off the base. The next batter, Roberts, deposited a two run-home run over the left field fence, giving the Trojans a 2-1 lead. First baseman Dante Flores (Norwalk, Calif./St. John Bosco) and designated hitter Jake Hernandez (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Los Osos HS) hit back-to-back singles to right field to put pressure on the Titans, but the Trojans were unable to plate anymore runs in the innings, stranding two base runners.
In the bottom half of the sixth, the Titans answered, scoring two runs of their own. Matt Chapman started off the inning with a single, and J.D. Davis drew a walk. A bunt single by Michael Lorenzen loaded the bases with no outs for the Titans. Catcher Chad Wallach singled to right left field to drive in a run, but a perfect throw by Timmy Robinson (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View HS) tagged the runner at the plate, saving a run a getting an out. That was the end of Wheatley's stellar outing, as he was lifted for righthander Nigel Nootbaar (El Segundo, Calif./El Segundo HS). The first batter he faced, Matt Orloff dropped a safety squeeze bunt to score the runner from third, as the throw from Nootbaar didn't get to catcher Garrett Stubbs (Del Mar, Calif./Torrey Pines HS) in time. The Trojans were able to get out of the inning without any further damage, with the score 3-2, Titans.
In the bottom of the eighth, Nootbaar got the Trojans out of a bases loaded jam, after walking two and hitting one with two outs, he got Titan shortstop Richy Pedroza looking to end the inning and keep the Trojans within one, 3-2. Fullerton closer Michael Lorenzen entered in the top of the ninth to retire the Trojans, 1-2-3 and USC suffered their first loss of the year, 3-2.
At the plate, the Trojans were outhit 6-4, with four different Trojans recording hits.
The attendance at the season opener at Goodwin Field of 3,508 was the most at a Titan home game since 2007.
The Trojans will now travel to Cal State Bakersfield to take on the Runners at 2 p.m. PT on Saturday, before returning to Dedeaux Field for their home opener on Sunday afternoon versus Nebraska.