ERIC OLSON / AP Sports Writer
Southern California, the blueblood baseball program that hasn’t been much of a factor nationally for two decades, is showing signs of re-emerging.
The Trojans are coming off their first series win at UCLA since 2016 and are out to an 11-3 start, their best since the 2015 team opened with 12 straight wins.
“We probably haven’t earned the respect or had the respect we’re trying to earn, so when you come in and play a team that just came off a big series last week… We feel like we’re trying to earn respect and when we do stuff like that, we feel we’re getting it,” third-year coach Jason Gill said.
UCLA entered the Pac-12 opening series ranked as high as No. 15 and had beaten then-No. 1 Texas a week earlier at an event in Houston.
The Trojans won 7-4 Friday and bounced back from a 2-1 loss Saturday to win 6-3 on Sunday. They made their first appearance of the season in the national rankings at No. 25 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
Rhylan Thomas and Tyresse Turner each had five hits in the series and Garret Guillemette had four hits, including a home run to stake the Trojans to an early 5-0 lead Sunday.
USC has held up despite being without No. 1 starting pitcher Isaac Esqueda for two weeks because of injury. Charlie Hurley allowed two runs over seven innings on Sunday, and relievers Carson Lambert and Matt Keating combined to allow three runs over seven innings in the series.
“Those are our go-to guys,” Gill said, “and they know it and I think they enjoy the fact they’re going to get the ball.”
USC, which has won an NCAA-best 12 national championships but none since 1998, has struggled to regain its traction the past two decades.
The Trojans haven’t been back to the College World Series since 2001 or won a conference title since 2002. Not counting the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, they haven’t had a winning record since 2015, which also was the last time they’ve appeared in the NCAA Tournament.
They were picked eighth in the Pac-12 preseason poll and get no breather before a weekend home series against California. On Tuesday, they host Connecticut (11-2), which is coming off a series win at Pepperdine.
IN THE POLLS
The rankings are jumbled with Texas, which had been the consensus No. 1 team, losing four of its past six games, including two of three at South Carolina.
Mississippi (13-2) is No. 1 by D1Baseball.com, Notre Dame (11-1) by Baseball America and Vanderbilt (13-2) by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
The Nos. 2 and 3 teams are Texas (13-4) and Arkansas (11-3) by D1Baseball, Ole Miss and Oregon State (11-2) by Baseball America and Tennessee (15-1) and Oregon State by Collegiate Baseball.
Daniel Susac became the first Arizona player in 24 years to hit two home runs in an inning, going deep twice in a nine-run first in the Wildcats’ 13-5, series-clinching win over California. Susac, an All-American last season, is batting .416 with three homers, 11 doubles and 23 RBIs in 16 games.
Seton Hall pulled one of the surprises of the weekend with its 6-4 win at Florida on Sunday, the Pirates’ first victory after 12 losses to start the season. The Pirates hadn’t beaten a Power Five team since a 10-2 win over Illinois on Feb. 15, 2020.
THAT TOOK A WHILE
Charlotte played its longest game in terms of time elapsed in its 9-7, 12-inning loss to Appalachian State on Sunday. The game lasted 5 hours, 41 minutes.
The 49ers thought they had it won in the ninth on a play at the plate, but the umpire called obstruction on catcher Kaden Hopson and the tying run counted. Andrew Greckel drove in the go-ahead run for App State in the 12th.
NO MERCY MERCER
Mercer outscored Saint Peter’s 54-4 in a three-game sweep and is off to the best start in program history at 15-1.
The Bears from the Southern Conference own wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech and will face a big challenge this week when they travel to South Florida, which made it to super regionals last season.