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UCLA and USC lining up on their respective base lines before the start of their Crosstown Rivalry Game at Dodger Stadium. Photo courtesy of twitter.com

 

TROJANS GRAB MOMENTUM IN LATER INNINGS AND BEAT THE BRUINS ON A COLD AFTERNOON IN CHAVEZ RAVINE

Last year in the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic, after being down 3-0 UCLA used a triple to tie the score, then took advantage of a USC error in extra innings and beat the Trojans.

Almost the exact opposite happened this year as after spotting the Bruins a 3-0 lead, USC used a two run triple to help them score in the sixth and took advantage of a UCLA error in the tenth inning to score the winning run, reacting like they had won the College World Series as they beat the Bruins 4-3.

5,227 shivering members of the Trojan Family and Bruin Nation, bundled up in hoodies and jackets, were at Dodger Stadium on Sunday to watch this Crosstown Rivalry clash.

I was one of them, and as a storm was passing through Los Angeles earlier in the day it marked my first rainy day experience at Dodger Stadium; like more or less everyone else I found myself using towels to wipe up my seat.

Thankfully the skies had cleared up by the time the Bruins and Trojans took the field, though it was still cold as I was once again doing double duty, keeping score of the game while playing the tenor saxophone in the UCLA Alumni Band, who along with USC’s band, Song Girls and cheer squad provided the Crosstown Rivalry spirit.

 

 

Highlights from USC’s 4-3, extra inning comeback win over UCLA on Sunday, courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

As for the game itself and how I saw the two teams…

Being a longtime baseball/softball guy, my main impression was that the Bruins and the Trojans were pretty evenly matched.

It can be said that it was two separate games as UCLA starter Jon Olsen was dealing, using a minimum of pitches in striking out nine Trojans and thoroughly out-pitching his ‘SC counterpart, Marrick Crouse, who was all over the place in his three innings plus of work, giving up the game’s only home run to Bruin second baseman Chase Strumpf in the 2nd inning.

When Chris Clarke replaced Crouse and proceeded to shut the Bruins down, giving up but one hit and striking out five in his 5.2 innings of work, I remarked to some Trojan fans that Clarke, with his 6’ 7″ frame and fastball in the 90 MPH range, should have been the one starting.

That in itself, along with UCLA failing to break the game wide open when they had bases loaded in the 3rd inning with no outs and only came up with one run, was the big momentum shift in the contest.

Which was punctuated by the USC player who along with Clarke was co-MVP of the game, first baseman Lars Nootbaar, as he got to an out-of-gas Olsen in the sixth with a two-out, two-run triple that came within a few feet of clearing the right field fence, scoring the tying run a moment later on center fielder Matthew Acosta’s single and driving the Trojan fans nuts.

Nootbaar’s heroics were not done as after UCLA pitcher Scott Burke dropped a throw on what would have been a sure out at first base in the tenth, the ‘SC sophomore (again, with two out), lashed a double to score pinch runner John Thomas all the way from first.

Add 15 pitches from closer Solomon Burke and a nice reaching catch of a pop up from  – you guessed it, Nootbaar – and the Trojan band was playing “Conquest” as while it wasn’t nearly as epic as their football brothers’ win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl two months before,

You couldn’t have told ‘SC’s baseball team that as being a school with a philosophy, personality, and culture of (sometimes extreme) pride, any Trojan team that beats UCLA – or any school for that matter – seems to celebrate afterwards on a level akin to winning the NBA Finals or the FIFA World Cup.

The phrase “Act like you’ve won before” does not apply to students, athletes, alumni and fans of the University of Southern California, folks.

 

USC 1B Lars Nootbaar’s triple in the 6th inning, driving in two runs and solidifying the Trojans’ momentum. Photo courtesy of culvercityobserver.com

 

As for the future…

These two teams will meet again May 4th-6th at Dedeaux Field on USC’s campus.

And as for how I see the Bruins and Trojans faring on the diamond in 2017;

While you can’t judge anything based on one game, so far I see UCLA as being like other teams in recent years; good pitching and fielding with not nearly enough hitting save for Sean Bouchard and his .371 average with four homers – and he went 0-for-4 with a walk against ‘SC!

Bruin cleanup hitter Michael Toglia’s three strikeouts on Sunday illustrates UCLA’s futility at the plate – he’s batting .161!

Not only that, Toglia’s one of four Bruins in the starting lineup who are currently batting under .200 (YUCK!)

USC? Nootbaar’s hitting – .406 average and four home runs – is going to carry this team as these Trojans seem to have better hitters than their Westwood rivals.

Of course I’ll know a LOT more on May 5th…

 

Nootbaar’s reaction after hitting a double that drove in USC’s winning run on the 10th inning. Photo courtesy of trbimg.com

 

 

 

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