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Brent Wheatley, Trojans Open Baseball Season With A Bang

Jeremy Bergman |
February 13, 2015 | 10:20 p.m. PST

Sports Director

Brent Wheatley was dealing tonight, striking out 10 over six innings. (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy)
Brent Wheatley was dealing tonight, striking out 10 over six innings. (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy)
You smell that? That’s the start of a brand new USC baseball season.

You hear that? That’s the sound of Trojans mauling Tigers. 

In their first game of the season, the Trojans (1-0) stomped the Towson Tigers (0-1), 17-1, behind a brilliant performance by starting pitcher Brent Wheatley and an offensive onslaught.

“We have a lot of confidence in our offense," Wheatley offered. “It makes you really comfortable. You’re able to just go out there, throw strikes, stretch your defense. It makes it easier on everyone.”

Wheatley recorded a career-high in strikeouts with 10 K’s in just six innings of work. The junior walked just one batter and surrendered just one earned run. He suggested that his relationship with starting catcher Garrett Stubbs played a factor in his performance.

“We’re awesome buds,” Wheatley said. “He called the majority of the game tonight and we’re always on the same page. When he calls a pitch, I have that pitch in my head 99.9% of the time.”

It wasn’t just the starting pitcher that was on the mark; the Trojan offense was also explosive.

“The kids want to be relentless in everything we do,” head coach Dan Hubbs stated after the game. 

And they were.

Towson committed four errors Friday night. (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy)
Towson committed four errors Friday night. (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy)
The Trojans jumped out to a quick lead with a four-run first inning, littered with Towson mistakes. 

The inning was a comedy of errors as two Towson infielders neglected to communicate on an AJ Ramirez infield pop-up, letting it drop for USC’s first hit of the game. A wild pitch from Bruce Zimmermann put the Tigers in an even worse position, and led to an outburst from the Trojans. 

“We had some help,” Hubbs said. “But it’s always good when you can sustain an offense.” 

The disaster of a start set the tone for the rest of the game.

Jeremy Martinez, Timmy Robinson and Dante Flores, USC’s heart of the order, ignited rallies in the first and third innings. 

After Martinez reached on a dropped third strike, Robinson’s RBI single gave the Trojans their first lead of the season in the first. Flores followed that up with a two-RBI triple. Two innings later, the three struck again with back-to-back-to-back hits. 

By the end of the third inning, USC had already put 10 runs on the board. 

It was such a blowout that Hubbs starting pinch-hitting for most of his starters in the sixth inning. Hubbs used 23 of the players on his roster in what amounted to a preseason game for his veteran squad.

“It’s been competitive for playing time,” Hubbs said. “Tonight was great that we were able to get all the position players into the game, get their feet wet.”

Towson looked very rusty through the entire nine innings. There were at least three dropped pop flies, a few wild pitches and passed balls. By the end of the night, the Tigers had accumulated four errors.

Reggie Southall fields a grounder during Friday's blowout win. (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy)
Reggie Southall fields a grounder during Friday's blowout win. (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy)
Pinch hitter AJ Fritts hit the only home run of the game over the left-fielf fence in the bottom of the eighth inning. The shot was his first HR, and hit, in only his second AB of his USC career. 

“I was just happy to get my first college career hit off my back,” Fritts admitted. “For it to be a home run is special.”

Fritts’s family, who was in attendance, gave him a rousing cheer before the hit to the shortened fence.

“Yeah, I hit it for them,” Fritts said.

Overall, the energy at Dedeaux Field was pretty fun for the season opener as 696 Trojan faithful showed up Friday night.

The Trojans will face the Tigers twice more on Saturday at 6pm and Sunday at 1pm. 

Reach Sports Director Jeremy Bergman here. Follow him @JABergman



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