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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

USC Beats Kentucky, Remains Undefeated

Paolo Uggetti |
February 19, 2015 | 9:29 p.m. PST

Associate Sports Editor

USC Baseball has now won all five of their first games this season (Neon Tommy)
USC Baseball has now won all five of their first games this season (Neon Tommy)

Thanks to Tyler Gilbert's eight-strikeout performance in his second start of the young season, the Trojans edged out the Kentucky Wildcats 5-2 in a one-game stint at Dedeaux Field, keeping their undefeated record intact. 

Gilbert had struggled in his first start, allowing four runs in just 2.1 innings, but in this game, he started off strong, striking out two in one inning; the same number of punch outs he had in his first start altogether. 

"I took a lot of pressure off myself and really believed in myself," Gilbert admitted. "I had all my pitches working today when I didn't think too much about it." 

The junior left hander made quick work of the first few innings in very few pitches, but was then briefly interrupted in the top of the third when Kentucky’s Evan White hit a shot out to left-center field giving the Wildcats the early advantage. 

Gilbert kept the damage at a minimum, however, even after allowing multiple baserunners in the third and fourth innings. 

“The big thing was how Gilbert came back from his last start,” lauded Coach Dan Hubbs. "He really scuffled on Sunday being able to throw multiple pitches for strikes."

Opposite Gilbert was the Wildcats Dustin Beggs, also making his second start of the season. Beggs came into the game sporting a small sample, yet impressive, 1.69 ERA and showed why he has already made two of UK’s three starts. 

Through three innings, Beggs did not allow a hit and kept his pitch count low, forcing Trojan hitters into a copious amount of groundouts and harmless popups. 

First baseman Jeremy Martinez finally broke through Beggs and got the Trojans' first hit with an aggressive first-pitch swing that led to a stand-up double. Center fielder Timmy Robinson nearly gave the Trojans a lead with a follow-up two-run shot, but Kentucky’s Ka’ai Tom robbed him at the wall with a stunning catch. 

"I moved on from it," said Robinson. "But it got me fired up for my next-at bat."

The Trojans, however, were not about to let this inning pass them by without a score. A two-out double into the gap by David Oppenheim drove Martinez in from second and tied the game at one. 

"To get that run was huge," said Coach Hubbs. "As a lineup, we have been really tough outs." 

Gilbert continued his outing by striking out two batters in the fifth, but could not close out the frame unscathed, as he allowed three singles that let Kentucky take the small-margin lead back. 

The speedy leadoff Ramirez led the top of the fifth for the Trojans with a single, and a few batters later Robinson redeemed himself and sent one out of Dedeaux for a two-run shot that gave USC its first lead of the game. 

“He's been seeing the ball great,” Coach Hubbs admitted afterward. "He really worked yesterday at staying down on the ball and he saw the fruits of his labor today."

It was the junior’s first homerun of the year, and it turned out to be the one that did Beggs in, as the Wildcats turned to their second pitcher of the game to get out of the troublesome inning. 

Gilbert came out to start the sixth and shrugged off a walk by forcing a few groundouts and racking up his seventh punch-out of the night. 

"He struck guys out on the curve ball, struck them out on the change and struck them out on the fastball," lauded Hubbs. "He faced a tough opponent and did a great job."

After being tagged with an outrageous 11.79 ERA due to his first outing vs. Towson, Gilbert looked much-improved and in control barring a few pitches. Despite the home run allowed, the junior’s performance was solid enough to allow the Trojan’s offense to help give him the win. 

"Everything was working today, unlike Sunday" he reiterated. "I had the confidence to throw anything." 

Though the Wildcats outhit the Trojans, 9-8, the bluegrass ballplayers failed to make their runners count, and credit Gilbert, who despite allowing guys on, never let most of them touch home plate. 

The offense for the cardinal and gold wasn’t the potent juggernaut it has been in the early stages of this campaign, as the five runs were USC’s lowest scoring output of the five games they have played in.  

But timeliness was more important than volume on a night where they faced a tough SEC opponent. 

Both Oppenheim’s gap shot and Robinson’s RBIs via a homerun and a seventh-inning single came at the most opportune times, while the fifth run by way of Bobby Stahel's insurance single in the eighth solidified the Trojans victory.

"They just have to stay within themselves and who they are when they're seeing it as well as they are," said Hubbs. "If they do that we're going to score more runs." 

Closer Kyle Davis put the finishing touches on the successful conquest by rising to the moment and crafting a four-out save to put an end to the Wildcats’ scoring threats in the eighth inning. 

Now five wins, no losses to their record, the Trojans await the arrival of Oakland to Dedeaux for a three-game series that begins Friday night and continues through the weekend. 

Reach Associate Sports Editor Paolo Uggetti here, or follow him on Twitter at @PaoloUggetti.



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