Baseball: USC uses unlikely combination to beat Washington

USC used an uncharacteristically patient offense and bend-but-don't-break pitching to beat visiting Washington on Saturday at Dedeaux Field, 10-5, in the Trojans' penultimate game of the season.

The Trojans (27-32, 6-20) put together 13 hits and seven walks to break out for three three-run innings. Washington (28-27, 11-15) put together 13 hits as well but left eight runners on base — a product, USC coach Chad Kreuter said, of timely pitching by a tired Trojans pitching staff.

"It was all pitching," Kreuter said after Saturday's game. "I mean, obviously we had some hitting, but we were able to get enough guys with healthy arms in there and that was big."

After hitting three homers in a 9-7 loss Friday night, USC slugger Ricky Oropesa was pitched around frequently by the Huskies' pitchers in Saturday's matinee. Oropesa went 1 for 3 but reached base three times by walking twice and scored two runs, serving as a table-setter for senior catcher Keith Castillo and the other hitters following him in the lineup.

The four hitters directly behind Oropesa reached base a combined 10 times in 16 tries.

"What he did last night affected what we did today," Kreuter said.

Senior right-hander Kevin Couture earned the start for the Trojans and pitched fairly well, exiting after three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. Reliever Chad Smith pitched effectively in his stead but had to leave the game after the sixth inning with what Kreuter termed a "tired arm", and junior Ryan Cabral picked up for him but didn't have much success.

Cabral gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning before giving way to lefty specialist Brad Douthit and right-hander Shuhei Fujiya. Fujiya, who was expected to be the Trojans' closer this season, earned just his second save of the season Saturday after pitching two scoreless innings. Smith (5-6) got the win.

At this point, Kreuter and his Trojans have just one game left on the season (Sunday, 1 p.m.) and are mathematically eliminated from NCAA Regional contention, meaning the focus is largely on preparing for the 2011 season.

Shortly after the game, the fourth-year coach mentioned that a key commit was in the middle of a playoff game in the Bay Area. Much of Kreuter's recent post-game talks with the media have been centered on recruits for the next season and targeting players at specific positions.

Notes: With the win, USC snapped an eight-game losing streak in Pac-10 conference play, the school's longest in 25 years...With a 3-for-5 performance Saturday, center fielder Mike O'Neill raised his average to .331, second-best on the team behind only Oropesa...Washington starter Andrew Kittredge was charged with the loss after allowing four runs in 3 1/3 innings, giving the sophomore righthander seven wins and seven losses on the year and a team-high 14 decisions in 15 starts.