Baseball: Trojans can't make the formula work

USC coach Chad Kreuter talked at length this week about his team's need to be more efficient on offense.

He had a formula: score in four or more innings and score "crooked" numbers multiple times — in other words, more than one run per inning. With the formula, he said a win was "more than likely."

Kreuter's formula didn't work Friday.

Despite scoring four times and scoring two runs on three different occasions, the Trojans visited crosstown rival No. 11 UCLA and lost, 13-7, Friday night before 1,707 fans at Steele Field at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

USC committed two errors and suffered from them dearly, with four unearned runs. Second baseman Ryan Bast also dropped a ball in the eighth inning that allowed two UCLA runners to score, but it was ruled a hit.

Add it all up and solid defense could have saved the Trojans six runs on the night — exactly the margin of UCLA's victory. That fact wasn't lost on Kreuter.

"We did not play defense," Kreuter said. "Again. Our defense let us down, and that's the bottom line on this one."

Bright spots for the Trojans (23-26, 5-14) offensively were center fielder Mike O'Neill and first baseman Ricky Oropesa. O'Neill had two hits and a walk to extend his now-12 game hitting streak, during which he's hitting .500. Oropesa hit his 14th home run of the season to come within five homers of USC's top 10 all-time list. In all, the 1-3 spots in the USC lineup combined to go eight for 13 with a walk and five RBIs, but the rest of the team went just three for 22.

On the mound, starter Ben Mount had his shortest start of the season, lasting just three-plus innings after allowing the first four runners to reach base in the four innings. He was charged with seven runs (three earned). Short-on-pitching USC used three relievers for the duration of the game, but only lefty specialist Brad Douthit (2/3 of an inning, one walk) was effective.

With two more games looming against UCLA on Saturday and Sunday, Kreuter said there was some positive to take away from the contest.

"I leave tonight excited that this team battled and fought and came back and kept themselves within a swinging distance of the game," the fourth-year coach said. "But not excited, not happy at all about the errors, the non-plays."

Notes: USC assistants weren't happy with the umpires or the opponents. Hitting coach Doyle Wilson was ejected in the bottom of the fourth inning for arguing balls and strikes. After the game, volunteer assistant Frank Cruz had words with UCLA coach John Savage regarding what he thought was UCLA throwing at Trojan designated hitter Cade Kreuter, Chad's son. The elder Kreuter also said after the game that third base umpire Darren Hyman admitted he missed a call at second in the top of the eighth inning. ... At three hours 57 minutes, the game was the longest the Trojans have played this season.