Feb. 27, 2008

Around the Bases

Around the Bases

San Diego State nips USC 2-1

By Chris Hadorn

photos by Chris Hadorn


SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A little more than a mile away from the ocean, underneath a

Backed by two runs in the bottom of the seventh, San Diego State squeaked by USC 2-1 in a Tuesday night game at San Diego's Tony Gwynn Stadium.  Despite tallying only three base hits, the Aztecs were able to score enough to improve their record to 4-1 and give the Trojans (3-1) their first defeat of the young season.


Entering the game in the seventh with a Trojans’ 1-0 lead, USC reliever Philip Urso (0-1) had a nightmarish inning in which the Aztecs scored both runs on two of his mistakes, a bases-loaded balk and a wild pitch. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound right-hander began the inning by hitting Aztecs second baseman Garett Green with a pitch and then surrendered a single to  Brandon Glover on a smoked ground ball to center field. Green advanced to third on the base hit. With runners on first and third with no outs, Urso rebounded by getting freshman rightfielder Cory Vaughn to ground into a 5-2-5 fielder’s choice where Green got  tagged out by in a short run-down. With runners on first and second, DH Cameron Johnson hit into another fielder’s choice, a ground ball that was bobbled by USC third baseman Roberto Lopez, but he was able to force out Vaughn at second on the throw by an eyelash.  All of the sudden it looked like Urso might get out of the jam scathe free, but he hit his second hitter of the inning with a pitch, leftfielder Pat Colwell, to load the bases. Just as catcher Brett Tanos stepped into the batter’s box, the Trojans’ reliever was called for a balk, which scored Glover from third and advanced the other runners with two outs. Tanos eventually worked it to a full count and Urso threw a wild pitch ball four that enabled Johnson to score the go-ahead run from third. USC catcher Robert Stock tried to backhand Urso's offering in the dirt, but was unable to control it, rolling past him.


Both starters pitched brilliant games, but did not factor into the decision. Kevin Couture, the Trojans’ sophomore right-hander from nearby Coronado, threw six shutout innings, allowed two hits, surrendered three walks  and fanned six Aztecs batters. The only two hits Couture gave up were on doubles into the gaps off the bat of Vaughn (2 for 3), the Aztecs freshman who has been turning heads to start the season. He's the son of famed big-leaguer Greg Vaughn, a former teammate of San Diego State manager Tony Gwynn.  On the other side, starting pitcher Shane Kaufman gave San Diego State an admirable effort by going six innings and allowing one earned run. The senior right-hander gave up six hits, walked one and punched out four batters.


The Trojans' lone run came off Kaufman in the top of fifth. USC shortstop Hector Rabago (1 for 4) led off the inning by ripping a line-drive double off the wall in left field. Rabago advanced to third on Anthony Vasquez's sacrifice bunt and scored on Lopez's ground-ball, RBI single to left. SDSU third baseman Nick Romero was playing shallow on the grass and Lopez was able to shoot it past his grasp for the base hit. USC had an opportunity in this inning to tag on additional runs after Trojans’ second baseman Joe De Pinto (1 for 3) singled on a screaming line drive to right on a hit-and-run play that advanced Lopez to third. San Diego State was able to stop USC's momentum when the catcher Tanos gunned down De Pinto on a base-stealing attempt of second. Kaufman got out of the inning by getting leftfielder Mike O'Neill (1 for 4) to fly out.


Up until the bottom of the seventh inning when the Aztecs took the 2-1 lead, USC's Stock (pictured right) might have been the story of the game.  The 18-year-old sophomore phenom put an end to two Aztecs rallies by gunning down base stealing attempts at second. Stock threw out Aztecs shortstop Troy Hanzawa in the third to finish the inning and did it again in the sixth by nailing Romero for the second out.  The 2005 Baseball America Youth Player of the Year was also a split-second from picking off Vaughn at second in the fifth inning. At the plate, Stock was 1 for 4 with a single. The Aztecs’ best defensive play of the evening occurred on Stock's first-inning single when DH Derek Perren tried to advanced to third and was thrown out on a rope of a throw from Glover, the Aztecs senior centerfielder.   


San Diego State's James McLaughlin (1-0) earned the victory after throwing 1.2 scoreless innings of relief. Southpaw Craig Rasmussen came into the eighth with two outs to retire the left-handed Perren after O'Neill hit a ground-ball single to McLaughlin. Addison Reed (pictured left), the Aztecs freshman closer, retired the final three batters in order and was credited with his first save of the year.  The small ball victory was quite the contrast from the weekend when San Diego St. averaged 11 runs and 14 hits per game in taking three of four versus their crosstown rival in the University of San Diego.  


USC will try to bounce back on the road at UC Irvine on Wednesday night where they play the 2-0 Anteaters coming off their best season in school history. San Diego State is off Wednesday and will co-host the USD Invitational from Thursday to Sunday.