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USC Rallies for Three Runs in Eighth Inning to Defeat Cal Poly, 4-1

USC Rallies for Three Runs in Eighth Inning to Defeat Cal Poly, 4-1
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — USC tallied three runs in the eighth inning to snap a 1-1 tie and defeated Cal Poly 4-1 in the opening game of a three-game non-conference baseball series Friday night before 2,049 inside Baggett Stadium.
 
Held to just five hits by a trio of Trojan pitchers, Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs fell back to the .500 mark at 19-19. Southern California improved to 18-21-1.
 
All was not lost for the Mustangs, however, as UC Santa Barbara dropped a 9-4 decision to UC Riverside on Friday night. Cal Poly, 10-2 in Big West games for first place, is now one game ahead of the second-place Gauchos (8-2).
 
USC scored a run in the third inning as CJ Stubbs walked with one out, advanced to second on a balk and came home on Matthew Acosta's single to right-center field.
 
Cal Poly answered in the fifth. Myles Emmerson doubled leading off the inning, Connor Gurnik singled to move Emmerson to third and Tate Samuelson's fielder's choice to second base drove in the run.
 
The Trojans parlayed two singles, a walk, a wild pitch, an error and a safety squeeze bunt into three runs in the top of the eighth to snap the 1-1 tie. Acosta's second RBI single of the game broke the deadlock, a wild pitch made it 3-1 and John Thomas laid down the squeeze bunt to push across the final run.
 
USC's three pitchers combined to strike out a dozen Mustangs. Ten of the last 12 outs the Trojans recorded over the final four innings were strikeouts.
 
Emmerson collected two of Cal Poly's five hits — a second-inning single and the double leading off the fifth.
 
USC's seven hits included two each by Acosta and Blake Sabol. Ben Ramirez added a double.
 
Carson Lambert (3-2), USC's second pitcher of the game, earned the win with two scoreless innings in relief of starter Connor Lunn and Chris Clarke struck out all three Mustangs he faced for his fifth save.
 
Lunn allowed one run and four hits over six innings in the no-decision, walking three and striking out five. He was coming off a four-hit complete-game shutout last week against Washington State.
 
The loss went to Michael Clark (4-2) as he surrendered all three runs in the eighth inning. Starter Chase Watkins allowed one run and four hits over four-plus innings with three strikeouts while Andrew Alvarez and Thomas Triantos each tossed one scoreless frame.
 
Second game of the series will be played Saturday at 4 p.m. with fourth-year junior right-hander Bobby Ay (5-0, 2.62 ERA) of Cal Poly to face USC sophomore southpaw Isaac Esqueda (3-2, 3.14 ERA).
 
Sunday's series finale starts at 1 o'clock.
 
Photo of Tate Samuelson at top of page and Noah Taylor above at left courtesy of Nathan Nybakke | Photography805.com