Cougs look to break losing streak against rising Trojans 

Three-game series set to start Friday



WSU outfielder Jonah Advincula swings at a pitch during an NCAA baseball game against Seattle University, March 7, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

JAKE HULL, Evergreen reporter

WSU baseball (14-6, 3-3) are heading to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans for a three-game series. The first pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

The Cougs are coming off a three-game losing streak, including losing their first conference series of 2023 as the Oregon Ducks bested WSU. The only game the Cougs won was the first game of the series Friday. 

All-time, the Cougs are 26-38-1 against the Trojans. The most recent matchup was in late April 2022 when the Cougs won two-of-three in Pullman. The first time these teams met was in a three-game series in Los Angeles, in 2000 where the Trojans won all three games. 

Although WSU is still on a losing streak they have had some productive offensive at-bats from the top hitters. 

Sam Brown, Jonah Advincula and Jacob McKeon still lead the offensive play for the Cougs. Brown leads the team in batting with an impressive batting average of .382. Brown has a team-leading 26 hits for five home runs and 23 RBIs. After Advincula led the nation in RBIs after the first week with 13, he has only 19 on the season. However, Advincula has still produced quality at-bats from the leadoff spot. He has a team-leading 30 hits and two home runs for a batting average of .353. 

McKeon has been stellar the last few weeks as he has 26 hits for three homers and 21 RBIs. 

The starting Friday pitcher for the Cougs, Dakota Hawkins, has been effective in his starts this season. He has pitched 22.1 innings so far and has a record of 2-2 with an ERA of 4.43. Hawkins has a team-leading 38 strikeouts and has walked only nine batters. He has also given up 28 hits and 12 earned runs. 

Caden Kaelber has pitched the most innings for the Cougs so far this year, posting 37 strikeouts in 28 innings with 12 runs on 25 hits. 

Grant Taylor is coming off a 10-strikeout inning against the Ducks Sunday, bringing his total to 29. Taylor also has allowed 11 runs on 17 hits in 21.2 innings. 

Coming out of the bullpen as relievers this season have been Andrew Baughn and Connor Wilford. Baughn has allowed 11 runs on 10 hits in 14 appearances. 

Wilford has been excellent, earning accolades seemingly every week as of late. He has pitched 20.1 innings so far in 10 appearances, including one start. Wilford also allowed 19 hits for 14 earned runs and 24 strikeouts. 

On the season, the Trojans are 11-8-1 and 4-2 in conference play. USC started the season with a sweep against Marist, then could not get a win in five straight games. The Trojans lost three games in a row, then posted a 12-12 tie against then ranked No. 17 Auburn.

In Conference play, this season the Trojans impressively are tied for second with their 4-2 Conference record. Their first Pac-12 matchup was a 5-3 loss against UCLA. They then took on the Stanford Cardinal where the Trojans took two games and won the series. 

USC would then take on the Cal Golden Bears after the Stanford series where, once again, the Trojans got the series win as they won the first and last game against Cal. 

The Trojans are led by Austin Overn, Nick Lopez and Cole Gabrielson. Overn has a team-leading 27 hits with 15 RBIs. Lopez has 24 hits for four homers and 17 RBIs on the season. Gabrielson leads USC with 16 RBIs. He has a batting average of .296 and also has 21 hits. USC only has four players who have 10 or more RBIs whereas the Cougs have seven.

Pitching for WSU is led by Blake Sodersten and Tyler Stromsborg. Sodersten has appeared in 22.2 innings and has a 2-1 record after 33 strikeouts and 14 runs. Stromsborg has 24 strikeouts in 27.1 innings with 20 runs for an ERA of 6.26.

If the Cougs want to snap their losing streak the pitching needs to be excellent. The Cougs need to fill the strike zone and take advantage of the pitches the Trojans give them to put runs on the board throughout the game. 

The next time the Cougs take the field in Pullman will be at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday as they host Linfield for one game at Bailey-Brayton field.