With No. 1 Vanderbilt, No. 4 UCLA and No. 6 Texas Christian in the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic field, the unranked USC Trojans were more of an afterthought entering the weekend.
The Trojans, though, were the story on Sunday after beating UCLA, 8-4, to follow up on a pair of walk-off victories on Friday and Saturday against TCU and Vanderbilt. Now 15-1, USC earned the respect of their opponents and undoubtedly the respect of the poll voters.
"On a big stage where a lot of people were looking at them and trying to figure out how good this team really is, I think we made that statement that we're pretty good," USC Coach Dan Hubbs said. "I think it says we don't fear anybody and that we're capable of beating anybody."
Playing in front of 14,866 at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, USC scored in six of the first seven innings. AJ Ramirez hit his second homer of the weekend and Dante Flores had three hits to lead the Trojans' 14-hit attack.
"It feels like a dream come true," Ramirez said of his home run. "As a kid, we're all growing up dreaming of being major leaguers. To do it on this stage is a dream come true."
They took a 3-0 lead with runs in each of the first three innings, but UCLA battled back with three runs in the bottom of the third inning. Christoph Bono hit a two-run home run into the USC bullpen in right field and Ty Moore later delivered an RBI double to even the score.
But as they had all weekend, the Trojans showed their resiliency. They regained the lead using aggressive baserunning, which has become a trend for them this season. After Ramirez walked, he stole second and scored on a single up the middle by Reggie Southall. That was it for UCLA starter Cody Poteet, who was replaced in the fourth inning after surrendering eight hits and four runs.
USC added two runs in the fifth inning on a Blake Lacey single and two more in the seventh inning on Flores' RBI double and a run-scoring single from David Oppenheim. After freshman starter Mitch Hart gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings, left-hander Tyler Gilbert was summoned from the bullpen. He struck out Bono to strand two runners in scoring position in the sixth inning and then fired three scoreless innings to pick up his first career save.
The Trojans started the weekend nearly blowing a game that they led 6-2 entering the ninth inning. With the help of two errors, TCU scored four runs off closer Kyle Davis to tie the score and send it into extra innings. But USC was able to score a 7-6, walk-off victory with a squeeze bunt by Lacey that allowed Timmy Robinson to come home.
Against the top-ranked Commodores on Saturday, USC gave up the tying run in the eighth inning, but again showed its ability to bounce back. With two outs in the ninth inning, freshman pinch-hitter Adalberto Carrillo turned on a 92-mph fastball and launched a high fly to left field. Vanderbilt left fielder Bryan Reynolds retreated to the warning track and timed his jump at the fence, but the ball went just over his outstretched glove for a walk-off home run.