Chris Baker's blast lifts Washington past No. 13 USC, snaps Pac-12 skid
SEATTLE -- Chris Baker hadn’t hit a home run since Little League. That streak came to an end Friday night and cemented a 5-1 win for Washington against No. 13 Southern California on Friday at Husky Ballpark.
With two runners on, Baker took the first pitch he saw from USC starter Brent Wheatley (2-1) in the sixth inning over the left field fence to break open a 2-1 game. His blast helped Washington (15-10, 2-5 Pac-12) snap a four-game conference losing streak and sent the visiting Trojans (20-6, 2-2) down with just their sixth loss of the season.
“I was looking for a first-pitch slider,” Baker sheepishly said. “And I got it.”
USC jumped ahead of the Huskies in the third, grabbing the early 1-0 advantage. AJ Ramirez doubled to start the inning, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sharp single by Bobby Stahel. UW starter Noah Bremer escaped further damage when his defense turned a double play behind him -- the second of three inning-ending double plays that USC hit into on the night.
Washington answered right back in the bottom of the inning to tie the score. Kyle London singled with one out and Braden Bishop followed with a double into the left field corner that allowed London to come all the way around from first to score.
The Huskies then took the 2-1 lead in the fourth, pushing an unearned run across the plate. After a one-out single by Josh Cushing, Alex Schmidt hit a two-out double that could have scored Cushing easily. But USC caught a break when the ball wedged underneath the fence for a ground-rule double.
The Huskies received a break of their own when catcher Joey Morgan followed with a ground ball into the hole at short that Reggie Southall dropped, allowing everyone to be safe and Cushing to score the go-ahead run.
After Branden Berry and Cushing started the sixth with back-to-back singles, Baker hit his first UW home run in 59 career games. Baker ended the night 3-for-4 with three RBIs and has a career-high six-game hit streak, with multiple hits in five.
“Baker has just been getting better day-by-day,” UW coach Lindsay Meggs said of his sophomore shortstop, who is 14-for-33 in Pac-12 play to raise his overall average to .345. “He puts the time in and has learned to pull the ball and stay on top of it.”
The run support proved to be plenty for Bremer (3-2) and two relievers. He exited the game after the sixth, giving up just the one earned run on four hits and three walks.
Brandon Choate pitched the seventh and eighth innings in his nation-leading 18th appearance, giving up two hits and striking out two. Troy Ralling pitched a perfect ninth to close the game.
Washington outhit USC 10-6. Besides Baker’s three hits, Cushing was 2-for-4 with two runs.