Pac-12 'Thursday Night Baseball' preview: No. 23 Stanford at USC

StanfordPhoto.com/John McGillen Photography

Who: No. 23 Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans

When: Thursday, April 6 at 6 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. MT

On the call: JB Long and Andy Lopez on Pac-12 Network and Pac-12 Bay Area

Where: Los Angeles, California

NorCal versus SoCal. Card versus Trojans. Who ya got?

Pac-12 Networks' Thursday Night Baseball will feature a couple of the conference’s most decorated programs when the USC Trojans will host No. 23 Stanford Cardinal at Dedeaux Field in Los Angeles. As it stands now, both programs are trying to find their footing in the ultra-competitive Pac-12.

While Stanford topped rival Cal on Tuesday in a non-conference matchup to earn win No. 1,600 of coach Mark Marquess’ career, the Trojans are riding a four-game losing streak following Tuesday’s 6-0 loss to Long Beach State.

In the visitor’s dugout: No. 23 Stanford (15-9, 2-4 Pac-12)

Marquess became the fourth coach in NCAA Division I baseball history to reach the 1,600-win plateau on Tuesday, joining Augie Garrido (1,975), Mike Martin (1,917) and Gene Stephenson (1,768). This marks the 41st and final season for Marquess at the helm for Stanford, who announced his upcoming retirement in 2016.

The Cardinal ran into a buzz saw last weekend, getting swept by top-ranked Oregon State, but had strung together three straight wins before that. Stanford needs to get the bats going against the Trojans, as the Card feature a 13-1 record when scoring at least three runs. The back end of Stanford’s bullpen, led by closer Colton Hock (seven saves), has allowed the Card to post a 12-0 mark when leading after seven innings.

Players to Watch

Quinn Brodey, OF, Junior

The slugging outfielder earned back-to-back Pac-12 Player of the Week nods in March, becoming the first Cardinal player to do that since Jon Schaeffer in 1997. Brodey leads the team in home runs (four), RBIs (24), hits (31) and slugging percentage (.500), while toting a .310 batting average.

Kris Bubic, LHP, Sophomore

The sophomore southpaw is set to take the mound for Stanford in the series opener. He enters Thursday’s contest with a 2-4 record and 3.44 ERA in six starts this year. Bubic ranks second on the team with 36 2-3 innings pitched, but has been a strikeout machine with 48, nearly twice the amount of his next closest teammates. Bubic has racked up double-digit strikeouts on two occasions this year and pitched at least 5 2-3 innings in each of his outings.

In the home dugout: USC (15-12, 4-5 Pac-12)

Coach Dan Hubbs and his squad will try to get back to their winning ways against the Cardinal. During their current four-game losing streak, the Trojans have scored an average of just 1.5 runs per game.

Perhaps the growing pains are something Hubbs expected, as this is the youngest team he’s coached since taking over the program in 2013. The Trojans feature 14 newcomers on this year’s roster, including 12 freshmen, and USC isn’t shying away from using the youngsters in big moments.

If there’s one thing the Trojans can hang their hat on, it’s defense. USC is tied for first with a .983 team fielding percentage, which ranks seventh nationally.

Chris Clarke, RHP, Freshman

Listed at 6-foot-7, Clarke is an imposing presence on the mound and has had mixed results to begin his college career. While he totes an impressive 26-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 2-3 innings of work this year, opponents are also hitting .302 against him. In his last start against a high-powered Arizona offense, Clarke was roughed up for seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings of work.

Brandon Perez, 2B, Sophomore

There’s been no hotter hitter lately for the Trojans than Perez. The sophomore second baseman leads the team in hits (32) and batting average (.344) and has been on an absolute tear the past 12 contests, posting a .396 average (19-of-48) in that span.

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