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ASU-USC series preview

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Having won their last five of six, No. 15 Arizona State (20-9-1, 6-6 Pac-12) travels to Los Angeles Friday looking to continue their success against unranked USC (12-20, 5-7).

Arizona State swept USC at Packard Stadium in 2012, outscoring the Trojans 17-2 in the three-game series.

The Trojans have lost five of their last six after dropping last weekend’s series against Stanford and their midweek tilt against Cal State Fullerton Tuesday.

The weekend starts with ASU right-hander Trevor Williams (4-2, 2.84 ERA) facing off against USC left-hander Sean Silva (0-1, 7.59 ERA). USC’s usual Friday night starter, Bobby Wheatley, is out with arm tightness. Silva made his first start last Friday against Stanford, pitching three and two-thirds scoreless innings.

Saturday features ASU freshman Ryan Kellogg (7-0, 2.19) matched up with USC righty Wyatt Strahan, who is 1-1 in seven appearances with a 2.20 ERA. Arizona State will need to send patient hitters to the plate; in 41 innings, Strahan has walked 27 batters.

Arizona State Head Coach Tim Esmay looks for a change of pace this weekend, as he sends Alex Blackford to the mound Sunday for his first start of 2013. The Sun Devils have lost four straight series finales in conference play and hope Blackford, who started nine games in 2012, will stop the bleeding.

USC lefty Kyle Twomey (2-3, 4.79 ERA) starts Sunday for the Trojans, looking to build on last Sunday’s quality start against Stanford. The freshman surrendered two earned runs, pitching six innings and assisting his squad in avoiding the sweep.

Due to the absence of Wheatley, Arizona State has the clear pitching advantage on both Friday and Saturday.

Blackford is a metaphorical question mark heading into Sunday, though, having yet to pitch more than two innings in an appearance in 2013. Look for Sunday to feature several ASU relievers as the Trjoans will likely not see an Alex Blackford who is in starting form.

Expect ASU to win the offensive battle as well; the Sun Devils are outperforming the Trojans in average, runs scored, doubles, triples and home runs.

Pay attention to who gets the starts on first base for the Sun Devils this weekend as well. Currently, Dalton DiNatale has ousted both Rouric Bridgewater and David Graybill for the spot in the starting lineup, headlined by his team-leading average of .353 (minimum 10 at-bats).

The Sun Devils are winning the all-time battle against USC 100-96 and desperately need a series sweep against the debilitated Trojans.

The series starts Friday at 6 p.m. at Dedeaux Field, with both Saturday and Sunday’s games starting at 2 p.m. Sunday’s game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 networks.

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