COMPTON — For the second straight day, No. 11-ranked USD built a big early lead and needed every bit of it.
The Toreros led by six runs early against Bethune Cookman on the way to a 9-6 victory Saturday afternoon at the MLB Urban Youth Academy Invitational.
USD’s first three hitters reached base off Bethune Cookman starting pitcher Eric Thomas, and all three came around to score to provide an early 3-0 lead for the Toreros (2-0).
Kevin Muno singled to start the game, James Meador then walked and Victor Sanchez followed with a single to score Muno with the game’s first run. Meador scored on Nick McCoy’s grounder to shortstop and Sanchez scored on Jose Valerio’s sacrifice fly to center field.
Although staked to the early lead, USD sophomore right-hander Kyle Blair had troubles of his own in the first inning, hitting three batters. The Wildcats scored one run in the inning to make it 3-1, but Blair avoided further damage by striking out Alejandro Sanchez to end the inning with the bases loaded.
USD padded its lead to 5-1 in the third on RBI singles by Zach Walters and Austin Green.
Blair sailed through the next two innings, retiring the side in order in both the second and the third.
The 60-member Bethune Cookman marching band sat in the stands adjacent to the USD dugout along the third base line and entertained fans between innings. Band members also playfully chided the Toreros, including chanting “left, right, left, right, left, right” whenever shortstop Sean Nicol jogged back to the dugout after at-bats.
Muno led off the fourth inning with a home run to right-center field on an 0-2 pitch from Thomas. Two batters later, Sanchez launched a deep home run to left field that made it 7-1. Band members didn’t have much to say about that.
Bethune Cookman got back in the game in the bottom of the fourth when an error by Valerio at first base and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with no outs to fuel a five-run rally that made it 7-6.
Blair, who allowed four hits, six runs (five earned) and struck out five, gave way to Matt Thomson in the sixth inning.
Thomson restored order, pitching four scoreless innings for the save. Thomson allowed just one hit and struck out six.
USD got some breathing room in the eighth inning when Meador greeted reliever Justin Dahl with a two-out triple that scored Green and Muno to make it 9-6.
Muno led the Toreros with three hits. Meador and Sanchez had two RBI apiece.
USD plays host to San Diego State on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cunningham Stadium.