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Five Jewels in the Crown: 1972

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USC baseball is celebrating the 40th anniversary of winning five consecutive national championships from 1970-74 under Rod Dedeaux by recognizing the Trojans' dynasty before Saturday's game against Cal (2 p.m. first pitch).

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The "Five Jewels in the Crown" were seen as an impossibility when the streak started as experts predicted parity in college baseball due to the major league draft, increased competition and the inconsistent nature of the sport.  Instead, USC, which had already won five national championships, only asserted its dominance further completing what John Wooden once called maybe "the most remarkable achievement in sports history."   

This week, we'll profile a different jewel in the crown each day. Here is the story of the 1972 team:

It would be the year of the showdown.  The match-up the college baseball world had waited so long to see would finally unfold. And what better place for this inevitable confrontation of the two college baseball superpowers than the playing field of Omaha at the College World Series. 

The two-time defending national champion Trojans were seeking to set history by winning a third consecutive title, and USC would be challenged by the Arizona State Sun Devils, the nation's top ranked team, and proclaimed by the media as the "greatest team of all-time". 

The proclamation didn't set well with past and present Trojans of Bovard Field.  But, in fact, USC was a young team dominated by sophomores Fred Lynn, Randy Scarbery, Roy Smalley, and the brash reliever, Russ McQueen.  Smalley, in his first year, would have to replace the team's best player, the great George Ambrow, out for the season with a knee injury. 

Arizona State had a veteran team and sported an incredible 60-2 record entering Omaha. 
Both teams swept through the regional playoffs and the stage was set for the ultimate showdown.  After winning their first two games, the Trojans finally met the Sun Devils and were shut out 3-0. 

ASU continued undefeated, while USC had to rally in 10 innings against Texas to reach the finals.  Now there were only two. 

The Trojans needed to sweep two games, while the Sun Devils were one win away from immortality.  The nation's two best sophomores were set to duel in game one - USC's Randy Scarbery versus ASU's Eddie Bane.  Scarbery pitched a masterpiece beating the Sun Devils 3-1.

Now it was as it should be - one final game - at stake, the supremacy of college baseball.  The Trojans would turn to the valiant, but sore-armed Mark Sogge and the Sun Devils would send out John Crawford, who had shutout USC in Game 3. 

The Trojans scored a run early and led 1-0 entering the 5th inning with Sogge struggling.  The Sun Devils loaded the bases with no one out, and Rod Dedeaux summoned his bullpen ace, Russ McQueen, who already had one save and two wins in relief.  Five pitches later, the Trojans were in the dugout and the Sun Devils hadn't scored. 

He shut them out the next four innings with no one reaching second base.  Russ McQueen was the most valuable player of the College World Series, the Sun Devils tasted the sword of the Trojans falling 1-0, and it was the third "Jewel in the Crown". 

 
1972 Team.jpg

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