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Five Jewels in the Crown: 1973

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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 1973 team:

Having won the last three national championships and with a veteran team returning, the 1973 Trojans were ranked No. 1 in every preseason poll and expected to be one of college baseball's all-time great teams. 

The pressure was on the Trojans.  USC's main competition for the crown was rival Arizona State, thirsting for revenge, and the one team which had always plagued the Trojans, the University of Minnesota and future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. 

USC was led by All-Americans Fred Lynn, Roy Smalley, Randy Scarbery, 1972 CWS MVP Russ McQueen, and captain Daryl Arenstein, who was bidding to become the only player in history to start on four consecutive national champions.  The Trojans won the prestigious Riverside Tournament beating Arizona State, ran away with the conference and went undefeated throughout the playoffs.

Back at Omaha for the fourth straight year, the Trojans continued the onslaught winning the first three games, including dropping Arizona State, to setup a meeting with nemesis Minnesota.  The Golden Gophers had won the national championship in 1960, handing the Trojans their most bitter defeat in a highly controversial game.  The Trojans thought they had won the game 11-2 in a rain-shortened six innings, but play was ordered resumed and developed into the "infamous mud and rain-drenched game" with the Gophers the ultimate winner 12-11.)

Now in 1973, Minnesota had gambled and saved ace Dave Winfield to face USC which had to go with its 4th starter.  It looked as if the jinx would continue as Winfield was overpowering, allowing only one hit with 15 strikeouts and pitching the bottom of the ninth leading 7-0. 

What happened in the bottom of the ninth inning has become a story all its own.  No one can score 8 runs against the nation's top pitcher, but the Trojans did.  The curse of the Golden Gophers was over. 

Arizona State watched that inning in total disbelief and were no match for the Trojans the following night as the 4th jewel was added to the crown.  USC defeated the Sun Devils 4-3.


1973 Team.jpg

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