Baseball

    Feb. 12, 1997

    Second-Ranked USC Travels to Hawaii and Hawaii Hilo For Four Games in Five Days

    THE TEAM - The second-ranked USC baseball team (8-2 overall, 2-1 in Pac-10 Southern Division play), after winning 2 of 3 games from always-tough Long Beach State last weekend and then topping UC Santa Barbara, 11-8, in a mid-week contest (giving head coach Mike Gillespie his 400th win), next faces a busy week in which the Trojans will play 5 games in 4 days. USC, the 2-time defending Pac-10 champions, will head to Hawaii where it will play a 3-game series against the Rainbows (3-10). The games will be played Friday (Feb. 14) at 7 p.m. (HST), Saturday (Feb. 15) at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday (Feb. 16) at 3 p.m. Then on Monday (Feb. 17), the Trojans will head to Hilo to play Hawaii Hilo (6-10-1) in a doubleheader beginning at noon.

    THE RANKINGS - USC is currently ranked No. 2 in Baseball America and Baseball Weekly and No. 5 in Collegiate Baseball. In the pre-season polls, USC was listed No. 3 by Baseball America and No. 6 by Collegiate Baseball. The Trojans were tabbed by the conference coaches to win the Southern Division title (the third time in the past 4 years that USC has been picked to win the league).

    Both Hawaii and Hawaii Hilo are unranked.

    LAST WEEKEND - USC won 2 of 3 games from Long Beach State this past weekend.

    In the opener, Randy Flores went 6.7 innings and allowed just one run on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7 to lead USC to a 6-1 victory over Long Beach State at Blair Field. Long Beach native Greg Walbridge was 2-for-3 with a double and 3 RBI for the Trojans.

    In the second game at Dedeaux Field, Eric Munson hit 2 home runs with 3 RBI to lead USC to a 4-3 win over the 49ers. Seth Etherton went 8 innings and allowed 3 runs on 8 hits and a walk while striking out 2 to raise his record to 2-0. Jack Krawczyk pitched the ninth inning to record his second save of the year. It was USC's sixth consecutive victory over the 49ers.

    It was all Long Beach State in the finale as the 49ers defeated USC, 7-3. Long Beach State jumped out to a 6-0 lead off of Trojan starter Scott Henderson, who lasted just 2 innings. Denny Gilich Jr. went 6 innings to get the win for the 49ers.

    THE SERIES - USC holds a 23-21 lead in the series with Hawaii that began in 1968. The teams last met in 1995 with USC winning the first game, 6-2, and Hawaii taking the final 2 games, 3-2 (in 12 innings) and 4-1. In games played in Honolulu, Hawaii leads 20-19. The Rainbows have won 6 of the last 7 over the Trojans.

    USC and Hawaii Hilo have met 3 times previously (first playing in 1994) and the Trojans hold a 2-1 lead.

    SCOUTING THE RAINBOWS - Under long-time head coach Les Murakami (959-476-4 in his 27th year), the Rainbows are 3-10. Last weekend, Hawaii won 1 of 3 games from Oregon State. The Rainbows are led by senior outfielder Robert Medeiros (.333, 1 HR, 9 RBI) and sophomore infielder Tracy Nakano (.333, 0, 8). On the mound, Hawaii features senior righthander Robby Robinson (0-2, 10.89) and freshman lefthander Jamie Aloy (1-3, 5.93).

    SCOUTING THE VULCANS - Under head coach Joey Estrella (431-374-3 in 21 seasons), Hawaii Hilo is currently 6-10-1. Top returning players include senior centerfielder Keiki Mattson (.291, 1, 8) and senior designated hitter Felipe Caoili (.435, 2, 13). On the mound, the Vulcans feature senior righthander Kele Coloma (2-1, 1.47) and junior lefthander Russell Ricafort (2-0, 2.68).

    COACH'S CORNER - In his 10th season as the Trojan head coach, Mike Gillespie has a 400-232-2 (.632) career record and has led USC to 3 conference titles (1991-95-96), 8 trips to the NCAA Regionals in 10 years (reaching the Regional finals 6 times), and a trip to the 1995 College World Series (where the Trojans finished as the nation's runner-up). He has been named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year 3 times (1991-95-96) and was also honored as the 1996 West Region Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association. He was also selected as one of the assistant coaches for the 1997 USA Baseball Team. Gillespie was the leftfielder for the 1961 USC team that won the national championship (his 1960 team finished as the College World Series runner-up). He picked up his 400th USC victory this season with Troy's 11-8 win over UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 11.

    TOUGH SCHEDULE - USC once again boasts one of the nation's toughest schedules: Troy plays 39 of 58 games against teams ranked in the pre-season polls, including 20 games against teams ranked in the Top 10. In addition, the Trojans will play 33 of their 58 games on the road.

    STREAKIN' - Second baseman Wes Rachels has an 9-game hitting streak, going 13-for-32 (.406) with a home run (a leadoff shot in the first inning of USC's season opener against Cal State Los Angeles) and 7 RBI. Troy's leadoff hitter, he has also walked 9 times. He has hit safely in every game he has played in 1997.

    FABULOUS FLORES - Probably the most underrated pitcher in college baseball today, senior lefthander Randy Flores anchors what is considered one of the strongest pitching staffs in the nation. Flores, a College Baseball pre-season All-American third teamer, has had a stellar career at USC (36-5 in 4 seasons) and is on the verge of becoming USC's all-time winningest pitcher (his 36 wins are 4 shy of leader Bruce Gardner's 40). The 1995 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year and an All-Pac-10 first team pick in both 1994 and 1996, he could be the first pitcher ever to earn 4-time all-conference honors. Flores, who was 9-1 with a 3.50 ERA in 1996, is currently 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA, and opponents have a .217 batting average against him. He went 6 innings in USC's opener against Cal State Los Angeles to get the win (he allowed one run on 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 5) and then led USC to a 12-3 victory over Arizona State in the conference opener (he allowed 3 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out one in 7 innings). In his most recent start, he got the win over Long Beach State, going 6.7 innings (one run, 6 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts).

    STELLAR SETH - Junior Seth Etherton, the 1996 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year and 1996 All-American second teamer, has established himself as one of the nation's finest righthanded pitchers and is a candidate for 1997 All-American honors. Etherton was USC's winningest pitcher last year at 12-3 and he had a 3.94 ERA. He was 10-0 with a 2.93 ERA in Pac-10 games, notching a victory in every conference start (the last pitcher to do so was Arizona's Scott Erickson in 1989). On the year, he is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA. He went 5 innings against Cal State Los Angeles in his first start (he did not allow a run, scattered 2 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 8) and did not get a decision against Arizona State (6 innings, 8 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts). In his most recent start, he got the win over Long Beach State, going 8 innings and allowed 3 runs on 8 hits and a walk while striking out 2.

    WALLY'S WORLD - Senior Greg Walbridge, a 1996 All-Pac-10 first teamer and USC's Most Hustle and Spirit Award winner, returns for his third season as Troy's starting first baseman. Walbridge, who came into the season with a .342 career batting average, is currently hitting .333 with 9 RBI and a team-leading 5 doubles. In the Arizona State series, he was 6-for-15 (.400) with 3 doubles and 3 RBI.

    NEW KID ON THE BLOCK - Freshman catcher Eric Munson is proving worthy of his pre-season accolades as one of the nation's top freshmen. He is hitting .303 with 3 doubles, and he leads the team with 3 home runs and 11 RBI (tied with Marc Mirizzi). He hit 2 home runs in USC's 4-3 win over Long Beach State. Behind the plate, he has thrown out 3 of 6 baserunners (.500).

    KRAFTY KRAWCZYK - Junior righthander Jack Krawczyk, the Pac-10's top relief pitcher in 1996 with a league-leading 12 saves (No. 4 on USC's single-season list), has appeared in 6 games in 1997 and has 3 saves with a 1.69 ERA. Opponents are hitting .167 against him. Krawczyk, who earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors last year, has 18 career saves which rank No. 3 on Troy's all-time list.

    MAKING HIS MARK - There may not be a more exciting defensive player in college baseball than senior shortstop Marc Mirizzi. Mirizzi, who made several dazzling defensive plays against Arizona State, is currently errorless in 59 total chances, and has taken part in 9 double plays. Additionally, he's hitting a USC-second-best .429 with a home run and 11 RBI. He twice has had 4 hits in a game this year. He has struck out only one time in 50 plate appearances.

    FIELDING FACTS - USC, which boasts a .970 team fielding percentage, has an even more impressive .978 fielding mark among its starting infield. Shortstop Marc Mirizzi is errorless in 59 chances, first baseman Greg Walbridge has made 2 errors in 99 chances (.980), second baseman Wes Rachels has made just one error in 46 chances (.978), and third baseman Morgan Ensberg has made 2 errors in 26 chances (.923).

    PITCHING PATTER - USC has a 3.54 team ERA and opponents are hitting .251 against Trojan pitchers...Eleven different pitchers have seen action in 1997...Sophomore righthander Steve Immel posted a career- and USC-1997-best 9 strikeouts in 5.3 innings against UC Santa Barbara in USC's 11-8 win...USC's longest outing on the mound this year is 8 innings by junior Seth Etherton in USC's 4-3 win over Long Beach State.

    THIS 'N THAT - Junior second baseman Wes Rachels led off USC's first game in 1997 with a home run to left field. It was the second career home run for Rachels and his first at Dedeaux Field (his only other Trojan home run came in the 1995 College World Series). As Troy's leadoff hitter, Rachels reached base safely in his first 7 plate appearances of 1997 (spanning 2 games), getting 2 hits and 5 walks...Senior shortstop Marc Mirizzi was 4-for-5 with a double and 4 RBI in USC's season opener and also went 4-for-5 with 3 RBI against UC Santa Barbara.

    INJURY REPORT - Senior catcher Jason Brown will be out 3-4 weeks following surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus.

    SIX-PAC POWERHOUSE - No Pac-10 Southern Division team has been more successful in the 1990s than USC. The Trojans have won 133 games in that span (Stanford is second with 129) with an unmatched 3 conference titles.

    POWERHOUSE, PT. 2 - USC's 24 wins in conference action last year are the most league wins by any Trojan team in history. That 24-6 mark by USC is also the best conference record by any team since Stanford went 24-6 in 1990.

    POWERHOUSE, PT. 3 - Troy last won consecutive conference crowns in 1977-78 (the only other team to win back-to-back league crowns since the Six-Pac was formed in 1979 was Arizona State in 1981-82). The last time USC won more than 2 conference titles in a row was when the Trojans won 6 straight from 1970-75.

    TROJAN TRADITION - No other university can match the collegiate baseball tradition of USC. Troy has captured an unprecedented 11 NCAA championships (no other school has more than 5), 36 conference titles and 18 College World Series appearances (tied for third-most in the nation). Trojan players have been named first team All-American 36 times, and more than 70 former players have gone on to play in the major leagues, including such stars as Tom Seaver, Fred Lynn, Ron Fairly, Randy Johnson, Mark McGwire and Bret Boone.

    GILLESPIE VICTORY MILESTONES
    No. 100 - vs. Stanford (10-4) - April 16, 1989
    No. 200 - vs. Portland (3-0) - February 21, 1992
    No. 300 - vs. Washington State (8-0) - February 2, 1995
    No. 400 - vs. UCSB (11-8) - February 11, 1997

    1997 USC TROJANS STARTING LINEUP (1997 Stats)

     C   Eric Munson, Fr.     6-3  215  (.303, 3, 11)
    1B   Greg Walbridge, Sr.  6-2  205  (.333, 0, 9)
    2B   Wes Rachels, So.     5-9  175  (.406, 1, 7) 
    3B   Morgan Ensberg, Jr.  6-2  200  (.243, 0, 2) 
    SS   Marc Mirizzi, Sr.    6-1  185  (.429, 1, 11) 
    LF   Greg Hanoian, So.    5-9  170  (.450, 0, 5)   OR  Jeff DePippo, Jr.     5-7  170 (.176, 0, 0)
    CF   Robb Gorr, So.       6-0  180  (.390, 1, 10)
    RF   Jeremy Freitas, Jr.  6-3  215  (.174, 0, 2)   OR  Brad Ticehurst, So.   6-1  195 (.125, 0, 3)              
    DH   Brian Ponchak, Sr.   6-2  205  (.143, 1, 3)   OR  Jeremy Freitas, Jr.   6-3  215 (.174, 0, 2)      
    Pitchers
    Randy Flores, Sr.         6-1  180  (3-0, 2.29 ERA)
    Seth Etherton, Jr.        6-1  195  (2-0, 2.37)
    Scott Henderson, Sr.      6-3  195  (2-1, 6.23)