Baseball

    Feb. 26, 1997

    Second Ranked USC Resumes League Play at Stanford, Nevada

    THE TEAM-The No. 3-ranked USC baseball team (17-3 overall, 2-1 in Pacific-10 Southern Division play), winners of 9 in a row (including this week's 7-1 victory over Pepperdine), resumes conference action after 3 weeks of non-conference games with a series at No. 9 Stanford (12-6, 0-0), which topped Cal State Sacramento 18-4 on Tuesday (Feb. 25). The 3-game series will be played at Sunken Diamond on Friday (Feb. 28) at 7 p.m., Saturday (Mar. 1) at 1 p.m. (NOTE: the game will be televised live by SportsChannel Pacific) and Sunday (Mar. 2) at 1 p.m. The Trojans, who are 2-time defending Pac-10 champions, have won 9 in a row over the Cardinal and 8 consecutive games at Sunken Diamond. After the Stanford series, the Trojans head for Reno (Nev.), where they will battle the Wolf Pack on Monday (Mar. 3) at 2 p.m.

    THE RANKINGS--USC is currently ranked No. 2 in Baseball Weekly, No. 3 in Baseball America and 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). Stanford is No. 9 in Baseball America and No. 16 in Collegiate Baseball. Nevada is unranked.

    BY THE NUMBERS--USC has a .338 team batting average and a 3.32 team ERA. Opponents are hitting just .237 against Trojan pitchers. USC has posted double figures in hits in the last 6 games and 7 of the last 8. The Trojans have stolen 38 bases in 47 attempts (Morgan Ensberg and Eric Munson lead with 6) while opponents have only 10 thefts in 17 tries. Top Trojan hitters are outfielders Greg Hanoian (.508) and Robb Gorr (.412). In Troy's 9-game winning streak, USC is averaging 14.3 hits per game.

    THIS PAST WEEK--USC won all 3 games in the Beach Baseball Classic at Blair Field in Long Beach (Calif.) to extend its winning streak to 8 games. In the opener, the Trojans pounded out 19 hits and a season-high 18 runs in an 18-2 victory over Ole Miss. Brian Ponchak was 2-for-6 with a double, home run and 5 RBI and Greg Hanoian had 4 hits. Despite battling the flu, Randy Flores went 6 innings to pick up the win. In the second game, USC jumped out to a 6-0 lead and went on to defeat Notre Dame, 14-4. Robb Gorr and Eric Munson each had 3 hits, including Munson's fifth home run of the year. Scott Henderson got the win, going 6 innings with no walks and 4 strikeouts. In the finale, Seth Etherton went the distance for USC's first complete game of the year and led USC to a 7-1 win over Long Beach State. Etherton allowed just 3 hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out 10. Greg Hanoian was 3-for-4 with a double and RBI. In USC's non-conference game this week, Greg Hanoian was 5-for-5 with a double and 3 RBI to lead the Trojans to a 7-1 victory over Pepperdine. Steve Immel went 7 innings to get the win over the Waves, who are coached by former Trojan pitching coach Frank Sanchez.

    COACH'S CORNER--In his 10th season as the Trojan head coach, Mike Gillespie has a 409-233-2 (.636) 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.

    SCOUTING THE CARDINAL--No. 9 Stanford, under 21-year head coach Mark Marquess (820-439-4), is 12-6 overall (0-0 in league). The Cardinal is led by junior outfielder Joe Kilburg (.438, 2 HR, 17 RBI) and sophomore outfielder Jody Gerut (.413, 3, 27). Stanford boasts one of the top pitching staffs in the nation: junior righthander Kyle Peterson (2-1, 4.15 ERA), sophomore righthander Jeff Austin (2-1, 5.12) and sophomore righthander Chad Hutchinson (1-0, 5.40), also the quarterback on the Cardinal football team.

    THE SERIES--USC and Stanford first met in 1923 and the Trojans lead the series, 184-118-3. The Trojans have won 9 straight over the Cardinal, including all 6 meetings last year (it was the first complete sweep of Stanford by USC since the Pac-10 Southern Division was formed in 1979). USC has also won 8 straight games at Sunken Diamond, last losing there on March 19, 1994. The Cardinal is 58-53 over USC since the Six-Pac was formed in 1979.

    CONNECTIONS--USC has 2 players from the Bay Area: shortstop Marc Mirizzi prepped at Leigh High in Los Gatos while pitcher Brian Vieira prepped at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose.

    VS. STANFORD -- Here's a look at how the Trojans have fared in their careers against the Cardinal:

    BATTERS      G   AB   H  HR  RBI   AVG
    Brown        6   11   2   0   1   .182
    Ensberg      7   25   7   2   8   .280
    Gorr         1   1    0   0   0   .000
    Hanoian      3   6    2   0   0   .333
    Mirizzi      6   24   8   0   1   .333
    Ponchak      2   2    1   0   0   .500
    Rachels      5   10   1   0   0   .100
    Walbridge   12  39   11   1   4   .282
    PITCHERS    G   IP     ER   SO  W-L SV  ERA
    Etherton    2   12.0    6   8   2-0  0  4.50
    Flores      7   49.7    9   24  5-0  1  1.63
    Henderson   4   22.3    4   7   3-1  0  1.61
    Immel       1    1.3    5   0   0-0  0 33.83
    Krawczyk    4    4.0    1   4   0-0  4  2.25
    Penney      1    1.0    2   0   0-0  0 18.00
    Ponchak     1    3.7    1   2   0-0  0  2.45
    

    SCOUTING THE WOLF PACK--Under 15-year head coach Gary Powers (434-329-4), Nevada is 10-6 overall. The Wolf Pack are led by senior first baseman Tim Hanna (.395, 2 HR, 11 RBI) and sophomore outfielder Lyle Overbay (.306, 1, 10). On the mound, Nevada features junior righthander Brent Husted (2-1, 3.65) and junior righthander Jim Brink (1-1, 5.63).

    THE SERIES--USC and Nevada first met in 1962 and the series is tied, 2-2. The 2 teams played 3 times last year, with the Trojans winning the opener, 7-3, before losing the next 2 games, 8-3 and 16-7.

    1997  USC  TROJANS'  STARTING LINEUP (1997 statistics)
     C  Eric Munson, Fr., 6-3, 215 (.368, 5, 19)
    1B  Greg Walbridge, Sr., 6-2, 205 (.338, 0, 16)
    2B  Wes Rachels,So., 5-9, 175 (.375, 1, 8) 
    3B  Morgan Ensberg, Jr., 6-2, 200 (.312, 2, 12) 
    SS  Marc Mirizzi, Sr., 6-1, 185 (.322, 1, 16)
    LF  Greg Hanoian, So., 5-9, 170 (.508, 1, 15)
    CF  Robb Gorr, So., 6-0, 180 (.412, 1, 24)
    RF  Jeremy Freitas, Jr., 6-3, 215 (.239, 0, 12) 
    OR Brad Ticehurst, So., 6-1, 195 (.268, 1, 7)               
    DH  Brian Ponchak, Sr., 6-2, 205 (.265, 2, 13) 
    OR Jeremy Freitas, Jr., 6-3, 215 (.239, 0, 12)       
     P  Randy Flores, Sr., 6-1, 180 (4-1, 2.78 ERA)
        Seth Etherton, Jr., 6-1, 195 (4-0, 1.75)
        Scott Henderson, Sr., 6-3, 195 (4-1, 5.76)
    

    CONNECTIONS--USC pitching coach John Savage spent the last 5 seasons in the same position at Nevada...His wife, Lisa, is the daughter of Nevada Athletic Director Chris Ault...Nevada senior first baseman Glen Carson (who is expected to redshirt this year due to illness) spent 2 seasons (1994-95) at USC. While USC has no players from Nevada, the Wolf Pack has 19 players from California on its roster.

    STREAKIN'--Second baseman Wes Rachels has hit safely in all 11 games he has played this year, going 15-for-40 (.375) with a home run (a leadoff shot in the first inning of USC's season opener against Cal State Los Angeles) and 8 RBI. Outfielder Greg Hanoian has a 9-game hitting streak (22-for-38, .579). He has hit safely in 8 straight plate appearances, and has had multiple hits and at least one RBI in 6 straight games. First baseman Greg Walbridge's 9-game hitting streak (16-for-36, .444) was snapped in the Notre Dame contest.

    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 STARTING PITCHERS

    RANDY 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 37 wins are 3 shy of leader Bruce Gardner's 40 and rank No. 3). 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 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA, and opponents have a .235 batting average against him.

    FLORES IN 1997
    DATE    OPPONENT       W/L  IP  H   R   ER  BB  K   SCORE   
    1/24    CS Los Angeles  W   6.0 3   1   1   1   5   W, 17-4
    1/31    Arizona State   W   7.0 6   3   3   2   1   W, 12-3
    2/7     at Long Beach   W   6.2 6   1   1   2   7   W, 6-1
    2/14    at Hawaii       L   6.2 6   4   4   3   6   L, 9-3 
    2/21    Mississippi     W   6.0 7   2   1   2   4   W, 18-2
    

    SETH ETHERTON--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, who was USC's winningest pitcher last year at 12-3 with a 3.94 ERA, 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 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA, and opponents are hitting .193 against him. He has 38 strikeouts in 36 innings. He had USC's top performance this year at Long Beach State: he went the distance (for USC's first complete game) and held the 49ers to one run on 3 hits and no walks while striking out 10. He equalled his career-best in strikeouts at Hawaii with 12.

    ETHERTON IN 1997
    DATE    OPPONENT       W/L  IP  H   R   ER  BB  K   SCORE
    1/24    CS Los Angeles  W   5.0 2   0   0   2   8   W, 8-1  
    2/1     Arizona State   ND  6.0 8   3   2   1   6   L, 7-3
    2/8     Long Beach St.  W   8.0 8   3   3   1   2   W, 4-3
    2/15    at Hawaii       W   8.0 5   3   1   2   12  W, 4-3
    2/23    at Long Beach   W   9.0 3   1   1   0   10  W, 7-1
    

    SCOTT HENDERSON--A talented righthander, senior Scott Henderson returns to again serve as Troy's No. 3 starter after earning 1996 All-Pac-10 honorable mention notice in the same role last year. Henderson, who was 8-1 with a 3.19 ERA in 1996, is currently 4-1 with a 5.76 ERA. He has walked only 3 batters in 25 innings.

    HENDERSON IN 1997
    DATE    OPPONENT           W/L  IP  H   R   ER  BB  K   SCORE
    1/28    Loyola Marymount    W   5.0 2   1   1   0   2   W, 7-2
    2/2     Arizona State       W   6.0 7   4   2   1   3   W, 9-6
    2/9     at Long Beach St.   L   2.0 8   6   6   0   0   L, 7-3
    2/16    at Hawaii           W   6.0 7   4   3   2   4   W, 12-4
    2/22    Notre Dame          W   6.0 5   4   4   0   4   W, 14-4
    

    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 .338 with 16 RBI. He had a 9-game hitting streak (16-for-36, .444) snapped against Notre Dame. In the Arizona State series, he was 6-for-15 (.400) with 3 doubles and 3 RBI. He picked up 4 hits in 5 at-bats with a triple in the finale at Hawaii.

    HOT HANOIAN--With his torrid hitting in 1997, sophomore Greg Hanoian has established himself as one of Troy's starting outfielders. He is USC's leading hitter with an impressive .508 average. He has hit safely in the last 9 games (22-for-38, .579) and 11 of the last 12. Against Pepperdine, he was 5-for-5 with a double and 3 RBI, and he has hit safely in 8 straight plate appearances (raising his average from .434 to .508). He has had multiple hits and at least one RBI in 6 straight games.

    WONDERFUL WES--Junior second baseman Wes Rachels, who was named to the 1995 All-College World Series team as just a freshman, has hit safely in all 11 games he has played this year, going 15-for-40 (.375) with a home run (a leadoff shot in the first inning of USC's season opener against Cal State Los Angeles) and 8 RBI. It was his second career home run and his first at Dedeaux Field (his other came at the 1995 College World Series). Troy's leadoff hitter, Rachels has also walked 10 times and has a .510 on-base percentage. He reached base safely in his first 7 plate appearances of 1997 (spanning 2 games), getting 2 hits and 5 walks. He missed 8 games following the death of his father (Dr. Arthur Rachels) on Feb. 15.

    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 .368 with 4 doubles and 19 RBI, and he leads the team with 5 home runs and 20 walks. He hit 2 home runs in USC's 4-3 win over Long Beach State. Behind the plate, he has thrown out 8 of 13 baserunners (.615). He has hit safely in 14 of 20 games this year.

    MAKING HIS MARC--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 (he has 2 errors in 101 total chances (.980) and has taken part in 11 double plays. Additionally, he's hitting .322 with 16 RBI. He 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.

    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 10 games in 1997 and has 3 saves. Opponents are hitting .219 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.

    INJURY REPORT--Senior catcher Jason Brown has missed the last 3 weeks following surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus.

    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.

    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.

    Trojan Top Performances

    HITTING Freitas -- 4-5, 2 2b, 3b, 4 RBI (at UHH) Gorr -- 5-6, 2 2b, 3 RBI (at UHH) Hanoian -- 4-6, 2b (Miss.) 5-5, 2B, 3 RBI (Pepp) Mirizzi -- 4-5, 2b, 4 RBI (CSLA) 4-5, 3 RBI (UCSB) Munson -- 2-5, 2b, 4 RBI (CSLA) Ponchak -- 2-6, 2b, HR, 5 RBI (Miss.) Walbridge -- 4-5, 3b, RBI (at UH) PITCHING Immel -- 5.3 IP, 9 K (UCSB) Etherton -- 8 IP, 5 H, 12 K (at UH) 9 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 10 K (at LB)