Mar. 12, 1997
No. 6 USC Hosts Red-Hot Arizona
THE TEAM--The No. 6-ranked USC baseball team (20-7 overall, 5-4 in Pacific-10 Southern Division play for third place) hosts red-hot Arizona (19-10, 5-1 for first place) this weekend. The Trojans, who are 2-time defending Pac-10 champions, rebounded after being swept at Stanford to sweep California last weekend (before dropping a non-conference game at Pepperdine earlier this week). No. 15 Arizona--off to its best conference start ever and ranked for the first time since 1993--won 2 of 3 games from talented UCLA after sweeping the Golden Bears at Berkeley 2 weeks ago. This weekend's 3-game series will be played Friday (Mar. 14) at 7 p.m., Saturday (Mar. 15) at 1 p.m. and Sunday (Mar. 16) at 1 p.m.
THE RANKINGS--USC is currently ranked No. 6 in Baseball Weekly, No. 7 in Baseball America and No. 10 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).
Arizona is No. 15 in Collegiate Baseball, No. 21 in Baseball America and No. 23 in Baseball Weekly. The Wildcats are ranked in the polls for the first time since the end of the 1993 season.
BY THE NUMBERS--USC has a .332 team batting average and a 4.01 team ERA. Opponents are hitting .256 against Trojan pitchers. USC has posted double figures in hits in 4 of the last 5 games and 10 of the last 13. The Trojans have stolen 48 bases in 60 attempts (Morgan Ensberg leads with 9) while opponents have only 19 thefts (in 30 tries). Top Trojan hitters are outfielder Greg Hanoian (.483), outfielder Robb Gorr (.398) and second baseman Wes Rachels (.357).
THIS PAST WEEK--USC swept the 3-game series with California this past weekend to extend its winning streak over the Golden Bears to 8 games. The Trojans won the opener Friday night, 7-5, behind the pitching of Randy Flores, who struck out 10 in 8 innings and allowed just one earned run on 5 hits and 2 walks. Greg Walbridge and Morgan Ensberg each had 3 hits, and Walbridge and Jeremy Freitas hit solo home runs for the Trojans.
USC rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the seventh inning to tie the game (getting 3 runs on a bases-loaded triple by Robb Gorr) and went on to win the second game, 8-6. Mike Weibling pitched 2 scoreless relief innings to pick up the win and Jack Krawczyk recorded his fourth save. Gorr and Marc Mirizzi each had 3 hits for the Trojans.
Greg Hanoian and Jason Brown each had 3 hits to lead a Trojan 12-hit attack as the USC topped California, 5-3 in the finale. Steve Immel went 7.2 innings to get the win while Jack Krawczyk recorded his fifth save.
COACH'S CORNER--In his 11th season as the Trojan head coach, Mike Gillespie has a 412-237-2 (.634) 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. Gillespie has a 35-25 record against Arizona.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS--Under first-year head coach Jerry Stitt, Arizona is currently 19-10 overall and 5-1 for a first place tie in the Pac-10 Southern Division. The No. 15 Wildcats are ranked for the first time since 1993. Arizona is led offensively by junior outfielder Diego Rico (.429, 1 HR, 25 RBI) and junior infielder Jake Thrower (.384, 2, 26). On the mound, the Wildcats feature a trio of sophomores: righthander Darrell Hussman (3-1, 4.11 ERA), this week's Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week; lefthander Rob Shabansky (6-1, 2.77); and lefthander James Johnson (2-4, 5.10).
THE SERIES--USC and Arizona first met in 1921 and the Trojans lead the series, 81-80-1. USC has won 17 of the last 19 and 27 of the last 36 games (dating back to the second half of 1990).
VS. THE WILDCATS--Here's a look at how the Trojans have fared against Arizona in their careers:
CONNECTIONS--USC has one player from Arizona: junior righthander Jack Krawczyk, who prepped at Arcadia High in Scottsdale (Az.). The Wildcats have 6 players from California on their roster.
SIX-PAC POWERHOUSE--No Pac-10 Southern Division team has been more successful in the 1990s than USC. The Trojans have won 136 games in that span (Stanford is second with 134) 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.
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.
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 15 games in 1997 and has 5 saves. Opponents are hitting .240 against him. Krawczyk, who earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors last year, has 20 career saves which rank No. 3 on Troy's all-time list.
TROJAN POSITION PLAYERS
WONDERFUL WES--Junior second baseman Wes Rachels, who was named to the 1995 All-College World Series team as just a freshman, hit safely in the first 14 games he played this year (21-for-54, .389) and has hit in all but 2 games. He hit a leadoff home run in the first inning of USC's season opener against Cal State Los Angeles, 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 12 times. 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.
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 .321 with 18 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.
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 .343 with 7 doubles and 22 RBI, and he leads the team with 6 home runs and 23 walks. He hit 2 home runs in USC's 4-3 win over Long Beach State. Behind the plate, he has thrown out 17 of 25 baserunners (.680).
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 (38-7 in 4 seasons) and is on the verge of becoming USC's all-time winningest pitcher (his 38 wins are 2 shy of leader Bruce Gardner's 40 and rank No. 2, tied with Randy Powers). 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 is currently 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA, and opponents have a .241 batting average against him.
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 3.02 ERA, and opponents are hitting .228 against him. He has 47 strikeouts in 47.2 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 to earn Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors (the fifth time he's done so in his career). He equalled his career-best in strikeouts at Hawaii (12).
STEVE IMMEL--A sophomore righthander, Steve Immel was moved into Troy's starting rotation against California (after illness hampered Scott Henderson). He is currently 3-2 with a team-leading 2.45 ERA, and has made 4 starts in 12 appearances. He has 33 strikeouts and 7 walks in 36.2 innings. He posted a career high 9 strikeouts in his first start against UC Santa Barbara this year. His longest career outing was 7.2 innings against California.
SCOTT HENDERSON--A talented righthander, senior Scott Henderson--a 1996 All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick--served as Troy's No. 3 starter last year and held that same spot this year until sidelined by illness. Henderson, who was 8-1 with a 3.19 ERA in 1996, is currently 4-2 with a 6.46 ERA. He has walked only 6 batters in 30.2 innings. He struck out a career-high 9 batters twice in 1996 and his longest outing is 8.7 innings against Stanford in 1996.
Trojans Top Performances