Mar. 20, 1997
USC Baseball Battles Crosstown-Rival UCLA
THE TEAM--The No. 7 USC baseball team (23-8 overall, 7-5 in Pacific-10 Southern Division play for third place) will battle highly ranked crosstown rival UCLA (23-5-1, 3-3 for fourth place) in an important 3-game series this weekend. The Trojans, who are two-time defending Pac-10 champions, won 2 of 3 games against a red-hot Arizona team last weekend at Dedeaux Field before defeating Cal State Fullerton in a non-conference match-up on Tuesday (Mar. 18). The No. 3 Bruins are in the midst of an 8-day break from competition for final examinations. The series will begin Saturday (Mar. 22) at 1 p.m. at USC's Dedeaux Field, continue Sunday (Mar. 23) at 1 p.m. at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium, and conclude Monday (Mar. 24) at 7 p.m. at Dedeaux Field. Trojan senior lefthander Randy Flores will be going for his 40th career win (to tie Bruce Gardner as USC's all-time winningest pitcher).
ON THE TUBE--Saturday's (Mar. 22) contest with UCLA will be televised live on Fox Sports West 2 with Tom Kelly and former Trojan football-baseball star John Jackson handling the commentary.
ON THE AIR--Several remaining Trojan conference games (including all playoff games) can be heard live on KYPA-AM (1230) radio with Larry Kahn and former Trojan player and assistant coach Justin Dedeaux calling the action. The remaining broadcast schedule includes all conference games except the series at Arizona.
ON THE WEB--The USC athletic department has an official "home page" on the World Wide Web, featuring current and historical information about Trojan sports. Enter http://www.usctrojans.com for access.
THE RANKINGS--USC is currently ranked No. 7 in Baseball Weekly, No. 9 in Baseball America and No. 12 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).
BY THE NUMBERS--USC has a .326 team batting average and a 3.74 team ERA. Opponents are hitting .250 against Trojan pitchers. The Trojans have stolen 55 bases (Morgan Ensberg leads with 11) while opponents have only 22 thefts (in 37 tries). Top Trojan hitters are outfielder Greg Hanoian (.460) and second baseman Wes Rachels (.353).
THIS PAST WEEK--USC won 2 of 3 games against first-place Arizona this past weekend. In the opener, Randy Flores struck out a career-high 13 batters to lead USC to a 3-2 victory over Arizona. Flores went 8 innings and allowed 2 unearned runs on 7 hits and a walk. Jack Krawcyzk recorded his sixth save, striking out 2 of 3 batters in the ninth to give USC a season-best 15 strikeouts. Wes Rachels' 2-out single in the ninth snapped a 2-2 tie.
In the finale, Scott Henderson went 7.1 innings and allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5 to lead USC to a 6-2 victory over the Wildcats. Brian Ponchak was 2-for-3 with a double and home run and Greg Hanoian was 2-for-3 with a double and 2 RBI.
In Troy's mid-week non-conference game, a quarter of Trojan pitchers held Cal State Fullerton to just 3 hits as USC shut out the Titans, 2-0. Mike Penney started and went 5 innings, Steve Immel pitched 2 innings (to get the win), Mike Weibling pitched one inning and Jack Krawczyk recorded his seventh save (pitching a perfect ninth inning). Held scoreless until the seventh inning, USC took a 1-0 lead on an RBI-single by Brian Ponchak and then scored an insurance run in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Eric Munson.
MASH UNIT--Due to injury and/or illness, USC has played 22 of its 31 games without the services of at least one starting position player (9 games with 2 starters missing and 13 games with one starter out). The Trojans have also lost their scheduled starting pitcher for 2 games due to illness. USC is 6-3 in the 9 games played with a complete lineup.
PITCHING MATCH-UPS--Here's a look at the pitching match-ups for this weekend's series: senior lefthander Randy Flores (6-2, 2.50 ERA) vs. junior lefthander Jim Parque (7-0, 2.33) on Saturday; junior righthander Seth Etherton (4-0, 3.29) vs. sophomore lefthander Tom Jacquez (5-1, 2.67) on Sunday; and senior righthander Scott Henderson (5-2, 5.68) vs. junior lefthander Pete Zamora (1-1, 5.68) on Monday.
COACH'S CORNER--In his 11th season as the Trojan head coach, Mike Gillespie has a 415-238-2 (.635) 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. He is 37-23 against the Bruins in his career.
SCOUTING THE BRUINS--No. 3-ranked UCLA, which is in the midst of an 8-day break for final examinations, is 23-5-1 overall and 3-3 in the Pac-10 Southern Division. The Bruins, who were the nation's No. 1-ranked team 2 weeks ago, feature junior pitcher-first baseman Pete Zamora (.463, 9 HR, 32 RBI) and junior third baseman Troy Glaus (.449, 13, 42). On the mound, UCLA will send out a trio of lefthanders: junior Jim Parque (7-0, 2.33), sophomore Tom Jacquez (5-1, 2.67) and Zamora (1-1, 5.68).
THE SERIES--USC and UCLA first met in 1928 and the Trojans hold a 213-91 lead in the series. That's USC's most wins and highest winning percentage (.694) against any conference opponent. The Trojans have won 3 in a row over the Bruins. Since 1987, USC is 24-6 against UCLA at Dedeaux Field (13-17 at Jackie Robinson Stadium).
VS. THE BRUINS--Here's a look at how the Trojans have fared against UCLA in their careers:
TROJAN STARTING PITCHERS
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 3.29 ERA, and opponents are hitting .226 against him. He has 51 strikeouts and 13 walks in 54.2 innings. He had one of USC's top performances 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 with 12.
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 5-2 with a 5.68 ERA. He has walked only 8 batters in 38 innings. He struck out a career-high 9 batters twice in 1996 and his longest outing is 8.7 innings against Stanford in 1996.
SIX-PAC POWERHOUSE--No Pac-10 Southern Division team has been more successful in the 1990s than USC. The Trojans have won 138 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.
JACK 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 18 games in 1997 and has a Pac-10 leading 7 saves. Opponents are hitting .234 against him. Krawczyk, who earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors last year, has 22 career saves which rank No. 2 on Troy's all-time list (tied with Dan Hubbs).
STEVE IMMEL--A sophomore righthander, Steve Immel was moved into Troy's starting rotation against California (after illness hampered Scott Henderson) but missed his next start (against Arizona) after coming down with strep throat. 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 is 7.2 innings against California.
TROJAN POSITION PLAYERS
MORGAN ENSBERG--Junior third baseman Morgan Ensberg, a 1996 All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick, has started every game at third base this year. He is currently hitting .300 with 2 home runs, 18 RBI and a team-leading 11 stolen bases (in 12 tries) and 26 walks. He has hit safely in 20 of 31 games this year, including 11 multiple hit games. He has had 2 6-game hitting streaks.
ROBB GORR--A versatile athlete, sophomore Robb Gorr is USC's starting centerfielder but has also seen time at second base and first base. He is hitting .349 and leads the team in RBI (29). He has hit safely in 22 of 31 games, including 14 multiple hit games. He was 5-for-6 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI at Hawaii Hilo.
GREG 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 .460 average. He was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week (Mar. 11) after going 7-for-11 (.636) in Troy's 3-game sweep of California. He had a 9-game hitting streak (22-for-38, .579) snapped in the Stanford opener. Against Pepperdine, he was 5-for-5 with a double and 3 RBI (he went on to hit safely in 8 straight plate appearances). He had multiple hits and at least one RBI in 6 straight games.
MARC MIRIZZI--An exciting defensive shortstop, senior Marc Mirizzi has also excelled at the plate as well. He is hitting .328 with a team-leading 12 doubles. He has struck out just 12 times in 131 at-bats (third best in the Pac-10). 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.
ERIC MUNSON--Freshman catcher Eric Munson is proving worthy of his pre-season accolades as one of the nation's top freshmen. He is hitting .318 with 7 doubles and 23 RBI, and he leads the team with 6 home runs. He hit 2 home runs in USC's 4-3 win over Long Beach State. Behind the plate, he has thrown out 11 of 29 baserunners (.379).
BRIAN PONCHAK--A righthanded relief pitcher and pinch-hitter in his first 3 seasons at USC, senior Brian Ponchak has been used strictly as a designated hitter in 1997. He is currently hitting .277 with 3 home runs and 20 RBI. He had an 8-game hitting streak (12-for-30, .400) before going 0-3 in the Stanford finale (his batting average was a season-low .125 before the streak).
WES RACHELS--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). He has reached base safely in every game and has hit in all but 2. 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 14 times. He reached base safely in his first 7 plate appearances of 1997 (spanning 2 games), getting 2 hits and 5 walks. He has committed only 2 errors (in 98 chances, .980) this year. He missed 8 games following the death of his father (Dr. Arthur Rachels) on Feb. 15.
GREG WALBRIDGE--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 .327 with 20 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. He has missed the last 2 games after getting beaned in the head in the second Arizona game (he suffered a perforated eardrum and his status is considered day-to-day).
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.
FALL BASEBALL--This past fall (Oct. 4-6, 1996), USC participated in the ECL College Baseball Invitational, an exhibition tournament in Spokane (Wash.) that benefitted the Spokane Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Center. The Trojans won the 4-team tournament with victories over Washington (6-1), host Gonzaga (9-6) and Oregon State (11-5). The 3 games do not count in USC's 1997 record since it was a fall exhibition tournament.
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.