April 23, 1997
USC Baseball to Conclude Conference Action against No. 2 UCLA
THE TEAM--The No. 13 USC baseball team (34-17 overall, 15-12 in Pacific-10 Southern Division play for a third place tie with Arizona State) closes out 1997 conference action this weekend with a crucial 3-game series against crosstown rival UCLA (35-11-1, 14-7), which is in first place and ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Trojans, who are two-time defending Pac-10 champions, are in the midst of a stretch run that puts them on the road for 17 of the final 22 games (including a current 10-game road swing in which the Trojans are 5-4). USC, which has just 2 home games remaining, is coming off a 3-game sweep at Arizona (where the Trojans have now won 13 in a row) and an extra-inning non-conference loss (18-17) at Cal State Northridge. USC was undefeated in Arizona this year (also sweeping Arizona State at Tempe earlier this year). The series against UCLA will begin Friday (Apr. 25) at Jackie Robinson Stadium at 7 p.m., continue Saturday (Apr. 26) at Dedeaux Field at 1 p.m. and conclude Sunday (Apr. 27) at Jackie Robinson Stadium at 1 p.m. Saturday's game at Dedeaux Field will be televised live by Fox Sports Net with Barry Tompkins and former Arizona head coach Jerry Kindall doing the commentary.
THE RANKINGS--USC is currently ranked No. 13 in Baseball America, No. 14 in Baseball Weekly and No. 17 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).
UCLA is ranked No. 2 in Baseball America, No. 3 in Baseball Weekly and No. 4 in Collegiate Baseball.
BY THE NUMBERS--USC has a .326 team batting average and a 4.58 team ERA. Opponents are hitting .279 against Trojan pitchers. The Trojans have stolen 78 bases (junior Morgan Ensberg and junior Wes Rachels lead with 14) while opponents have only 36 thefts (in 61 tries). USC hitters lead the conference with 260 walks while Trojan pitchers have issued the fewest walks (144). Top Trojan hitters are senior Jason Brown (.386), sophomore Robb Gorr (.345) and freshman Eric Munson (.340). Brown hit 3 grand slams in a span of 6 games (10 days), and added a USC-best 7 RBI at San Diego State. The Trojans have hit back-to-back home runs in a game 4 times this year.
STREAKIN'--Two Trojans have 7-game hitting streaks: Jeremy Freitas (12-for-25, .480) and Brad Ticehurst (12-for-27, .444).
THIS PAST WEEKEND--USC swept the 3-game series at Arizona this past weekend to extend its win streak at Sancet Field to 13. Senior Randy Flores (8-5) earned his 41st career win (setting the Trojan all-time record) in USC's opening 8-6 win. Flores scattered 11 hits, allowed 5 earned runs and 2 walks, and struck out 11 (he had 24 strikeouts in 2 games against Arizona in 1997). Junior Jeremy Freitas was 2-for-2 with a double and home run.
In the second game, junior righthander Seth Etherton (7-2) worked 8 innings and allowed just one unearned run on 4 hits while striking out 11 in a 10-1 USC win. Sophomore Robb Gorr had 2 hits, including a home run.
Senior Jason Brown hit 2 home runs and the Trojans hit a 1997-best 5 overall (including back-to-back solo shots by Greg Walbridge and Brown) to give USC a 13-9 win over Arizona in the finale. Brown had 3 hits and 3 RBI and Gorr also had 3 hits and another home run. Senior Scott Henderson picked up the win in relief while junior Jack Krawczyk picked up his nation-leading 10th save.
M.A.S.H. UNIT--Due to injury and/or illness, USC has played 38 of its 51 games without the services of at least one starting position player (11 games with 2 starters missing and 27 games with one starter out). The Trojans have also lost their scheduled starting pitcher for 4 games due to illness. USC is 8-5 in the games played with a complete lineup. Players missing significant action include second baseman Wes Rachels (8 games, death of his father/1 game, strained leg muscle), Jason Brown (19 games, knee surgery/1 game, bruised forearm), Greg Walbridge (3 games, perforated eardrum) and Greg Hanoian (15 games, shoulder surgery). Hanoian is out for the remainder of the season following shoulder surgery (Apr. 21) to repair a tear in his rotator cuff.
PITCHING MATCH-UPS--Here's a look at the USC-UCLA pitching match-ups for this weekend's series: senior lefthander Randy Flores (8-5, 3.97 ERA) vs. junior lefthander Jim Parque (11-1, 2.55); junior righthander Seth Etherton (7-2, 3.61) vs. sophomore lefthander Tom Jacquez (9-1, 2.49); and sophomore righthander Steve Immel (6-3, 4.05) or sophomore righthander Mike Penney (1-0, 4.28) vs. junior lefthander Peter Zamora (4-2, 5.01).
COACH'S CORNER--In his 11th season as the Trojan head coach, Mike Gillespie has a 426-247-2 (.633) 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 has a 38-25 record against UCLA.
SIX-PAC POWERHOUSE--No Pac-10 Southern Division team has been more successful in the 1990s than USC. The Trojans have won 146 games in that span (Stanford is second with 143) 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.
SCOUTING THE BRUINS--No. 2 UCLA is 35-11-1 overall and 14-7 in the Pac-10 Southern Division for a first place tie with Stanford. The Bruins, under 23-year head coach Gary Adams, feature junior shortstop Troy Glaus (.417, 24 HR, 69 RBI), the UCLA all-time home run leader, and 2-position star Peter Zamora (.413, 14, 55/4-2, 5.01), who plays first base and pitches.
THE SERIES--USC and UCLA first met in 1928 and the Trojans hold a 214-93 lead in the series. That's USC's most wins and highest winning percentage against any conference opponent. Since 1987, USC is 25-7 against UCLA at Dedeaux Field (13-18 at Jackie Robinson Stadium). UCLA won 2 of the 3 contests earlier this year.
LAST TIME AROUND--UCLA won 2 of the 3 games earlier this year. In the opener at Dedeaux Field, the Bruins hit 5 home runs and scored in every inning but the eighth as UCLA topped the Trojans, 12-6. Jim Parque got the win while Randy Flores took the loss. Jason Brown was 4-for-4 with a double, grand slam and 4 RBI for the Trojans.
In the second game at Jackie Robinson Stadium, Tom Jacquez went 7.3 innings and Jake Meyer went the rest of the way to limit USC to 5 runs on 8 hits as the Bruins won, 8-5. Pete Zamora was 3-for-4 with a home run, double and 2 RBI. Wes Rachels and Brian Ponchak each had 2 hits for Troy. Seth Etherton started and took the loss for the Trojans (it was the first conference loss of his career).
In the finale at Dedeaux Field, USC scored a run in the eighth inning to break a 7-7 tie and take an 8-7 victory over UCLA. With one one and one out in the ninth, Jason Brown doubled to right field and Greg Walbridge went on to score on the rightfielder's misplay. Jack Krawczyk picked up the win in relief for the Trojans while Dan Keller took the loss.
VS. UCLA--Here's a look at how the Trojans have fared against the Bruins in their careers:
RANDY FLORES--Probably the most underrated pitcher in college baseball today, senior lefthander Randy Flores ranks as USC's all-time winningest pitcher with 41 wins (surpassing Bruce Gardner's 40 victories in 1958-60). Flores, a Collegiate Baseball pre-season All-American third teamer, has had a stellar career at USC (41-10 in 4 seasons). He ranks No. 2 on the all-time innings pitched list with 459.2 (13 innings shy of leader Randy Powers' 472.2). His 301 career strikeouts rank No. 3 on the Trojan all-time list (behind Brent Strom at 363 and Randy Powers at 312). The 1995 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year and an All-Pac-10 first team pick in both 1994 and 1996, Flores could be the first pitcher ever to earn 4-time all-conference honors. He is currently 8-5 with a 3.97 ERA, and opponents have a .276 batting average against him. He has 78 strikeouts and 26 walks in 88.1 innings. He posted a career-high 13 strikeouts in 8 innings against Arizona to earn selections as a Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week and Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week. He captured his 40th career win at Arizona State to tie Gardner for the top spot in USC's career wins list (he struck out 12 to earn Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors, the fourth time he's been so honored). He surpassed Gardner's mark at Arizona, where he pitched his 21st career complete game and struck out 11 in USC's 8-6 win.
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 7-2 with a 3.61 ERA, and opponents are hitting .251 against him. He has 85 strikeouts and 26 walks in 87.1 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. He equalled his career best in strikeouts at Hawaii with 12. He received his first career conference loss at UCLA. He earned Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors (the sixth time he's done so in his career) in his most recent start at Arizona: he went 8 innings and limited the Wildcats to one unearned run on just 4 hits and a walk while striking out 11 to post a 10-1 victory.
STEVE IMMEL--A sophomore righthander, Steve Immel was moved into Troy's starting rotation against California (after illness hampered Scott Henderson), dropped out of the rotation after coming down with strep throat, and returned to start the final Stanford game. He is currently 6-3 with a 4.05 ERA, and has made 6 starts in 20 appearances. He has 40 strikeouts and 11 walks in 53.1 innings. He is tops in the Pac-10 in fewest walks allowed per 9 innings (1.87). 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.
JACK KRAWCZYK--Junior righthander Jack Krawczyk currently leads the nation (tied with Kansas State's David Johnson) with 10 saves (No. 5 on USC's single-season list). With 25 career saves, he needs one more to equal Brian Nichols as USC's all-time save leader with 26. 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 27 games in 1997 and is 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA. Opponents are hitting .215 against Krawczyk, who earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors last year.
Trojan Position Players
JASON BROWN--Senior "jack-of-all-trades" Jason Brown (he has seen time as a catcher, first baseman, designated hitter and outfielder) is back in action after missing 19 games following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is currently hitting .386. He has hit safely in 21 of 30 games this year, and had a 9-game hitting streak (18-for-35, .514). Of his 8 home runs, 3 are grand slams (which were hit in a span of 6 games/10 days). He was 4-for-4 with a grand slam, double and 4 RBI in the UCLA opener. He had a grand slam and 6 RBI against Arizona State. He was 3-for-4 with a double, grand slam and 7 RBI at San Diego State. He reached base in 9 straight plate appearances before striking out in the third inning of the second UCLA game (getting 7 hits and 2 walks).
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 .280 with 5 home runs, 32 RBI and a team-leading 14 stolen bases (in 16 tries). He has a team-leading and Pac-10-second-best 43 walks (his streak of walks in 8 straight games for a total of 13 was snapped at San Diego State). He has hit safely in 32 games this year, including 17 multiple-hit games. He has had 2 6-game hitting streaks. He has struck out 50 times this year, just 3 shy of the Trojan single-season record.
JEREMY FREITAS--A junior transfer from Fresno (Calif.) City College, Jeremy Freitas has seen action as an outfielder and designated hitter for USC in 1997. He is hitting .288 with 5 home runs and 29 RBI. He has hit safely in the last 7 games (12-for-25, .480) to raise his average from .228 to .288. He was 4-for-6 with a double, home run and 5 RBI at Cal State Northridge.
ROBB GORR--A versatile athlete, sophomore Robb Gorr is USC's starting centerfielder but he has also seen time at second base and first base while filling in for injured players. He has started every game this year and is hitting .345 with 39 RBI. He has hit safely in 38 games, including 22 multiple-hit games. He was 5-for-6 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI at Hawaii Hilo. He has hit a home run in 3 straight games.
MARC MIRIZZI--An exciting defensive player, senior shortstop Marc Mirizzi has also excelled at the plate. He is hitting .326 with 18 doubles and 31 RBI, and he has started every game this year. He is USC's leading hitter in Pac-10 games with a .363 average. He has hit safely in 41 games this year with 23 multiple-hit games. 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. He has hit safely in 7 of the last 8 games and 11 of 13.
ERIC MUNSON--Freshman catcher Eric Munson is proving worthy of his pre-season accolades as one of the nation's top freshmen. He has started every game this year and is hitting .340 with 11 doubles and a team-leading 40 RBI and 9 home runs. He has hit safely in 38 games this year, including 19 multiple-hit games. He had an 8-game hitting streak (13-for-35, .371) and 2 6-game streaks earlier this year. He hit 2 home runs in USC's 4-3 win over Long Beach State. He was 6-for-13 (.462) with 4 RBI in the most recent Arizona State series. He was 4-for-7 with a double, home run and 4 RBI at San Diego State. He has hit safely in the last 4 games, 10 of the last 11 and 14 of the last 16. Behind the plate, he has thrown out 19 of 47 baserunners (.404).
BRIAN PONCHAK--A righthanded relief pitcher and pinch-hitter in his first 3 seasons at USC, senior Brian Ponchak has been used mainly as a designated hitter in 1997 (he has just 3 relief appearances this year). He is currently hitting .279 with 5 home runs and 27 RBI. He had an 8-game hitting streak (12-for-30, .400) before going 0-for-3 in the Stanford finale (his batting average was a season-low .125 before the streak). He had a double, home run and 5 RBI against Mississippi. He was 4-for-6 with a double, home run and 2 RBI at Cal State Northridge.
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). Currently hitting .339, he has reached base safely in every game but 2 and has hit in all but 8 (with 18 multiple-hit 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 reached base (by hit or walk) in the first at-bat of the game in 23 of 42 plate appearances. He has also walked 33 times and has a team-leading 14 stolen bases. He reached base safely in his first 7 plate appearances of 1997 (spanning 2 games), getting 2 hits and 5 walks. He had 2 doubles and 5 RBI in the Arizona State opener at Tempe. He had a season-best 4 hits at Cal State Northridge. He missed 8 games following the death of his father (Dr. Arthur Rachels) on Feb. 15.
BRAD TICEHURST--A sophomore outfielder, Brad Ticehurst served as a reserve rightfielder until moving into the starting rotation following the injury to Greg Hanoian. Ticehurst is currently hitting .314 with 3 home runs and 15 RBI. After beginning the season 5-for-29 (.172), he has gone 27-for-72 (.375) in the last 25 games. He currently has a 7-game hitting streak (12-for-27, .444).
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 is currently hitting .315 with 39 RBI. He has a team-leading 22 doubles (his 47 career doubles rank No. 7 on USC's all-time list). He had a 9-game hitting streak (16-for-36, .444) snapped against Notre Dame. He has struck out just 22 times in 200 at-bats. He was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week (Apr. 1) after going 11-for-27 (.407) with 5 doubles, a home run and a team-best 11 RBI against Arizona State and San Diego State. In the Arizona State series at Dedeaux Field, 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 was 4-for-6 with 2 doubles and 4 RBI in the second game at Arizona State. He missed 3 games after getting beaned in the head in the second Arizona game (he suffered a perforated eardrum and lost the hearing in his right ear).
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.