May 6, 1997
No. 12 USC Takes 10-Day Break for Final Exams
THE TEAM--The No. 12 USC baseball team (37-18 overall, 17-13 in Pacific-10 Southern Division play for third place) begins a 10-day break from action due to final examinations. 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 10-game road swing in which the Trojans were 6-4). USC is coming off a successful weekend, winning 2 of 3 games from highly ranked UCLA and then pounding UC Santa Barbara, 23-5 (the Trojans had 36 hits in the game). USC will conclude the 1997 regular season with a series against Cal State Northridge. The games will be played on Saturday (May 10) at Northridge and Sunday (May 11) at Dedeaux Field. Both games begin at 1 p.m.
PLAYOFF PICTURE--The 8 NCAA regional sites will be announced on Monday (May 12) at noon (PDT) and the 48-team NCAA bracket will be announced on Monday (May 19) at noon (PDT). The bracket announcement will be aired live on ESPN.
THE RANKINGS--USC is currently ranked No. 12 in Baseball America, No. 13 in Collegiate Baseball and No. 14 in Baseball Weekly. In the pre-season polls, USC was listed No. 3 by Baseball America and No. 6 by Collegiate Baseball.
BY THE NUMBERS--USC has a .331 team batting average and a 4.64 team ERA. Opponents are hitting .281 against Trojan pitchers. The Trojans have stolen 85 bases (junior Wes Rachels leads with 15) while opponents have only 36 thefts (in 62 tries). USC hitters lead the conference with 272 walks while Trojan pitchers have issued the fewest walks (157). Top Trojan hitters are senior Jason Brown (.400), Rachels (.349), sophomore Robb Gorr (.345) and freshman Eric Munson (.343). USC, which hit just 7 home runs in its first 14 games, has hit 24 home runs in the last 8 games. 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. Junior Morgan Ensberg was 6-for-7 at UC Santa Barbara.
THIS PAST WEEKEND--USC won 2 of 3 games over highly ranked UCLA last weekend. In the opener at Jackie Robinson Stadium, USC got home runs from Jeremy Freitas, Eric Munson and Morgan Ensberg and took advantage of 8 Bruin errors to capture a 10-6 victory over UCLA. Scott Henderson picked up the win in relief while Jack Krawczyk became USC's all-time save leader with his 26th save (including a Pac-10-leading 11 in 1997).
Sophomore Eric Valent hit for the cycle and the Bruins banged out 14 hits as UCLA won the series finale, 14-4, at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Pete Zamora pitched a complete game to get the win while Steve Immel started for the Trojans and took the loss. Wes Rachels had 3 hits, including his second home run of the year.
M.A.S.H. UNIT--Due to injury and/or illness, USC has played 42 of its 55 games without the services of at least one starting position player (11 games with 2 starters missing and 31 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 (19 games, shoulder surgery).
COACH'S CORNER--In his 11th season as the Trojan head coach, Mike Gillespie has a 429-248-2 (.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.
SIX-PAC POWERHOUSE--No Pac-10 Southern Division team has been more successful in the 1990s than USC. The Trojans have won 148 games in that span (Stanford is second with 146) with an unmatched 3 conference titles.
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). This year, he is 8-2 with a 3.40 ERA, and opponents are hitting .249 against him. He has 93 strikeouts and 28 walks in 95.1 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 back-to-back Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors: he went 8 innings at Arizona 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 and, one week later, went 8 innings versus UCLA and limited the Bruins to one earned run on 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8 in an 11-2 victory. He's been named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week 3 times in 1997 and 7 times in his career.
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 continues in that same spot this year (although he has been hampered 4 different weekends due to illness). Henderson, who was 8-1 with a 3.19 ERA in 1996, is currently 8-3 with a 6.25 ERA, and he has 13 starts in 16 appearances. He has walked only 18 batters in 63.1 innings. He struck out a career-high 9 batters twice in 1996 and his longest outing is 8.7 innings against Stanford in 1996.
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 6-4 with a 4.75 ERA, and has made 7 starts in 21 appearances. He has 41 strikeouts and 13 walks in 55 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.
JACK KRAWCZYK--Junior righthander Jack Krawczyk, who is second in the nation with 11 saves (behind Mississippi State's Van Johnson), tied USC's record for all-time saves (with Brian Nichols) when he captured his 26th at UCLA. His 11 saves in 1997 rank No. 5 on USC's single-season list. 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 29 games in 1997 and is 1-2 with a 3.41 ERA. Opponents are hitting .214 against Krawczyk, who earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors last year.
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 .296 with 7 home runs, 38 RBI and 14 stolen bases (in 16 tries). He has a team-leading and Pac-10-second-best 45 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 35 games this year, including 18 multiple-hit games. He has had 2 6-game hitting streaks. He has USC's top performance this year, going 6-for-7 with a double, home run and 2 RBI at UC Santa Barbara. He has struck out 55 times this year to set a new USC 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 .282 with 6 home runs and 32 RBI. He had an 8-game hitting streak (13-for-28, .464) and has hit safely in 10 of the last 11 to raise his average from .228 to .282. He was 4-for-6 with a double, home run and 5 RBI at Cal State Northridge. He was 4-for-5 with 2 doubles, a triple and 4 RBI at Hawaii Hilo. He got 2 hits (a double and home run) and 5 RBI against Stanford.
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 a team-leading 46 RBI. He has hit safely in 41 games, including 25 multiple-hit games. He was 5-for-6 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI at Hawaii Hilo. He had 3 hits and 5 RBI at UC Santa Barbara. He has scored at least one run in 7 straight games.
GREG HANOIAN--With his torrid hitting in 1997, sophomore Greg Hanoian had established himself as one of Troy's starting outfielders until suffering a shoulder injury at Arizona State (which has sidelined him for the last 19 games). He is hitting an impressive .429, and has hit safely in 26 games, including 16 multiple-hit games. 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 player, senior shortstop Marc Mirizzi has also excelled at the plate. He is hitting .326 with 18 doubles and 33 RBI, and he has started every game this year. He was USC's leading hitter in Pac-10 games with a .349 average. He has hit safely in 43 games this year with 25 multiple-hit games (including 3 4-hit games). He was 4-for-5 with a double and 4 RBI in USC's season opener, he went 4-for-5 with 3 RBI against UC Santa Barbara and he was 4-for-8 with a home run and 2 RBI at UC Santa Barbara.
ERIC MUNSON--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 .343 with 11 doubles and 45 RBI. He leads the team with 11 home runs. He has hit safely in 41 games this year, including 21 multiple-hit games. He had an 8-game hitting streak (13-for-35, .371) and 3 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 7 of the last 8 games, 13 of the last 15 and 17 of the last 20. Behind the plate, he has thrown out 20 of 48 baserunners (.417).
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 .297 with 9 doubles, 6 home runs and 30 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 was 4-for-5 with a home run and 3 RBI at UC Santa Barbara. 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 .349, he has reached base safely in every game but 2 and has hit in all but 8 (with 21 multiple-hit games). He hit a leadoff home run in the first inning of USC's season opener against Cal State Los Angeles for his only home run at Dedeaux Field (he hit his first ever 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 24 of 46 plate appearances. He has also walked 33 times and has a team-leading 15 stolen bases. He currently has an 8-game hitting streak (18-for-43, .419) and has hit safely in 11 of the last 12 (with 8 multiple-hit games in that span). 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 has struck out only 4 times in the last 73 plate appearances. 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 .304 with 3 home runs and 16 RBI. After beginning the season 5-for-29 (.172), he has gone 30-for-85 (.353) in the last 29 games. He had a 7-game hitting streak (12-for-27, .444) and has hit safely in 10 of the last 11. He was 3-for-5 with 2 doubles at Cal State Northridge.
GREG WALBRIDGE--Senior Greg Walbridge, a 1996 All-Pac-10 first teamer and USC's Most Hustle and Spirit Award winner, is in for his third season as Troy's starting first baseman. Walbridge is currently hitting .320 with 43 RBI. He has a Pac-10-leading 24 doubles, good for No. 3 on USC's single-season list (tied with Rich Dauer in 1974). His 49 career doubles rank No. 6 on USC's all-time list. He has hit safely in 38 games this year, including 20 multiple-hit games. He had 4 hits in a game 5 times this year. He had a 9-game hitting streak (16-for-36, .444) snapped against Notre Dame. 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.
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.
THE NUMBERS GAME--USC returns 17 lettermen, including 4 starting position players and 3 starting pitchers, off the 1996 team that finished 44-16-1 overall and 24-6 in the Pacific-10 Southern Division for a second consecutive title. Among Troy's returners are 1996 All-American second teamer and 1996 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year Seth Etherton, 1996 All-Pac-10 pitcher Randy Flores, 1996 All-Pac-10 first baseman Greg Walbridge, and a quartet of 1996 All-Pac-10 honorable mention picks: third baseman Morgan Ensberg, shortstop Marc Mirizzi, pitcher Scott Henderson, and relief pitcher Jack Krawczyk, who led the league in saves in 1996. The Trojans have 6 newcomers to the team. Troy lost 10 lettermen from last year, including 5 impact players: 1996 All-American outfielder Jacque Jones (a 1996 Olympian), 1996 All-American second team outfielder Jeff Inglin, 1996 All-Pac-10 catcher Chad Moeller, 1996 All-Pac-10 honorable mention infielder Ryan Stromsborg and 1996 All-Pac-10 honorable mention designated hitter Paul Cruz.
FLORES CAREER HIGHS