May 24, 1997

    Trojans Stave Off Elimination, Again

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The USC baseball team got another strong pitching performance and avoided elimination for the second straight game, defeating Virginia Tech, 6-2, on Saturday at the NCAA South II Regional.

    Sophomore righthander Steve Immel (7-4) threw 6 1/3 strong innings, allowing just four hits, three walks and no earned runs while striking out eight. Junior righthander Mike Weibling went the next 1 2/3 innings, and junior righthander Jack Krawczyk worked a perfect ninth.

    The Trojans avenged an earlier loss to the Hokies, a 3-2 defeat on the tournament's first day, and eliminated Virginia Tech in the process. USC plays North Carolina State later this evening. The Wolfpack lost to host Alabama earlier on Saturday.

    In addition to the solid pitching, the bats finally came alive for the Trojans, as they knocked 11 hits, led by Brad Ticehurst's 3-for-4. Ticehurst opened the scoring with a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning, his fourth of the year.

    In the bottom of the third, Wes Rachels led off with a double, moved to third on Marc Mirizzi's bunt single and then scored when Jason Brown hit into a double play.

    The Trojans made it 4-0 after the bottom of the fourth when Morgan Ensberg, Greg Walbridge, Robb Gorr and Ticehurst hit four consecutive singles to start the inning. Gorr's single scored Ensberg, and Gorr would end up stealing home on a 3-2, 2-out pitch to Wes Rachels.

    USC expanded its lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the fifth when Brown doubled to the left-field wall and Eric Munson slugged his team-leading 13th home run of the season.

    Meanwhile, Immel had been cruising along, allowing only one batter to reach second base in the first five innings. But the Hokies got on the board in the top of the sixth with two unearned runs. Virginia Tech's Randy Martin reached base when he struck out on a ball in the dirt, but Brown's throw to first sailed into right field and Martin raced all the way to third base. After an out, Tech's Chad Foutz hit an RBI double and later scored on a ground out.

    Virginia Tech's Todd Zirkle (5-3) took the loss after lasting just 3 2/3 innings and giving up seven hits, four runs and two walks.

    Mirizzi was 2-for-4 for the Trojans. Ticehurst improved to 5-for-8 over the tournament's three games.

    Postgame Quotes

    USC Coach Mike Gillespie:
    "I really think the primary explanation for our success today is Steve Immel. He threw strikes, he mixed his pitches well ... This is about as well as we can swing the bats. All in all this was a great win for us ... Our pitching depth is a concern, of course, but we don't feel it is a hopeless task."

    USC outfielder Brad Ticehurst:
    "As a team we wanted to come out and swing the bats well. In the college game two or three runs doesn't win ... The layoff did hurt us offensively. We were practicing and playing in intrasquad games, but that's not the same, so the layoff did hurt us. It just took two or three games to get it back."