May 24, 1997

    Trojans Defeat NC State, 13-4

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Junior righthander Seth Etherton struck out 10 in seven innings and Wes Rachels had a big day at the plate to lead the USC baseball team to a 13-4 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday night -- and Sunday morning -- at the South II Regional. This eliminated the Wolfpack and moved the Trojans into Sunday's championship against host Alabama.

    After losing their first game to Virginia Tech, the Trojans (42-19) have won three straight to put themselves in position to win the regional. However, the Trojans will have to beat the No. 1 Crimson Tide twice to advance to the College World Series, as Alabama is undefeated this weekend. The first game begins at 1 p.m. CT (11 a.m. in Los Angeles).

    Etherton (10-2) allowed six hits and three walks, while none of the four runs he allowed were earned. Junior righthanders Mike Weibling and Jack Krawczyk each worked a scoreless inning in relief.

    Rachels, a junior second baseman, was 4-for-5 with two doubles, four RBI and three runs scored. USC had its best offensive game of the regional thus far with 13 runs and 15 hits.

    The game started almost 3 1/2 hours late because of a rain delay. It was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. CT, but thunderstorms pushed the start back to 10:25 p.m. It didn't end until about 1:25 a.m. CT, meaning the Trojans have less than 12 hours until their next game against Alabama.

    The rain delay didn't hurt the Trojans, as they sent 13 batters to the plate in the top of the first inning and scored seven runs, highlighted by Morgan Ensberg's three-run home run.

    It began when Rachels walked, Marc Mirizzi singled and Greg Walbridge walked to load the bases. After an out, the Wolfpack made a bizarre move, lifting their starting pitcher, Rodney Ormond (4-1), in favor of reliever Dustin Baker after just four batters.

    Eric Munson then hit a sacrifice fly to score Rachels, and Ensberg knocked his eighth home run of the year over the right-field wall. The bases were loaded again when Brad Ticehurst walked, Robb Gorr singled and Jeremy Freitas walked. Back to the top of the order, Rachels ripped a two-RBI single to make it 6-0. After a walk to Mirizzi again loaded the bases, Walbridge drew an RBI walk to make it 7-0.

    The Trojan bats cooled down immediately after, however. After walking Munson to start the second inning, Baker retired the next 11 USC hitters.

    In the top of the sixth, USC had a two-out rally to make it 8-0 as Walbridge and Jason Brown hit back-to-back singles. Walbridge went to third on Brown's hit, then caught the Wolfpack napping as he stole home when the pitcher and catcher had a conference without calling time out.

    The Wolfpack finally got to Etherton in the bottom of the seventh inning, though all four runs were unearned. After he struck out the first two batters (and his fourth and fifth in a row dating back to the sixth inning), third baseman Ensberg committed an error that allowed Luis Figueroa to reach base. Pinch-hitter Stephen Wolff singled, Josh Ballard had an RBI single and Tom Sergio stroked a three-run homer to make it 8-4.

    USC retook the momentum in the top of the eighth. With one out, Rachels doubled. After the second out, Walbridge walked and Brown lined a double into the gap to score Rachels and make it 9-4.

    Rachels did it again in the top of the ninth, ripping a two-run double that scored Ticehurst (who had walked) and Freitas (who had singled). Mirizzi then followed with a single that scored Rachels, and Brown had his second RBI double in as many innings.

    Brown had three hits for USC, while Mirizzi, Walbridge and Gorr each had a pair of hits.