No. 3 USC Baseball Visits Cal State Fullerton

    Feb. 17, 1998

    THE TEAM - The No. 3 USC baseball team - which won the 2,000th game in school history last weekend ~ is 7-2 in 1998. The Trojans, who are aiming for their third conference title and second College World Series trip in the past four years, travel to Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday (Feb. 18) at 7 p.m., then open Pacific-10 Conference play against Arizona this weekend at Dedeaux Field. The series will be played Friday (Feb. 20) at 7 p.m., Saturday (Feb. 21) at 1 p.m. and Sunday (Feb. 22) at 1 p.m.

    RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY - Due to the rain out on Feb. 3, USC's series with UC Santa Barbara has undergone a schedule change: the Trojans will travel to Santa Barbara on Tuesday (March 3) for a 2 p.m. contest (this game was originally scheduled for Dedeaux Field) and then Troy will host UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday (Apr. 29) at 2:30 p.m.

    THE RANKINGS - USC is currently ranked No. 3 by Baseball America and USA Today/Baseball Weekly, No. 4 by The Sporting News and No. 8 by Collegiate Baseball. In the preseason polls, USC was ranked No. 5 by Baseball America, USA Today/Baseball Weekly/ESPN and The Sporting News and No. 6 by Collegiate Baseball. The Trojans were tabbed by the conference coaches to finish third in the Pac-10 Southern Division (Stanford and Arizona State were No. 1 and 2, respectively).

    LAST WEEKEND - USC swept a three-game series against North Carolina in Homestead, Fla.

    Seth Etherton threw a three-hit shutout in the opener, a 10-0 Trojan victory. He struck out a career-high 13, did not walk a batter and did not allow a runner to reach second base. He threw 80 strikes on 106 pitches. Eric Munson went 5-for-6 with three RBI. The Trojans won a slugfest in the second game, 16-9, pounding out 15 hits and scoring in every inning. Greg Hanoian was 4-for-4 with two RBI and Mike Penney picked up the win.

    The finale, a 10-2 USC win, was the 2,000th victory in school history. Jason Saenz went 6 2/3 innings and struck out seven, both career highs, to get the victory. Jack Krawczyk got his third save of the season (and 29th of his career).

    CELEBRATE IN '98 - The 1998 season marks the 50th anniversary of USC baseball's first-ever national championship team (1948). Troy also will commemorate three other NCAA championship anniversaries this year: 40th (1958), 30th (1968) and 20th (1978). These four national championship teams will be honored at Dedeaux Field in upcoming weekends.

    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 five), 36 conference titles and 18 College World Series appearances (second most in the nation). Trojan players have been named All-American first teamers 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, Bret Boone and Jeff Cirillo.

    SIX-PAC POWERHOUSE IN THE '90s - No Pac-10 Southern Division team has been more successful in the 1990s than USC. Here,s a look at Trojan baseball - going into the 1998 season - during the current decade compared to other Pac-10 Southern Division opponents:
    - USC has the best winning percentage (.655); - USC is tops (tied with Stanford) for most wins (150); - USC is the only school with 40 or more wins six times in this decade, including the last four;
    - USC is the only school to have finished with a Top 10 ranking in six of the past eight years;
    - USC has captured a league-best three conference championships (tied with Stanford);
    - USC has reached the NCAA playoffs a league-leading seven times (tied with Stanford) - and advanced to the regional finals in six of those years (including the last five);
    - And, finally, USC is the only Pac-10 team to reach the College World Series championship game in the 1990s.

    COACH'S CORNER - Mike Gillespie, in his 12th season as the Trojans, head coach, has a 441-252-2 (.636) career record and has led USC to three conference titles (1991-95-96), nine trips to the NCAA Regionals in 11 years (reaching the Regional finals seven times), and a trip to the 1995 College World Series (where Troy finished as the nation,s runner-up). He has been named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year three times (1991-95-96) and was also honored as the 1996 West Region Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association. He served as one of the assistant coaches for the 1997 USA Baseball Team. Gillespie was a leftfielder for the 1961 USC team that won the national championship (his 1960 team finished as the College World Series runner-up).

    TOUGH SCHEDULE - USC once again boasts one of the nation's most competitive schedules. Troy plays 36 of 56 games against teams ranked in the preseason polls, including 14 games against teams ranked in the Top 10. In addition, USC,s conference ~ the Pac-10 Southern Division ~ is ranked the second-toughest league in the nation by Baseball America.

    TERRIFIC 2,000 - USC,s 10-2 victory in the series finale against North Carolina on Feb. 15 was the 2,000th victory in school history. Troy currently has a 2,000-955-17 collegiate record.

    PITCHING ROTATION - Junior RHP Steve Immel (0-0, 5.40) will start on Wednesday against Cal State Fullerton. USC's starting pitching rotation for this weekend,s series against Arizona is as follows: senior RHP Seth Etherton (3-0, 1.23 ERA) on Friday and junior RHP Mike Penney (2-1, 1.62) on Saturday and junior LHP Jason Saenz (1-1, 2.70) on Sunday.

    SCOUTING THE TITANS - The Titans (6-3), No. 13 in Collegiate Baseball and USA Today/Baseball Weekly/ESPN and No. 16 in The Sporting News, are coming off a three-game sweep of Fresno State. Junior OF Greg Jacobs is hitting a team-high .393 and junior 1B Kevin Duck has a team-high 13 RBI to go with a .306 batting average.

    THE SERIES - Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series, 26-23-1. USC won both meetings last year, 2-0 at Dedeaux Field and 8-5 in Fullerton.

    SCOUTING THE WILDCATS - Arizona (16-0), ranked No. 4 by USA Today/Baseball Weekly/ESPN, No. 7 in Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and No. 13 by The Sporting News, is off to a tremendous start. The Wildcats have scored double-digit runs in all but four games and have been led by senior OF Jason Hendricks, who is hitting .500 with seven home runs and 19 RBI. The expected pitching rotation for this weekend is junior RHP Darrell Hussman (2-0, 4.74), junior LHP Rob Shabansky (5-0, 2.83) and junior LHP James Johnson (2-0, 3.67).

    THE SERIES - USC leads the all-time series with Arizona, 86-81-1. USC won five of six games last season, including two of three at Dedeaux Field. USC has won 22 of the last 25 and 32 of the last 42 dating back to the second half of 1990.

    USC VS. ARIZONA - Here's a look at what USC's players have done against Arizona in their careers:

    HITTERS     G   AB  H   HR  RBI AVG
    DePippo     8   9   1   0   0   .111
    Ensberg     12  41  15  1   11  .366
    Freitas     5   14  5   1   5   .357
    Gorr        8   26  6   2   6   .231
    Hanoian     6   17  6   0   3   .353
    Munson      6   19  3   0   1   .158
    Rachels     13  52  15  0   7   .288
    Ticehurst   4   12  5   0   0   .417
    PITCHERS    G   IP      ER  SO  W-L     S   ERA
    Etherton    4   31.0    6   36  3-0     0   1.74
    Immel       2   7.0     7   6   0-0     0   9.00
    C. Jones    1   0.0     3   0   0-0     0   --
    Krawczyk    5   7.2     1   3   0-1     3   1.17
    Penney      2   2.2     4   1   0-0     0   13.48
    Weibling    3   4.1     1   3   0-0     0   2.08

    THE NUMBERS GAME - USC returns 17 lettermen, including six starting position players and one starting pitcher, off the 1997 team that finished 42-20 overall and 17-13 in the Pacific-10 Southern Division for third place. Leading Troy,s returners are three 1997 All-Pac-10 first team selections: senior RHP Seth Etherton, a 1998 Collegiate Baseball preseason All-American first team pick who was the 1996 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year; sophomore C Eric Munson, a 1998 consensus preseason All-American first teamer who was named The Sporting News, 1997 Freshman of the Year; and senior 2B Wes Rachels. Also back are senior 3B Morgan Ensberg, senior RHP Jack Krawczyk (the Pac-10,s save leader for the past two seasons), a trio of junior OFs (Robb Gorr, Greg Hanoian and Brad Ticehurst) and three junior RHPs (Steve Immel, Craig Jones, Mike Penney). The Trojans have 12 newcomers to the team, including three junior college transfers. Troy lost seven lettermen from last year, including three-time All-Pac-10 LHP Randy Flores, who is USC,s all-time winningest pitcher with 42 career victories, 1997 All-Pac-10 SS Marc Mirizzi, two-year starting RHP Scott Henderson and three-year starting 1B Greg Walbridge.

    SUPER SETH - Senior RHP Seth Etherton, a 1998 Collegiate Baseball pre-season All-American first teamer, has established himself as one of college baseball,s finest starting pitchers. Etherton, a 1997 All-Pac-10 first team pick who was the 1996 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, returns for his third season as a starter after rejecting a contract offer from the St. Louis Cardinals (he was a ninth-round pick in the 1997 draft). After going 10-2 with a team-leading 2.96 ERA and 106 strikeouts last year, he is 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 1998. He earned Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week and Pac-10 Player of the Week honors after throwing a three-hit shutout against North Carolina (Feb. 13) and striking out a career-high 13 without walking a batter or allowing a runner to reach second base. Seth pitched six scoreless innings and struck out six in USC,s opener against Long Beach State (Jan. 30) and then went seven innings and struck out 10 against Texas (Feb. 7).

    WORTHY WES - A steady and experienced player, senior 2B Wes Rachels again anchors the Trojan infield in 1998. Rachels, who hit .364 with 41 RBI last year, achieved 1997 All-Pac-10 first team and USC MVP honors. He reached base in all but two of the 53 games he played last year and hit safely in all but eight. He is currently hitting .375 in eight games and leads the team with four doubles (he missed the third Long Beach State game with the flu).

    MARVELOUS MUNSON - He's just a sophomore but there,s little doubt that Eric Munson is the top collegiate catcher in the nation. A consensus 1998 preseason All-American, he,s the only catcher selected to the Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America and The Sporting News first teams. And he,s the only sophomore named to all three preseason teams. Munson, who was named The Sporting News, Freshman of the Year last year, was selected to the 1997 All-Pac-10 first team after hitting .336 with a team-leading 13 home runs and 50 RBI as just a freshman. So far in 1998, he,s hitting a team-high .531 with three home runs and a team-leading 15 RBI. In the opener against North Carolina (Feb. 13), he was 5-for-6 with three RBI.

    TOP SOPHS MATCH UP -- USC's Eric Munson, the 1997 Freshman of the Year by The Sporting News, and North Carolina,s Brian Roberts, the 1997 Freshman of the Year by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, went head-to-head last weekend in a three-game series. Munson was 9-for-12 (.750) with seven RBI, a home run and two doubles. Roberts was 2-for-12 (.167) with one RBI and a double.

    KRAFTY KRAWCZYK - One of the nation's top relief pitchers the past two seasons and USC,s career save leader (29), senior RHP Jack Krawczyk again heads up Troy,s bullpen in 1998. A 1998 Collegiate Baseball preseason All-American second team pick, he was 2-3 with a 3.20 ERA and 11 saves last year. Krawczyk is just 2 saves shy of the Pac-10 career record (31, set by Washington,s Brett Merrick from 1993-96). His 83 appearances rank No. 6 on Troy,s career list, just 17 shy of leader Phil Kendall (100). He picked up his record-breaking 27th save against Long Beach State (Feb. 1), then recorded his 28th in the Texas opener (Feb. 7) and his 29th against North Carolina (Feb. 15).

    EXCITING ENSBERG - Senior third baseman Morgan Ensberg has started off the 1998 season where he left off last year. Ensberg, who hit safely in the last eight games of 1997 (going 17-for-36, .472), hit safely his first two games this year to extend his hitting streak to 10 games (21-for-43, .488) before going hitless in the next game. He is currently hitting .387 with two home runs and eight RBI.

    JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT - USC's talented junior class has made an immediate impact in 1998. Last year,s starting centerfielder, Robb Gorr (.516) has taken over at first base for three-year starter Greg Walbridge. Junior outfielders Greg Hanoian (.385), who missed the final 26 games of the 1997 season after separating his shoulder, and Brad Ticehurst (.241) are seeing time in center field and right field, respectively. And an exciting quartet of pitchers are getting plenty of action on the mound: RHP Steve Immel (0-0, 5.40), RHP Craig Jones (1-0, 17.18), RHP Mike Penney (2-1, 1.62) and LHP Jason Saenz (1-1, 2.70).

    NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK - Although USC features an experienced team in 1998, several new faces are contributing in their first seasons at USC. Junior Dominic Correa, a transfer from Sacramento (Calif.) City College, and freshman Seth Davidson, from University High in San Diego (Calif.), are battling sophomore Kevin Schultz, a 1997 reserve, for the starting shortstop position (Correa could also play second base). Another transfer, junior Jason Lane of Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College, sees time as both a designated hitter and lefthanded reliever. And, with the loss of two starting pitchers from last season (career win leader Randy Flores and Scott Henderson), several freshmen should see action on the mound for the Trojans in 1998: RHP Rik Currier (Capistrano Valley High), RHP Tanner Eriksen (Bullard High in Fresno, Calif.), RHP Shaun Kramer (Diamond Bar High) and LHP Ronald Flores (El Rancho High in Pico Rivera, Calif.), Randy,s younger brother.

    A LOOK BACK - USC began the 1997 season winning seven of its first eight games (including two of three over Arizona State in January in the earliest start to conference action ever). The Trojans were then bit by the injury/illness bug, losing catcher Jason Brown for 19 games (knee surgery) and second baseman Wes Rachels (death of his father) for eight games. Despite a thin lineup, Troy won 10 of the next 12 non-conference games, including a season-best nine-game winning streak. USC returned to conference action and hit a roadblock as it was swept at Stanford in the three-game series. The Trojans rebounded to win five of their next six league games and nine of 12, despite losing first baseman Greg Walbridge for three games (perforated eardrum) and outfielder Greg Hanoian for the remainder of the season (shoulder surgery). After a late-season slump, USC finished strong, winning eight of its last 10 games to finish 17-13 in league play (third place) and 39-18 overall. Troy then headed for the South II Regional in Tuscaloosa (Ala.), where Troy reached the final game, losing to host and eventual national champion runner-up Alabama, 9-8, in 10 innings.