No. 2 USC Baseball Faces Rival UCLA in Six-Pac Showdown

    Feb. 26, 1998

    THE TEAM - The No. 2 USC baseball team - which won the 2,000th game in school history two weeks ago - is 11-3 overall and 2-1 in the Pacific-10 Conference Southern Division in 1998. The Trojans, who are aiming for their third conference title and second College World Series trip in the past four years, battle crosstown rival UCLA (7-8, 2-3) this weekend in a three-game series. Friday's game is at Dedeaux Field at 7 p.m., Saturday's game is at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Westwood at 1 p.m. and Sunday's game is back at Dedeaux Field at 1 p.m.

    THE RANKINGS - USC is currently ranked No. 2 by Baseball America and USA Today/Baseball Weekly, No. 4 by The Sporting News and No. 6 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). UCLA is unranked.

    USC vs. UCLA
    Fri. (Feb. 27) at Dedeaux Field, 7 p.m.
    Sat. (Feb. 28) at Jackie Robinson Stadium, 1 p.m. 
    Sun. (Mar. 1)  at Dedeaux Field, 1 p.m.

    SCOUTING THE BRUINS - The Bruins (7-8, 2-3), led by 24th-year head coach Gary Adams, were swept last weekend by No. 1 Stanford at Jackie Robinson Stadium, then lost a midweek game at home to Cal State Fullerton, 11-8. Junior CF Eric Valent was a preseason All-American first teamer and is hitting .274 with a team-high 16 RBI. Senior RF Eric Byrnes leads the regulars with a .349 batting average and 11 stolen bases. The Bruin pitchers have a team ERA of 7.70.

    THE SERIES - USC has a 216-94 record all-time against UCLA. The two teams split the 1997 season series, 3-3. The Trojans took two out of three at Dedeaux Field, while the Bruins won two of three at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Since 1987, the Trojans are 27-8 against the Bruins at Dedeaux Field.

    PITCHING ROTATION - USC's starting pitching rotation for this weekend's series against UCLA is as follows: senior RHP Seth Etherton (4-0, 1.20 ERA) on Friday and junior RHP Mike Penney (3-1, 1.52) on Saturday and junior LHP Jason Saenz (1-1, 2.70) on Sunday. For UCLA, senior RHP John Phillips (0-0, 11.05) will go on Friday and freshman RHP Chad Cislak (2-2, 7.13) will go on Saturday. Sunday's starter has not yet been announced.

    USC AGAINST UCLA - Here's a look at what USC's players have done against UCLA in their careers:

    BATTERS    G  AB  H  HR  RBI   AVG
    DePippo    6   5  1   0    0  .200
    Ensberg   13  30  8   2    9  .267
    Freitas    3  11  2   1    3  .182
    Gorr       9  26  6   1    3  .231
    Hanoian    9  23  2   0    4  .087
    Munson     6  21  6   2    6  .286
    Rachels   14  46 19   1    6  .413
    Ticehurst  6  16  5   0    4  .313
    PITCHERS   G    IP  ER  SO  W-L  SV   ERA
    Etherton   4  31.1  14  28  3-1   0  4.02
    Immel      4   5.1  11   2  0-1   0 18.57
    Jones      2   2.1   3   0  0-0   0 11.59
    Krawczyk   6  12.1   6   5  2-1   2  4.38
    Penney     1   3.2   4   3  0-0   0  9.82
    Saenz      2   2.2   4   2  0-0   0 13.48
    Weibling   4   4.0   1   1  0-0   0  2.25

    Last Four Games
    (2-1 vs. Arizona, 1-0 vs. Pepperdine)
    USC took two out of three against No. 4 Arizona at Dedeaux Field last weekend (Feb. 20-22), then won at Pepperdine (Feb. 25), 5-2, in 11 innings. The Trojans hit three home runs and senior RHP Seth Etherton pitched eight solid innings in a 10-3 victory over the Wildcats on Friday night in the Pacific-10 Conference Southern Division opener for both teams. Etherton improved to 4-0 and allowed four hits, four walks and one earned run while striking out nine in his eight innings of work. The Trojans broke open a pitching duel in the bottom of the seventh. With a 2-1 lead, USC exploded for six runs. Junior RF Brad Ticehurst hit a solo home run to start the inning, and sophomore C Eric Munson hit a three-run shot later in the inning. Senior 3B Morgan Ensberg hit a solo shot in the bottom of the third inning.

    In the second game on Saturday, USC scored four runs on four hits in the bottom of the seventh inning to end a no-hitter and post a 4-1 victory over the Wildcats. Arizona junior RHP Rob Shabansky didn't allow any hits for the first six innings, but junior 1B Robb Gorr led off the bottom of the seventh with an infield single, then stole second with one out. Ensberg hit an RBI single, then senior LF Jeremy Freitas blasted a two-run home run, his sixth of the year. The final run came when Ticehurst doubled down the leftfield line, then scored on a two-base throwing error. USC junior RHP Mike Penney (3-1) went seven innings, allowing five hits and one run (all in the first two innings) and walked two with three strikeouts. At one point, he retired 13 straight batters. Senior RHP Jack Krawczyk got his fifth save of the season and the 31st of his career, tying the Pac-10 record for career saves.

    The Trojans couldn't muster much offense in the finale on Sunday and lost, 3-2, as they managed only four hits. The Wildcats broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth, getting three straight hits off of Krawczyk (0-1) to score the game-winner. USC junior LHP Jason Saenz started and went 6 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, four walks and two runs and striking out five. USC took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when junior DH Jason Lane,s groundout scored Ensberg, who had walked to lead off the inning. Arizona took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third, then USC tied it, 2-2, in the bottom of the sixth when freshman SS Seth Davidson led off with a double, was sacrificed to third by senior 2B Wes Rachels and scored on an RBI fielder's choice by senior pinch-hitter Jeff DePippo. The game at Pepperdine was delayed a day by rain, and the Trojans won on Wednesday, 5-2, in 11 innings. Munson had a two-run single in the top of the eleventh, and another run scored on a double play. The pitching was impressive again, as six throwers gave up just six hits and one earned run. Senior RHP Mike Weibling (1-0) went the final two innings to get the win. The Trojan bats, however, were frustrated despite getting 10 hits and 11 walks. USC left 13 runners on base and hit into four double plays. Munson also had an RBI single in the fifth inning and Gorr had an RBI single in the seventh inning.

    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 445-253-2 (.637) 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 2,003-956-17 collegiate record.

    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 preseason 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 4-0 in four starts with a 1.20 ERA in 1998. He has 38 strikeouts and only six walks and 19 hits in 30 innings and opponents are batting .178 against him. Seth has moved into USC,s career Top 10 list for wins (28, No. 10) and strikeouts (276, No. 7). He earned National Pitcher of the Week notice from both Louisville Slugger and The Sporting News and Pac-10 Pitcher 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. He was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week again (the 10th time he's been honored in his career) after going eight innings, striking out nine and allowing four hits and one run against No. 4 Arizona (Feb. 20). In his other wins, Seth pitched six scoreless innings and struck out six in USC's opener against Long Beach State (Jan. 30) and went seven innings and struck out 10 against Texas (Feb. 7).

    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 .407 with five home runs and a team-leading 24 RBI. In the opener against North Carolina (Feb. 13), he was 5-for-6 with three RBI.

    KRAFTY KRAWCZYK - One of the nation's top relief pitchers the past two seasons and the Pacific-10 Conference,s career save leader (31, tied with Washington's Brett Merrick, 1993-96), 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. His 86 appearances rank No. 5 on Troy's career list, just 14 shy of leader Phil Kendall (100). This season, Jack is 0-1 with a 1.59 ERA and five saves. He picked up his 27th save (which broke the school record) against Long Beach State (Feb. 1) and his 31st (to tie the Pac-10 record) against Arizona (Feb. 21).

    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 .304 in 12 games and leads the team with four doubles.

    EXCITING ENSBERG - Senior third baseman Morgan Ensberg has started off the 1998 season where he left off last year. Ensberg, who batted .306 last season and had a 10-game hitting streak (the final eight games of 1997 plus the first two games of 1998), is currently hitting .340 with three home runs, 11 RBI and a team-high four stolen bases.

    GREAT GORR - Last year,s starting centerfielder, junior Robb Gorr has taken over at first base for three-year starter Greg Walbridge. A year ago, he hit .347 with a team-high 52 RBI, and thus far, he's been one of the standouts with a team-high .462 batting average and 14 RBI. He has a current 10-game hitting streak (20-for-42, .476), has hit safely in 13 of 14 games and has eight multiple-hit games.

    FANTASTIC FREITAS - Senior leftfielder Jeremy Freitas has been providing a great deal of punch in the early season. After transferring from Fresno (Calif.) City College and batting .277 with seven home runs and 35 RBI in 1997, he's the top home run hitter in 1998 with six, to go with a .341 average and 12 RBI. He hit two home runs against Texas (Feb. 7).

    JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT - USC's talented junior class has made an immediate impact in 1998. In addition to Gorr, there's junior outfielders Greg Hanoian (.325, team-high 15 runs scored), who missed the final 26 games of the 1997 season after separating his shoulder, and Brad Ticehurst (.227). They are starting 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, 2.25), RHP Craig Jones (1-0, 17.18), RHP Mike Penney (3-1, 1.52) 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 (.444), a transfer from Sacramento (Calif.) City College, and freshman Seth Davidson (.273), from University High in San Diego (Calif.), are battling sophomore Kevin Schultz (.333), a 1997 reserve, for the starting shortstop position (Correa could also play second base). Another transfer, junior Jason Lane (.261 at the plate, 1-0, 0.93 ERA as a pitcher) 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 will 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.

    SCHEDULE CHANGE - 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.