March 4, 1998
The No. 2 USC baseball team which won the 2,000th game in school history earlier this season is 14-4 overall and 4-2 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, take a break from Pacific-10 Conference Southern Division play to host Northern Division foe Oregon State (6-3-1) the first meeting between the two schools in 21 years. Fridays game is at 7 p.m., Saturdays game is at 1 p.m. and Sundays game is at noon. All games are at Dedeaux Field.
USC is currently ranked No. 2 by Baseball America, No. 3 by USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN and 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). Oregon State is unranked.
USC is 8-0 in away or neutral-site games ... USC is 9-1 when it commits one error or less.
Last Four Games
(2-1 vs. UCLA, 1-0 vs. UC Santa Barbara) With another outstanding performance on the mound, senior RHP Seth Etherton improved to 5-0 in five starts this season and led USC to a 6-1 victory over UCLA on Friday night at Dedeaux Field. Etherton went 8 2/3 innings, giving up five hits, two walks and one run while striking out 10. He retired the first 13 batters of the game and struck out five of the first six. USC scored four runs in the bottom of the third inning on an RBI single by senior 2B Wes Rachels, an RBI fielders choice by junior 1B Robb Gorr and a two-run double by senior 3B Morgan Ensberg. The Trojans scored twice more in the fifth inning, as junior DH Jason Lane had an RBI single. UCLA scored its run in the top of the ninth. Lane then had a big game to lead USC to a 10-9 victory over UCLA on Saturday at Jackie Robinson Stadium. He pitched three innings of effective relief to earn the victory (2-0) and knocked a two-run home run in the top of the seventh to give USC a 10-7 lead. Senior RHP Jack Krawczyk pitched the ninth inning and earned the 32nd save of his career, breaking the Pac-10 record. USC fared well with timely two-out hits. Junior RF Brad Ticehurst knocked a two-run double in the second inning with two out, Ensberg crushed a three-run homer in the third inning with two out and Rachels hit an RBI single and Gorr had a two-run double in the fourth inning with two out. The Trojans had an 8-2 lead before the Bruins rallied to pull within one run, but Lanes two-run shot gave the Trojans just enough breathing room. Gorr, Ensberg and freshman SS Seth Davidson each had three hits.
USC couldnt finish the sweep, however, losing to the Bruins, 12-7, on Sunday at Dedeaux Field. After trailing the entire game, USC chipped away at UCLAs lead and finally tied it at 7-7 in the bottom of the seventh when Lane doubled to the left-center field wall, was sacrificed to third by junior DH Dominic Correa and scored on a suicide squeeze by senior pinch-hitter Jeff DePippo. However, the Bruins came right back and exploded for five runs in the top of the eighth to put the game away. Lane also homered for USC, a solo shot in the second inning, and was 3-for-5, as was Ensberg. Junior reliever Craig Jones (1-1) took the loss for the Trojans. USC knocked out a season-high 21 hits in a 15-8 win over UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, led by freshman CF Rod Perrys 4-for-5 effort with three RBI and two runs scored. It was the first start of Perrys career. Lane and Rachels each had three hits and Lane, sophomore C Eric Munson and senior LF Jeremy Freitas hit home runs. Freshman RHP Rik Currier got the win in his first career start, going four innings and striking out four while giving up four hits, three walks and two runs. The Trojans scored eight runs in the first three innings en route to an 8-0 lead. After the Trojans scored three more in the top of the seventh to make it 11-2, the Gauchos hit three home runs and scored six runs in the bottom half of the frame to make it 11-8. USC scored once more in the eighth and three times in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
SCOUTING THE BEAVERS
Oregon State of the Pac-10 Northern Division is 6-3-1 this season. The Beavers are coming off a weekend that saw them win one, lose one and tie one at UC Santa Barbara (USC beat UCSB, 15-8, on Tuesday). The top hitters have been senior 3B Ryan Lipe (.463, 2 HR, 14 RBI) and senior 1B Matt Bailie (.436, 2, 16). As a team, Oregon State is hitting .324 and has an ERA of 3.38.
USC has an all-time record of 16-5 against the Beavers. The two teams met last on March 21, 1977, a 4-3 USC victory. USC has won the last 10 matchups and the last Oregon State win came in 1967. The first meeting took place in 1951.
USCs starting pitching rotation for this weekends series against Oregon State is as follows: senior RHP Seth Etherton (5-0, 1.16 ERA) on Friday, junior RHP Mike Penney (3-1, 2.83) on Saturday and junior LHP Jason Saenz (1-1, 3.74) on Sunday. For Oregon State, the scheduled rotation is junior RHP Chris Pine (1-0, 4.00), senior RHP Andrew Checketts (3-0, 2.00) and senior LHP Brody Percell (0-2, 6.14).
CELEBRATE IN 98
The 1998 season marks the 50th anniversary of USC baseballs 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.
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, Jeff Cirillo and Bret Boone.
SIX-PAC POWERHOUSE IN THE 90s
No Pac-10 Southern Division team has been more successful in the 1990s than USC. Heres a look at Trojan baseball going into the 1998 season during the current decade compared to other Pac-10 Southern Division opponents:
USC had the best winning percentage (.655);
USC was 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.
Mike Gillespie, in his 12th season as the Trojans head coach, has a 448-254-2 (.638) 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 nations 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).
(as of March 2) USC was third in team batting (.330) and first in team pitching (3.46 ERA). Seth Etherton was tied for first in wins (five), second in ERA (1.16) and second in strikeouts (48). Jack Krawczyk was first in saves (six). Robb Gorr was third in hitting (.439). Jeremy Freitas was tied for third in home runs (six).
USC once again boasts one of the nations 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, USCs conference the Pac-10 Southern Division is ranked the second-toughest league in the nation by Baseball America.
USCs 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 2,007-957-17 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 Troys 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-10s 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 USCs 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.
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 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.), Randys 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.
USC currently has a team ERA of 3.66. Its still early in the season, but thats exceptional considering the competition and that USC has had a sub-4.00 ERA in only two of the last 17 seasons. On the whole, the pitchers are giving up less than a hit an inning (155 hits in 160 innings) and have 145 strikeouts.
(#33, RHP, Sr., 6-1, 205, Laguna Niguel) Senior RHP Seth Etherton, a 1998 Collegiate Baseball preseason All-American first teamer, has established himself as one of college baseballs 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 5-0 in five starts with a 1.16 ERA in 1998. He has 48 strikeouts and only eight walks and 24 hits in 38 2/3 innings and opponents are batting .173 against him. Seth has moved into USCs career Top 10 list for wins (29, tied for No. 8) and strikeouts (286, tied for No. 5). 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 hes 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).
(#45, RHP, Jr., 6-0, 190, Laguna Niguel) Junior RHP Mike Penney has gone from being a key middle reliever last season to the No. 2 starter this season. He is 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. He struck out a career-high six in a win against North Carolina on Feb. 14.
(#51, LHP, Jr., 6-2, 195, Santa Ana) A hard-throwing lefthander, junior Jason Saenz has begun the season as one of USCs three regular starters. After going only 19 1/3 innings (with 21 strikeouts) in his first two seasons, he has already eclipsed that mark and is 1-1 in five starts (six appearances) with a 3.74 ERA in 21 2/3 innings with 20 strikeouts. He struck out a career-high seven in a win against North Carolina on Feb. 15.
(#35, RHP, Sr., 6-5, 195, Scottsdale, AZ) One of the nations top relief pitchers the past two seasons and the Pacific-10 Conferences career save leader (32), senior RHP Jack Krawczyk again heads up Troys 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 89 appearances are No. 4 on Troys career list, just 11 shy of leader Phil Kendall (100). This season, Jack is 0-1 with a 1.38 ERA and six saves. He picked up his 27th career save (which broke the school record) against Long Beach State (Feb. 1), his 31st (to tie the Pac-10 record held by Washingtons Brett Merrick from 1993-96) against Arizona (Feb. 21) and his 32nd (breaking the Pac-10 record) against UCLA (Feb. 28).
Newcomer Jason Lane, a junior LHP, has been a key member of the bullpen and is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in nine relief appearances and 14 innings. Opponents are batting just .152 against him ... Senior RHP Mike Weibling is again a standout in long relief, with a 1-0 record and a 2.16 ERA in 8 1/3 innings ... Veteran RHP Steve Immel, a junior, saw a great deal of work as both a starter and a reliever his first two seasons and is continuing to do so again. He is 0-0 with a 3.77 ERA in seven appearances (two starts) ... Junior RHP Craig Jones is another experienced arm in the bullpen. He is 1-1 with an 11.25 ERA ... Several true freshmen have also seen time: RHP Rik Currier (1-0, 5.40); LHP Ronald Flores (0-0, 8.10), the younger brother of USCs all-time winningest pitcher, Randy Flores; and RHP Shaun Kramer (0-0, 13.50).
USC is hitting .340 as a team and is averaging 8.4 runs a game. The Trojans have had season highs of 16 runs twice (Long Beach State on Jan. 30 and North Carolina on Feb. 14) and had a season high of 21 hits against UC Santa Barbara (March 3).
(#3, C, So., 6-3, 220, San Diego) Hes just a sophomore but theres little doubt that Eric Munson is the top collegiate catcher in the nation. A consensus 1998 preseason All-American, hes the only catcher selected to the Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America and The Sporting News first teams. And hes 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, hes hitting .385 with six home runs and and a team-high 26 RBI. In the opener against North Carolina (Feb. 13), he was 5-for-6 with three RBI.
(#14, 3B, Sr., 6-2, 210, Hermosa Beach) 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 .385 with four home runs, 17 RBI and a team-high six stolen bases. He hit .615 (8-for-13) in the three-game series against UCLA.
(#10, 1B, Jr., 6-0, 195, Vista) Last years 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, hes been one of the standouts again with a team-high .431 batting average and 20 RBI. He had a recent 10-game hitting streak (20-for-42, .476), has hit safely in 16 of 18 games and has 11 multiple-hit games.
(#24, 2B, Sr., 5-9, 175, Los Angeles) 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 .354 and leads the team with six doubles.
(#37, LF, Sr., 6-3, 210, Hanford) 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, hes the top home run hitter in 1998 with seven, to go with a .317 average and 16 RBI. He hit two home runs against Texas (Feb. 7).
(#16, DH/LHP, Jr., 6-2, 205, Sebastopol) In the early going, newcomer Jason Lane has shown why he was named the 1997 Northern California Junior College Player of the Year at Santa Rosa JC. In addition to his contributions as a pitcher, the junior designated hitter is batting .323 with six home runs and 16 RBI.
(#25, CF, Jr., 5-9, 175, Huntington Beach) Having fully recovered from a shoulder injury that ended his 1997 early, junior centerfielder Greg Hanoian is back helping to lead the Trojan attack. As the leadoff or No. 2 hitter, hes scored a team-high 18 runs and drawn 17 walks while hitting .288 in 1998.
(#8, RF, Jr., 6-1, 200, Los Alamitos) Junior rightfielder Brad Ticehurst moved into the starting lineup when Greg Hanoian was injured in 1997 and has stayed there ever since. Hes batting .231 in 1998.
True freshman Seth Davidson and sophomore Kevin Schultz have split time at shortstop and both have fared well. Davidson has started 12 games (appearing in 14) while hitting .353. Schultz has started five games (appearing in 12) while hitting .333 ... Senior Jeff DePippo has been versatile, seeing time at catcher, in the outfield, at designated hitter and as a pinch-hitter. Hes hitting .300 with 10 RBI and executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt against UCLA (March 1) ... Junior Dominic Correa has seen playing time in the middle infield and as a designated hitter and is batting .400 ... True freshman Rod Perry Jr. (.400) has primarily been a late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield, but he made his first career start against UC Santa Barbara (March 3) and went 4-for-5 with three RBI.