No. 3 Baseball Hosts No. 7 Arizona
Trojans prepare for a three-game Six-Pac series.
March 10, 1998
The No. 3 USC baseball team which won the 2,000th game in school history earlier this season is 16-5 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, face off against Six-Pac rival Arizona State (15-6, 5-3 hosts Oklahoma on March 10-11) in a three-game series (March 13-15) at Dedeaux Field. Fridays game is at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday are at 1 p.m.
USC is currently ranked No. 3 by Baseball America, No. 4 by USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN and The Sporting News and No. 7 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). Arizona State is No. 7 in Baseball America, No. 9 in USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN and No. 11 in Collegiate Baseball and The Sporting News.
The Saturday (March 14) game with Arizona State will be televised live on FOX Sports Net as the Pac-10 Game of the Week. Barry Tompkins will handle the play-by-play and Jerry Kindall will do the color.
USC is 10-1 when it commits one error or less ... USC is 8-0 in away or neutral-site games ... Senior RHP Seth Etherton has been named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week 11 times in his career, more than any other player in Pac-10 history. He is also already a two-time National Pitcher of the Week in 1998 ... Four of USCs five losses have come on a Sunday.
SCOUTING THE SUN DEVILS
Arizona State, led by fourth-year head coach Pat Murphy, is 15-6 overall (prior to two midweek games against Oklahoma) and 5-3 in the Six-Pac. Last weekend, the Sun Devils took two out of three at UCLA, and the weekend before that, they handed No. 1 Stanford its first loss of the year. Sophomore 2B Willie Bloomquist is the top hitter at .461, and junior 3B Andrew Beinbrink, a preseason All-American, has a .342 batting average, four home runs and 36 RBI. ASU has a team batting average of .302 and a team ERA of 3.91.
USC holds a 74-72 lead against Arizona State in a series that began in 1961. Last season, the Trojans won five of six games, including two of three at Dedeaux Field. All-time at Dedeaux Field, the Trojans are 41-24 against the Sun Devils.
USCs starting pitching rotation for this weekends series against Arizona State is as follows: senior RHP Seth Etherton (6-0, 0.96 ERA) on Friday and junior RHP Mike Penney (4-1, 2.62) on Saturday. Sundays starter is TBA. For Arizona State, the scheduled rotation is senior RHP Richy Leon (1-0, 2.08), junior LHP Phill Lowery (4-2, 3.74) and junior LHP Ryan Mills (3-2, 3.95).
LAST THREE GAMES (2-1 vs. Oregon State)
Senior RHP Seth Etherton turned in yet another dominant performance, throwing a two-hit shutout and striking out a career-high-tying 13 in a 9-0 victory over Oregon State on Friday night at Dedeaux Field. He ran his record to 6-0 on the season and lowered his ERA to 0.94. He walked two batters and only once did a runner reach second base. Of his 107 pitches, 75 were strikes. Etherton struck out five of the first six and retired the first 13 batters. The Trojan bats were quiet until the bottom of the sixth, when they scored three runs to snap a scoreless tie. Junior 1B Robb Gorr sliced a triple down the right-field line and sophomore C Eric Munson followed with his seventh home run of the year, a blast to dead center into a strong wind. Senior LF Jeremy Freitas also walked and scored on a wild pitch. The Trojans scored six more times in the bottom of the eighth, as Munson had an RBI single, senior 3B Morgan Ensberg hit a two-run home run, freshman SS Seth Davidson had an RBI double and junior CF Greg Hanoian knocked a two-run double. Munson was 3-for-4 with three RBI to lead the Trojans.
On Saturday, the Trojans scored three runs each in the fifth and sixth innings, and Munson and junior DH Jason Lane homered in a 7-4 win over the Beavers. With the score tied, 1-1, Oregon State scored twice in the top of the third inning via zero hits and three Trojan errors. Oregon State held onto a 3-1 lead until the bottom of the fifth, when senior 2B Wes Rachels had an RBI single, Hanoian laid down an RBI sacrifice bunt and junior 1B Robb Gorr had an RBI single. The Trojans built on their 4-3 lead with three more runs in the sixth, as Munson led off with his eighth home run of the season and USC scored twice more with the help of two Beaver errors. Oregon State made it 7-4 in the top of the eighth, but Trojan senior RHP Jack Krawczyk finished it off in the ninth for his seventh save. USC junior RHP Mike Penney (4-1) got the win, going 5 1/3 innings and allowing only one earned run while striking out five.
For the third straight weekend, however, USC was unable to finish a sweep on Sunday, as the Beavers won the third game, 13-6. Oregon State had 13 hits and was aided by five Trojan errors. It was Oregon States first win against USC since 1967, ending a 12-game losing streak to the Trojans. Prior to this series, the two teams had not met since 1977. USC junior LHP Jason Saenz (1-2) lasted only 1 2/3 innings and took the loss. The Beavers jumped on top early, scoring seven runs in the top of the second, though USC came back with four runs in the bottom of the second. Ensberg and Lane singled, and after an out, junior RF Brad Ticehurst slugged a home run high over the right-field wall. Freshman CF Rod Perry then doubled off the right-center field wall, went to third when the rightfielder fumbled the ball and scored on a straight steal of home. The Trojans had trouble keeping the Beavers off the basepaths, though, and Oregon State added one run in the fourth inning, two in the fifth, two in the seventh and one in the ninth. Gorr hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh, but that was it for USC.
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 450-255-2 (.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).
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 2,009-958-17 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 is hitting .336 as a team and is averaging 8.3 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). USC has 36 home runs in 21 games, an average of 1.71 a game. The school record is 1.29 in 1978, the last USC team to win the national championship.
ERIC MUNSON (#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 .382 with a team-high eight home runs and 30 RBI. In the opener against North Carolina (Feb. 13), he was 5-for-6 with three RBI. Baseball America recently listed him as the No. 1 prospect among the nations sophomore class.
MORGAN ENSBERG (#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 .368 with five home runs, 19 RBI and a team-high seven stolen bases. He hit .615 (8-for-13) in the three-game series against UCLA.
ROBB GORR (#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 .440 batting average and 23 RBI. He had a recent 10-game hitting streak (20-for-42, .476), has hit safely in 19 of 21 games and has 14 multiple-hit games.
WES RACHELS (#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 .342 and leads the team with six doubles.
JEREMY FREITAS (#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 one of the top home run hitters in 1998 with seven, to go with a .284 average and 16 RBI. He hit two home runs against Texas (Feb. 7).
JASON LANE (#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 .338 with seven home runs, 18 RBI and a team-high 21 runs scored. When Lane comes to the plate as the pitcher, hes batting .857 (6-for-7).
GREG HANOIAN (#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 18 runs and drawn 17 walks while batting .300 in 1998.
BRAD TICEHURST (#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 .228 in 1998. In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 78 among college prospects.
True freshman Seth Davidson and sophomore Kevin Schultz have split time at shortstop and both have fared well. Davidson has started 14 games (appearing in 16) while hitting .325. 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 .314 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 .348 ... True freshman Rod Perry Jr. (.353) has primarily been a late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield, but in his first career start against UC Santa Barbara (March 3) he went 4-for-5 with three RBI. Perry is also a wide receiver on the Trojan football team.
USC currently has a team ERA of 3.51. 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 (178 hits in 187 innings) and have 177 strikeouts.
SETH ETHERTON (#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 6-0 in six starts with a 0.96 ERA in 1998. He has 61 strikeouts and only 10 walks and 26 hits in 47 2/3 innings and opponents are batting .155 against him. Seth has moved into USCs career Top 10 list for wins (30, tied for No. 7) and strikeouts (299, No. 4). He is already a two-time National Pitcher of the Week. He earned that honor from both Louisville Slugger and The Sporting News 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 received that honor again by The Sporting News after throwing a two-hit shutout against Oregon State (March 6), tying his career high with 13 strikeouts while walking two and only allowing one runner to reach second base. He was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week after both of those contests, as well as against then-No. 4 Arizona (Feb. 20) when he went eight innings, struck out nine and allowed four hits and one run. He has been named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week 11 times in his career, more than any other player. In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 41 among college prospects.
MIKE PENNEY (#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 4-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 34 1/3 innings. He struck out a career-high six in a win against North Carolina on Feb. 14. In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 72 among college prospects.
JASON SAENZ (#51, LHP, Jr., 6-2, 195, Santa Ana)
A hard-throwing lefthander, junior Jason Saenz began 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 1-2 in six starts (seven appearances) with a 4.24 ERA in 23 1/3 innings with 21 strikeouts. He struck out a career-high seven in a win against North Carolina on Feb. 15. In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 100 among college prospects.
JACK KRAWCZYK (#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 (33), 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. This season, Jack is 0-1 with a 1.29 ERA and seven 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). Krawczyk is now No. 6 on the NCAAs Division I career save list. His 90 appearances are No. 4 on Troys career list, just 10 shy of leader Phil Kendall (100).
Newcomer Jason Lane, a junior LHP, has been a key member of the bullpen and is 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA in 10 relief appearances and 16 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting just .167 against him ... Senior RHP Mike Weibling is again a standout in long relief, with a 1-0 record and a 3.72 ERA in 9 2/3 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 8.44 ERA ... Several true freshmen have also seen time: RHP Rik Currier (1-0, 6.30); 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).