Baseball Travels to Arizona
March 18, 1998
THE TEAM - The No. 3 USC baseball team which won the 2,000th game in school history earlier this season is 20-5 overall and 7-2 in the Pacific-10 Conference Southern Division (for a first-place tie) in 1998. The Trojans, who are aiming for their third conference title and second College World Series trip in the past four years, reach the midway point of their schedule with their first Six-Pac road trip of the season. They head to Tucson for a three-game series at Arizona (25-6, 7-5 plays at UNLV on March 18). Fridays game is at 7 p.m. MST and Saturday and Sundays are at 1 p.m. MST. USC was 6-0 in the state of Arizona in 1997.
THE RANKINGS - USC is ranked a unanimous No. 3 by Baseball America, USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN, The Sporting News and 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 is No. 4 in USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN, No. 5 in Baseball America and No. 9 in Collegiate Baseball and The Sporting News.
ON THE AIR - Fridays game at Arizona will be televised live on FOX Sports Arizona ... Twelve regular-season games and all postseason games will be broadcast on the radio by KPLS-AM (830), beginning with the March 27 contest at California. Larry Kahn and Justin Dedeaux will handle the play-by-play and color, respectively. Ten of the 12 will be broadcast live, while the April 3 and May 10 contests will be on tape-delay.
QUICK STATS - USC is putting its 8-0 record in away or neutral-site games on the line this weekend ... USC is 11-1 when it commits one error or less ... 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 ... Four of USCs five losses have come on a Sunday.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS - Arizona (25-6, 7-5 plays at UNLV on March 18), under second-year head coach Jerry Stitt, is coming off a weekend that saw the Wildcats take two out of three games from UCLA. Senior LF Jason Hendricks, a National Player of the Week this week, is hitting .467 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI. The Wildcats have a team batting average of .372 and a team ERA of 5.42.
THE SERIES - USC leads the all-time series with Arizona, 88-82-1. The Trojans have won 24 of the last 28 and 34 of the last 45 dating back to the second half of 1990. The Trojans have won the last 13 meetings at Sancet Field dating back to 1993.
FIRST TIME AROUND - USC took two out of three at Dedeaux Field on Feb. 20-22. Seth Etherton pitched eight solid innings and the Trojans hit three home runs in a 10-3 victory in the first game. In the second game, the Trojans scored four runs on four hits in the bottom of the seventh to end a no-hitter and post a 4-1 victory. In the third game, the Trojans couldnt muster much offense, only getting four hits, and lost 3-2.
PITCHING ROTATION - USCs starting pitching rotation for this weekends series against Arizona State is as follows: senior RHP Seth Etherton (6-0, 1.62 ERA) on Friday and junior RHP Mike Penney (5-1, 2.70) on Saturday and junior LHP Jason Lane (3-0, 2.82) on Sunday. For Arizona, the scheduled rotation is sophomore LHP Tony Milo (7-0, 4.24), junior LHP James Johnson (4-1, 5.19) and junior RHP Darrell Hussman (3-3, 8.25).
LAST FOUR GAMES - (3-0 vs. Arizona State, 1-0 vs. Loyola Marymount) -- After Fridays game with then-No. 7 Arizona State at Dedeaux Field was rained out, the Trojans swept a doubleheader on Saturday. In the first game, senior LF Jeremy Freitas doubled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to lead USC to a 7-6 victory. With two outs and a 6-6 tie, junior 1B Robb Gorr and senior 3B Morgan Ensberg were both hit by pitches and Freitas followed with a line drive down the right-field line to plate Gorr and end the game. The Trojans were behind, 4-2, in the bottom of the sixth until junior RF Brad Ticehurst crushed a three-run home run, and senior C Jeff DePippo followed with a solo shot as USC took a 6-4 lead. The Sun Devils then rallied to tie the score in the top of the ninth. USC senior RHP Jack Krawczyk (1-1) got the win in relief, while senior RHP Seth Etherton did not get a decision, the first time in 12 starts he did not earn a victory.
In Saturdays second game, Ensberg hit two home runs and had a career-high six RBI and senior RHP Mike Penney (5-1) threw the first nine-inning complete game of his career in a 13-5 USC victory. Ensberg, who was also 3-for-3 with a double, hit a grand slam, as did Freitas. Penney gave up eight hits, three earned runs and three walks while striking out two. Ensberg hit a solo shot in the bottom of the first, then hit a grand slam in the bottom of the fifth to give the Trojans a 7-3 lead. USC scored six more runs in the bottom of the sixth as Freitas hit his grand slam. Ticehurst hit a two-run home run and made a fantastic grab in right field to take away a potential two-run home run as the Trojans swept the three-game series on Sunday with a 6-3 victory. In each of the previous three weeks, USC had won on Friday and Saturday but lost on Sunday, but the Trojans ended that streak. Ticehursts home run gave the Trojans a 3-0 lead in the second inning and it was 5-0 after three innings. The Sun Devils came back, and could have made it even closer had Ticehurst not robbed ASU of a home run in the fifth inning. Ensberg, who pulled off a hidden-ball play in the seventh inning, homered in the eighth for USCs final run. Lane (3-0), making his first career start, picked up the win and pitched six innings. Krawczyk earned his eighth save of the year. The Trojans have now won 15 of the last 18 against Arizona State. USC played the entire series without sophomore C Eric Munson, who was hit in the eye with a foul ball on Friday, and junior CF Greg Hanoian, who separated a shoulder making a diving catch in the second inning of Saturdays first game.
Munson made a big return against Loyola Marymount on Tuesday at Dedeaux Field in a 6-4 win. He went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI, and Freitas was 3-for-3 with an RBI. USC trailed, 3-2, entering the bottom of the sixth inning but scored three runs to take a 5-3 lead. With one out, Ensberg singled and moved to third on a single by Freitas. Lane doubled down the left-field line to plate Ensberg and move Freitas to third base. After an RBI groundout by Ticehurst, freshman SS Seth Davidson knocked an RBI single to center field. Junior RHP Steve Immel got the win in relief, while Krawczyk earned his ninth save. Four Trojans pitchers combined to strike out a season-high 14 batters.
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.
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, 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:
- - Mike Gillespie, in his 12th season as the Trojans head coach, has a 454-255-2 (.640) 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).
TOUGH SCHEDULE - 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.
TERRIFIC 2,000 - 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 2,013-958-17 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. Freshman Seth Davidson, from University High in San Diego (Calif.), junior Dominic Correa, a transfer from Sacramento (Calif.) City College, and sophomore Kevin Schultz, a 1997 reserve, have all seen time at shortstop. 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 have seen action on the mound for the Trojans in 1998: RHP Rik Currier (Capistrano Valley High), 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 PITCHERS:
OVERVIEW - USC currently has a team ERA of 3.51. Its only halfway through 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 (210 hits in 223 innings) and have 207 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 seven starts with a 1.62 ERA in 1998. He has 67 strikeouts and only 14 walks and 35 hits in 55 2/3 innings and opponents are batting .174 against him. Seth has moved into USCs career Top 10 list for wins (30, tied for No. 7) and strikeouts (305, No. 4). Prior to his no-decision against Arizona State (March 14), he had won 11 straight starts dating back to 1997. Etherton 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 received that honor again from 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 (three times in 1998), more than any other player in conference history. 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 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 43 1/3 innings. He struck out a career-high six in a win against North Carolina (Feb. 14). He pitched the first nine-inning complete game of his career in a win against Arizona State (March 14) and gave up eight hits, three earned runs and three walks while striking out two. In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 72 among college prospects.
JASON LANE - (#16 LHP/DH, Jr., 6-2, 205, Sebastopol) After doing a fine job in middle relief to begin the season, junior LHP Jason Lane has moved into the starting rotation. In his first start, he got the win against Arizona State (March 15). Overall, Lane is 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA in 11 appearances and 22 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting just .208 against him. Lane was the 1997 Northern California Junior College Player of the Year at Santa Rosa JC last season. Regardless of whether hes pitching, Lane is also the starting designated hitter.
JACK KRAWCZYK - (#35, RHP, Sr., 6-5, 195, Scottsdale, AZ) One of the nations top relief pitchers and the Pacific-10 Conferences career save leader (35), senior RHP Jack Krawczyk again heads up Troys bullpen in 1998. A 1998 Collegiate Baseball preseason All-American second team pick, he had three saves in 1995, 12 in 1996 and 11 in 1997. This season, Jack is 1-1 with a 1.04 ERA and nine saves. Krawczyk is now No. 4 on the NCAAs Division I career save list. 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). His 93 appearances are No. 4 on Troys career list, just seven shy of leader Phil Kendall (100).
ADDITIONAL PITCHERS - Junior LHP Jason Saenz began the season as the No. 3 starter but is now in the bullpen. He is 1-2 with a 4.24 ERA. In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 100 among college prospects ... 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 1-0 with a 3.78 ERA in eight appearances (two starts) ... Junior RHP Craig Jones is another experienced arm in the bullpen. He is 1-1 with an 7.71 ERA ... True freshman RHP Rik Currier, who has made two midweek starts, is trying to establish himself in the pitching mix. He is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA ... Two other true freshmen have seen time: 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 HITTERS:
OVERVIEW - USC is hitting .332 as a team and is averaging 8.2 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 43 home runs in 25 games, an average of 1.72 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 .400 with eight home runs and a team-high 32 RBI. In the opener against North Carolina (Feb. 13), he was 5-for-6 with three RBI. He missed the Arizona State series (March 14-15) after a freak accident during batting practice when a foul ball went under the batting cage, bounced up and struck him above an eye. He came back with a 3-for-4, two-RBI effort against Loyola Marymount (March 17). 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 been on a tear as of late. Ensberg, who batted .306 last season, is currently hitting a team-best .411 with eight home runs, 27 RBI, 27 runs scored, nine stolen bases and seven doubles. He leads the team in all of those categories except RBI. He has an amazing .594 batting average in the Six-Pac, thanks to an .800 (8-for-10) average against Arizona State (March 14-15) and a .615 (8-for-13) average against UCLA (Feb. 27-March 1). He hit two home runs and had a career-high six RBI against Arizona State (March 14). He was named Pac-10 Player of the Week for his efforts against the Sun Devils, which included a streak of 10 consecutive times reached base.
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 .394 batting average and 24 RBI. He had a 10-game hitting streak (20-for-42, .476) at the beginning of the season, has hit safely in 21 of 25 games and has 14 multiple-hit games.
WES RACHELS - (#24, 2B, Sr., 5-9, 175, Los Angeles) A steady and experienced player, senior second baseman 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 .300.
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 already surpassed last years home run total in 1998 with eight, to go with a .329 average and 22 RBI. He hit two home runs against Texas (Feb. 7). Freitas has been named to the 1998 All-American Farm Team by Successful Farming magazine, an honor going to student-athletes with a farming background. He was named team captain of the baseball squad, resulting in a $1,000 scholarship donation to the university.
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 J.C. In addition to his contributions as a pitcher, the junior designated hitter is batting .323 with seven home runs, 22 RBI and 24 runs scored. When Lane comes to the plate as the pitcher, hes batting .700 (7-for-10).
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 .239 with six home runs and 18 RBI in 1998. He blasted a two-run home run and made a fantastic leaping grab to steal a potential two-run home run against Arizona State (March 15). In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 78 among college prospects.
GREG HANOIAN - (#25, CF, Jr., 5-9, 175, Huntington Beach) A shoulder injury ended Greg Hanoians 1997 season early and now a similar shoulder injury will cause him to miss more time. The junior centerfielder separated his right shoulder making a diving catch against Arizona State (March 14). How much time hell miss has not yet been determined. He was a big part of the Trojan attack before the injury, scoring 18 runs and batting .311 in 19 games in 1998.
ADDITIONAL HITTERS - True freshman Seth Davidson and sophomore Kevin Schultz have split time at shortstop and both have fared well. Davidson has started 17 games (appearing in 19) while hitting .333. Schultz has started six games (appearing in 13) while hitting .278 ... Senior Jeff DePippo has been versatile, seeing time at catcher, in the outfield, at designated hitter and as a pinch-hitter. Hes hitting .327 with two home runs and 11 RBI and executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt against UCLA (March 1) ... Junior Dominic Correa has seen playing time in the middle infield, the outfield and as a designated hitter and is batting .308 ... True freshman Rod Perry Jr. (.240) has started four of the last seven games but before that was primarily a late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield. 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.