March 25, 1998
The No. 2 USC baseball team which won the 2,000th game in school history earlier this season is 24-5 overall and 10-2 for first place 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, visit Berkeley for a three-game series at California (12-15, 0-10) on March 27-29. Fridays game is at 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sundays are at 1 p.m. The Trojans have an eight-game winning streak.
USC is ranked No. 2 by Baseball America and No. 3 by 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). California is not ranked.
ON THE AIR
Saturdays game at California will be televised live on FOX Sports Bay Area ... 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.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN BEARS
California, led by 21st-year head coach Bob Milano, is 12-15 overall and 0-10 in the Six-Pac in 1998. The Bears have lost their last four games after winning nine nonconference games in a row. Freshman IF Xavier Nady is hitting .442 with 39 RBI, both team highs. Milano was the head coach and USCs Mike Gillespie was an assistant coach of the 1997 USA Baseball National Team.
USC holds a 198-113-2 lead in the all-time series and took four out of six games last season. Cals two wins took place at Evans Diamond. USC has won nine of the last 11 games against Cal.
USCs starting pitching rotation for this weekends series against Arizona State is as follows: senior RHP Seth Etherton (7-0, 1.98 ERA) on Friday, junior RHP Mike Penney (5-1, 3.47) on Saturday and freshman RHP Rik Currier (2-0, 4.00) on Sunday. For California, the scheduled rotation is junior RHP Ryan Drese (0-3, 7.71), sophomore RHP Jon Shirley (2-3, 4.11) and freshman LHP Jason Dennis (3-1, 4.53).
USCs 10-2 league start is its best since 1991 (when it opened 11-1) ... USC is putting its 11-0 record in away or neutral-site games on the line again this weekend ... USC is 15-1 when it commits one error or less ... USC pitchers have 65 strikeouts in the last five 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 ... Four of USCs five losses have come on a Sunday.
(as of March 22) USC was third in team batting (.332) and second in team pitching (3.78 ERA) ... Seth Etherton was third in pitching (1.98 ERA), tied for first in wins (seven), first in strikeouts (81), first in innings pitched (63 2/3) and first in shutouts (two) ... Mike Penney was sixth in pitching (3.74 ERA) ... Jack Krawczyk was first in saves (11) ... Eric Munson (.409) was seventh and Morgan Ensberg (.394) was eighth in hitting ... Munson was second in home runs (11) and sixth in RBI (39) ... Ensberg was sixth in stolen bases (10).
LAST FOUR GAMES
(3-0 vs. Arizona, 1-0 vs. Pepperdine) -- Senior RHP Seth Etherton struck out a career-high 14 in eight innings as the Trojans defeated the Wildcats, 6-4, in Tucson on Friday night. Etherton made only two costly pitches, giving up a pair of two-run home runs to Wildcat senior RF Colin Porter. The first gave Arizona a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second. The Trojans came back with one run in the fourth as junior DH Jason Lane singled, went to second on a walk, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on an RBI single by senior 2B Wes Rachels. The Trojans went ahead 5-2 after the top of the fifth with four more runs. Sophomore C Eric Munson led off with a solo home run to left field, while freshman SS Seth Davidson had an RBI double and later stole home. Davidson then hit the first home run of his career in the seventh inning, a solo shot that made it 6-2. Porter would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the eighth to make it 6-4, but Trojan senior RHP Jack Krawczyk earned his 10th save of the season by finishing the game off in the ninth inning. Etherton gave up seven hits, four earned runs and three walks. He moved into second place on USCs all-time strikeout list and now has 319. Freshman CF Rod Perrys two-RBI triple in the top of the seventh capped a four-run inning and helped USC to a 7-6 victory in the second game on Saturday. The Trojans trailed the entire game and were behind, 6-3, entering the seventh inning. After the first out, Munson walked, senior 3B Morgan Ensberg singled and junior DH Jason Lane walked to load the bases. Freshman pinch hitter Josh Persells ground ball turned into an error by the shortstop and scored two runs. After the second out, Perry hit a line drive into center field, which the Wildcat centerfielder dove for and missed. Perry had a triple that scored two runs and gave the Trojans a 7-6 lead. Junior RHP Steve Immel (2-0) got the win, pitching 1 2/3 innings in relief. Krawczyk pitched a perfect ninth and earned his 11th save of the season. Munson also hit a solo home run, his second in two days, and Ensberg had three hits. The Trojans survived four home runs by Wildcat hitters, including two more by Porter.
The Trojans swept the series and won their 16th straight at Sancet Field on Sunday in a 10-6 win. Munson had another home run and a career-high five RBI, and Perry hit his first career homer. The Trojans were behind, 5-3, when they scored four runs in the top of the sixth, as Munson had a two-run double and junior 1B Robb Gorr and senior LF Jeremy Freitas had RBI singles. The Trojans struck out 14 batters, led by freshman RHP Rik Currier (2-0), who had eight in four innings of relief. USC won its eighth game in a row and struck out a season-high 17 batters in an 11-1 victory over Pepperdine on Tuesday at Dedeaux Field. Junior RHP Craig Jones (2-1), who earned the win, went the first five innings and struck out nine. Immel struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning, junior LHP Jason Saenz had three strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings and freshman RHP Tanner Eriksen struck out all three in the ninth inning. Junior RF Brad Ticehurst was 3-for-4 with two RBI and his seventh home run of the year, while Perry also had three hits. The Trojans scored in six of their eight innings at bat.
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 458-255-2 (.642) 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 2,017-958-17 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 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 3.58. 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 (242 hits in 259 innings) and have nearly as many strikeouts (258) as innings pitched (259).
(#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 7-0 in eight starts with a 1.98 ERA in 1998. He has 81 strikeouts and only 17 walks and 42 hits in 63 2/3 innings and opponents are batting .183 against him. Seth has moved into USCs career Top 10 list for wins (31, No. 7) and strikeouts (319, No. 2). 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 then-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 then-career high again 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 set a new career high for strikeouts with 14 in eight innings in a win against Arizona (March 20). 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.
(#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 3.47 ERA in 49 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.
(#28 or #15, RHP, Fr., 5-10, 175, Dana Point) True freshman RHP Rik Currier, who has made two midweek starts and will start at California, has established himself in the pitching mix. He is 2-0 with a 4.00 ERA in eight appearances and has 28 strikeouts in 18 innings. Against Arizona (March 22), he had a career-high eight strikeouts in four innings of relief and got the win.
(#16 LHP/DH, Jr., 6-2, 205, Sebastopol) Junior LHP Jason Lane has been an excellent addition, both as a reliever and a starter. Overall, Lane is 3-0 with a 4.10 ERA in 12 appearances (two starts) and 26 1/3 innings. In his first start, he got the win against Arizona State (March 15). 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.
(#35, RHP, Sr., 6-5, 195, Scottsdale, AZ) One of the nations top relief pitchers and the Pacific-10 Conferences career save leader (37), 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 0.89 ERA and 11 saves. Krawczyk is now No. 3 (tied) 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 96 appearances are No. 2 (tied) on Troys career list, just four shy of leader Phil Kendall (100).
(#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 and is now in the bullpen. 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 nine appearances (six starts) with a 3.96 ERA in 25 innings with 24 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.
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 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA in 10 appearances (two starts) ... Junior RHP Craig Jones is another experienced arm in the bullpen. He is 2-1 with a 5.68 ERA. He had a career-high nine strikeouts in five innings as he started and won against Pepperdine (March 24) ... Senior RHP Mike Weibling is again a standout in long relief, with a 1-0 record and a 3.38 ERA in 10 2/3 innings ... Three other true freshmen have seen time: RHP Tanner Eriksen (0-0, 0.00); 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 .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 49 home runs in 29 games, an average of 1.69 a game. The school record is 1.29 in 1978, the last USC team to win the national championship.
(#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. A member of the 1997 USA National Team, he has been invited to the 1998 USA Baseball training camp in June. 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 11 home runs and 39 RBI, all team bests. 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 the left eye. He came back with a 3-for-4, two-RBI effort against Loyola Marymount (March 17), then batted .462 (6-for-13) with three home runs at Arizona (March 20-22) to win Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. He has 12 multiple-RBI games this season, including a career-high five RBI in the finale against Arizona (March 22). Baseball America recently listed him as the No. 1 prospect among the nations sophomore class.
(#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 .380 with eight home runs, 29 RBI, 31 runs scored, 10 stolen bases and nine doubles. He leads the team in the last three categories. He has an amazing .500 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.
(#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 .381 batting average and 25 RBI. He had a 10-game hitting streak (20-for-42, .476) at the beginning of the season, has hit safely in 25 of 29 games and has 16 multiple-hit games.
(#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 .324 with nine stolen bases. At Arizona (March 20-22), he batted .500 (6-for-12) with six stolen bases.
(#37, LF, Sr., 6-3, 210, Hanford) Senior leftfielder Jeremy Freitas has been providing a great deal of punch this 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 .344 average and 26 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.
(#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 .324 with seven home runs, 24 RBI and 28 runs scored. When Lane comes to the plate as the pitcher, hes batting .583 (7-for-12).
(#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 been there ever since. Hes batting .253 with seven home runs and 20 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.
(#9, OF, Sr., 5-7, 170, Garden Grove) A versatile player who has been used all around the park, senior Jeff DePippo has seen a lot of action in 1998. He has been used in all three outfield positions, at catcher, designated hitter and as a pinch-hitter. He is batting .291 with two home runs and 11 RBI. He executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt against UCLA (March 1).
(#2, SS, Fr., 6-0, 170, San Diego) A true freshman who has shown equal talent with the glove and bat, shortstop Seth Davidson has started 21 games (appearing in 23) while hitting .353 overall and .414 in Six-Pac play. He hit his first career home run at Arizona (March 20).
(#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). He is expected to miss three to four weeks. He was a big part of the Trojan attack before the injury, scoring 18 runs and batting .311 in 19 games in 1998.
True freshman Rod Perry Jr. (.333) has started seven of the last 12 games and is also a late-inning defensive replacement in center field. In his first career start against UC Santa Barbara (March 3), he went 4-for-5 with three RBI. He had a two-run triple in the eighth inning that proved to be the game-winning hit at Arizona (March 20), then slugged his first career home run against the Wildcats the next day (March 21). Perry is also a wide receiver on the Trojan football team ... Sophomore Kevin Schultz have seen time at shortstop and has fared well. Schultz has started six games (appearing in 14) while hitting .250 ... Junior Dominic Correa has seen playing time in the middle infield, the outfield and as a designated hitter and is batting .323 ... Freshman Josh Persell is hitless in six at-bats as a pinch-hitter but has one run scored and one RBI.