No. 6 Baseball Tries to Regain Momentum
Trojan have three-game home series vs. California.
April 15, 1998
THE TEAM - The No. 6 USC baseball team, which won the 2,000th game in school history earlier this season, is 29-12 overall and 14-7 for third 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, host California (14-24, 2-18) this weekend (April 17-19). Friday,s game is at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday's are at 1 p.m. The Trojans have lost seven of their last nine games after winning 11 straight.
THE RANKINGS - USC is ranked No. 6 by Baseball America, No. 8 by The Sporting News, No. 11 by USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN and No. 12 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). California is not ranked.
ON THE AIR - Twelve regular-season games and all postseason games will be broadcast on the radio by KPLS-AM (830). Larry Kahn and Justin Dedeaux will handle the play-by-play and color, respectively. Ten of the 12 games will be broadcast live. The May 10 contest will be on tape-delay. Friday's game against California will be aired live. It can also be heard over the internet at www.audionet.com/schools/usc.
INJURY UPDATE - USC was without its top two catchers last weekend. Sophomore Eric Munson, a preseason All-American first teamer, is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot. Senior Jeff DePippo, his backup, tore cartilage in his rib area in an off-the-field mishap during the Stanford series. He is still questionable for this weekend. Third-stringer Josh Townsend, a sophomore who has caught the last five games, had never started prior to last week. On the plus side, junior OF Greg Hanoian returned to action last weekend after missing four weeks with a separated shoulder.
QUICK STATS - Seven of USC,s last eight losses are to teams in the current Collegiate Baseball poll ... USC has 68 home runs and is on pace to break the school record of 85 ... USC,s team ERA has gone from 3.55 to 4.48 in the last four games.
RECORD BOOKS - Senior RHP Seth Etherton has been named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week 12 times in his career, more than any other player in Pac-10 history. He has also been named a National Pitcher of the Week three times this season. Etherton should set the Pac-10 career record for strikeouts in the next few weeks ... Senior RHP Jack Krawczyk has 40 career saves, a Pac-10 record and good for third place on the NCAA Division I all-time list. He also leads the nation with 14 saves in 1998 ... Four Trojans have hit double-digit home runs, a first in school history.
COACH OF THE CENTURY - Collegiate Baseball named former coach Rod Dedeaux, who won 11 NCAA titles at USC and had an overall record of 1,332-571-11, its NCAA Division I "Coach of the Century" in the April 3 issue.
50 YEARS AGO - In 1948, Kentucky won its first NCAA men's basketball championship, Michigan won its first NCAA ice hockey title and USC won its first NCAA baseball championship. In the last two weeks, the Wildcats won the 1998 basketball title and the Wolverines won the 1998 ice hockey title. In addition, both USC and Kentucky won baseball and basketball crowns, respectively, in 1948, 1958 and 1978. Can history repeat itself for the Trojans in 1998?
SIX-PAC STATS (as of April 12) - USC was third in team hitting (.321), second in team pitching (4.42 ERA) and fourth in team fielding (.961) ... Seth Etherton was first in strikeouts (112), second in wins (eight), second in innings pitched (86) and third in ERA (2.62) ... Jack Krawczyk was first in saves (14) ... Mike Penney was sixth in ERA (3.97) and sixth in innings pitched (68) ... Eric Munson was tied for second in home runs (12) ... Robb Gorr was seventh in hits (58) ... Wes Rachels and Morgan Ensberg were tied for eighth in stolen bases (12 each) ... Rod Perry Jr. was tied for seventh in triples (three).
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN BEARS - California, under 21st-year head coach Bob Milano, is 14-24 overall and 2-18 in the Six-Pac. The Bears have lost 13 of their last 15 games, but last weekend took a game from No. 1 Stanford. Freshman SS Xavier Nady is hitting .394 with nine home runs and 45 RBI. Cal,s team batting average is .302 and the team ERA is 6.26.
THE SERIES - USC leads the all-time series, 201-113-2, and has won 12 of the last 14 contests. At Dedeaux Field, USC has won the last five and seven of the last eight.
PITCHING ROTATION - USC's starting pitching rotation for this weekend,s series against California is as follows: senior RHP Seth Etherton (8-2, 2.62 ERA) on Friday, junior RHP Mike Penney (5-2, 3.97) on Saturday and TBA on Sunday. For California, it,s freshman LHP Jason Dennis (5-2, 4.14), sophomore RHP Jon Shirley (2-4, 4.76) and TBA.
FIRST TIME AROUND - USC swept a three-game series at California (March 27-29). USC hit three home runs and took a 9-1 lead en route to a 10-6 victory in the first game. In the second game, USC rallied from a 6-3 deficit after seven innings to post a 7-6 win in 10 innings, as freshman SS Seth Davidson laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt in the 10th for the go-ahead run. In the finale, freshman RHP Rik Currier struck out nine in six innings in an 8-1 victory.
LAST FOUR GAMES (0-3 vs. Arizona State, 0-1 vs. Loyola Marymount) -- The Trojans suffered their worst defeat in 13 years in an 18-3 loss to Arizona State on Thursday night at Packard Stadium. The 15-run margin of defeat was USC,s biggest since a 16-1 loss to Stanford on April 26, 1985. Senior RHP Seth Etherton (8-2) took the loss (only the second time in his career he has lost two consecutive starts), but he left after seven innings trailing only 6-2. Three Trojan relievers then gave up 12 runs on seven hits in the bottom of the eighth inning. USC's hitters tied a season low with four hits and had a season-high 15 strikeouts. Junior 1B Robb Gorr had a two-run single in the second inning and junior DH Jason Lane had a solo home run in the ninth inning to account for the scoring. It was USC's first road loss of the season (14-1). ASU sophomore 2B Willie Bloomquist,s three-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning broke a 4-4 tie and led the Sun Devils to a 7-5 victory in the series, second game on Friday night. The Trojans managed only six hits, but scored in each of the three innings where they got their hits. In the first inning, senior 2B Wes Rachels led off with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Gorr. The Sun Devils would take a 3-1 lead, but in the top of the sixth, junior DH/LHP Jason Lane and freshman SS Seth Davidson singled, then both moved up a base on an error. Sophomore C Josh Townsend's bunt resulted in an RBI single, Rachels had a sacrifice fly and junior CF Greg Hanoian had an RBI single to give the Trojans a 4-3 lead. It was shortlived, however, as ASU tied it at 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth. After the Sun Devils took a 7-4 lead going into the ninth inning, the Trojans still had a chance. Rachels hit his second double of the day, went to third on a groundout and scored on a groundout by Gorr. A walk brought the tying run to the plate with two outs, but the final batter was retired. Lane (4-1) took the loss in relief.
Unfortunately, Saturday's loss to ASU was even worse than Thursday's: 24-4. The 24 runs allowed and the 20-run margin of defeat were school records (stats go back to 1950). USC also lost by 20 runs in 1956, 20-0, though that was to Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League. Four Trojan pitchers were bombarded for 19 hits, 10 walks and five home runs. Senior 3B Morgan Ensberg hit a two-run home run in the top of the third to pull within one run at 3-2, but the Sun Devils scored nine runs in the bottom of the third inning. USC's other two runs came in the top of the sixth on a two-run triple by freshman CF Rod Perry Jr. Freshman RHP Rik Currier (3-1) took his first loss.
The struggles continued for USC at Loyola Marymount in a 12-6 loss on Tuesday afternoon in a non-conference game. The Lions broke out to a big lead after the first inning, scoring six runs off junior RHP Steve Immel (3-1). He lasted only 1/3 of an inning. USC senior LF Jeremy Freitas homered in the top of the second to make it 6-1, but the Lions scored once in the second, twice in the third and once in the fifth to make it 10-1. Ensberg hit a solo home run in the top of the sixth, Lane doubled and Davidson singled him home, making the score 10-3, but it was back up to 12-3 after the Lions scored twice more in the bottom of the seventh. In the top of the ninth, Gorr hit a three-run home run to end the scoring. Junior RF Brad Ticehurst came off the bench to go 3-for-3.
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). The 1968 and 1978 teams will be honored on April 18 and the 1948 and 1958 teams will be honored on April 25.
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. 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 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.
COACH,S CORNER ~ Mike Gillespie, in his 12th season as the Trojans, head coach, has a 463-262-2 (.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 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 2,022-965-17 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.
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. Rod Perry, Jr., a freshman who attended Mater Dei High, has been a contributor in the outfield. 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.), 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.
OVERVIEW ~ USC currently has a team ERA of 4.48, though it had been less than 4.00 for the entire season prior to the last four games. On the whole, the pitchers have given up as many hits (364) as innings pitched (364) and have nearly as many strikeouts (354).
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 baseball,s finest starting pitchers. Etherton, a 1997 All-Pac-10 first team pick who was the 1996 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, returned 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). He is 8-2 in 11 starts with a 2.62 ERA in 1998. He has 112 strikeouts and only 19 walks and 63 hits in 86 innings and opponents are batting .197 against him. Seth has moved into USC,s career Top 10 list for wins (32, No. 7) and strikeouts (350, No. 2). His 350 career strikeouts are also good for No. 2 on the Pac-10 all-time list. He is chasing former Trojan pitcher Brent Strom, who had 363 strikeouts from 1968-70 for both the school and conference record. Etherton is a three-time National Pitcher of the Week in 1998. 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 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), striking out 13 while walking two and only allowing one runner to reach second base. The third award, from both Collegiate Baseball and The Sporting News, came against Stanford (April 3), when he had a career-high 15 strikeouts and only four hits and no walks in a 1-0 loss between the top two teams in the country. He was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week after all three 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 12 times in his career (four times in 1998), more than any other player in conference history. Prior to his no-decision against Arizona State (March 14), he had won 11 straight starts dating back to 1997. Prior to his loss to Stanford (April 3), he had 13 straight wins without a loss. In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 41 among college prospects (a figure that has likely since improved).
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 5-2 with a 3.97 ERA in 68 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.
RIK CURRIER (#28 or #15, RHP, Fr., 5-10, 175, Dana Point) ~ True freshman RHP Rik Currier, who has made five starts for the Trojans, has established himself in the pitching mix. He is 3-1 with a 5.34 ERA in 11 appearances and has 42 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. Against Arizona (March 22), he had eight strikeouts in four innings of relief and got the win. Against California (March 29), he won his first career league start and struck out a career-high nine in six innings.
JACK KRAWCZYK (#35, RHP, Sr., 6-5, 195, Scottsdale, AZ) ~ One of the nation,s top relief pitchers and the Pacific-10 Conference,s career save leader (40), senior RHP Jack Krawczyk again heads up Troy,s 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 0.72 ERA and 14 saves. He once had a stretch of six saves in eight games. Krawczyk is No. 3 on the NCAA,s Division I career save list (Tom Hickox of Stetson, who is No. 1, had 48 from 1988-91). 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 Washington,s Brett Merrick from 1993-96) against Arizona (Feb. 21) and his 32nd (breaking the Pac-10 record) against UCLA (Feb. 28). His 100 appearances are tied for No. 1 on Troy,s career list along with co-leader Phil Kendall.
JASON LANE (#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 4-1 with a 5.00 ERA in 19 appearances (two starts) and 36 innings. In his first start, he got the win against Arizona State (March 15). He earned a victory in relief against No. 1 Stanford (April 5), giving up one run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings. Lane was the 1997 Northern California Junior College Player of the Year at Santa Rosa JC last season. Regardless of whether he,s pitching, Lane is also the starting designated hitter.
JASON SAENZ (#51, LHP, Jr., 6-2, 195, Santa Ana) ~ A hard-throwing lefthander, junior Jason Saenz began the season as one of USC,s 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 14 appearances (six starts) with a 4.02 ERA. In 31 1/3 innings, he has 28 strikeouts. Saenz struck out a career-high seven in a win against North Carolina (Feb. 15). In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 100 among college prospects.
ADDITIONAL PITCHERS ~ 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 3-1 with a 4.82 ERA in 15 appearances (three starts) ... Senior RHP Mike Weibling is again being used in long relief, with a 2-0 record and a 6.91 ERA ... Junior RHP Craig Jones is another experienced arm in the bullpen. He is 2-2 with an 8.04 ERA. He had a career-high nine strikeouts in five innings as he started and won against Pepperdine (March 24) ... Three other true freshmen have seen time: RHP Tanner Eriksen (0-0, 0.00); LHP Ronald Flores (0-0, 5.63), the younger brother of USC,s all-time winningest pitcher, Randy Flores; and RHP Shaun Kramer (0-0, 9.82).
OVERVIEW ~ USC is hitting .320 as a team and is averaging 7.6 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 21 hits against UC Santa Barbara (March 3). USC has 68 home runs in 41 games, an average of 1.66 a game. The school records are 85 home runs in 1984 and a 1.29 average in 1978.
MORGAN ENSBERG (#14, 3B, Sr., 6-2, 210, Hermosa Beach) ~ Senior third baseman Morgan Ensberg is having a tremendous season. Ensberg, who batted .306 last season, is currently hitting .342 with 11 home runs, 39 RBI, 39 runs scored, 12 stolen bases and 11 doubles. He has a .400 batting average in the Six-Pac, thanks in part 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 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 again with a team-high .358 batting average, seven home runs and a team-best 42 RBI. He had a 10-game hitting streak (20-for-42, .476) at the beginning of the season and has hit safely in 35 of 41 games. He leads the team with 20 multiple-hit and 15 multiple-RBI games. He hit home runs in both ends of a doubleheader against No. 1 Stanford (April 5).
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 .340 with 14 RBI and 12 stolen bases and has reached base in 34 of 39 games. At Arizona (March 20-22), he batted .500 (6-for-12) with six stolen bases. With 37 stolen bases in his career, Rachels is No. 9 (tied) on the Trojans, all-time list.
JEREMY FREITAS (#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, he quickly surpassed last year,s home run total in 1998 and has 11 to go with a .323 average and 33 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) ~ 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 .336 with 10 home runs, 34 RBI and 37 runs scored. When Lane comes to the plate as the pitcher, he,s batting .600 (9-for-15) with two home runs. He went 4-for-5 with an RBI against California (March 28).
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 been there ever since. He,s batting .248 with eight home runs and 21 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). He had been slumping lately, but went 3-for-3 against Loyola Marymount (April 14). In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 78 among college prospects.
SETH DAVIDSON (#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 33 games (appearing in 35) while hitting .333 overall and .357 in Six-Pac play. Five of his 15 RBI came in the first two games against California (March 27-28). He had a midseason 10-game hitting streak (.390, 16-for-41). Davidson hit his first career home run at Arizona (March 20). His suicide squeeze bunt in the top of the 10th inning gave USC the go-ahead run in a victory against Cal (March 28).
GREG HANOIAN (#25, CF, Jr., 5-9, 175, Huntington Beach) ~ A shoulder injury ended Greg Hanoian,s 1997 season early and a similar shoulder injury caused him to miss 16 games in 1998. The junior centerfielder separated his right shoulder making a diving catch against Arizona State (March 14). He returned on April 10 and started against Arizona State. He is batting .288 and has scored 20 runs with 11 RBI in 22 games in 1998.
JOSH TOWNSEND (#40, C, So., 6-0, 190, Villa Park) ~ With the top two catchers out with injuries, sophomore Josh Townsend (.300) moved into a starting role last week. In his first career start, against HawaiOEi Hilo (April 6), he got his first career hit. He had a base hit in each of his first three starts. He had only three at-bats in 1997.
ROD PERRY, Jr. (#6, CF, Fr., 5-10, 185, Irvine) ~ True freshman Rod Perry, Jr. (.262) has started 13 games while also serving as 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.
ERIC MUNSON (#3, C, So., 6-3, 220, San Diego) ~ 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. 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, he,s hitting .352 with team highs of 12 home runs and 41 RBI. He is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot. 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 13 multiple-RBI games this season, including a career-high five RBI in the finale at Arizona (March 22). Baseball America recently listed him as the No. 1 prospect among the nation,s sophomore class.
JEFF DePIPPO (#9, OF/C, Sr., 5-7, 170, Garden Grove) ~ A versatile player who has been used all around the park, senior Jeff DePippo had seen a lot of action in 1998 prior to an off-the-field mishap during the Stanford series that tore cartilage in his rib area. He is questionable for this weekend. He has been used in all three outfield positions, at catcher, designated hitter and as a pinch-hitter. He is batting .297 with three home runs and 13 RBI. He executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt against UCLA (March 1).
ADDITIONAL HITTERS ~ Sophomore Kevin Schultz has seen time at shortstop and has fared well. Schultz has started six games (appearing in 16) while hitting .273 ... Junior Dominic Correa has seen playing time in the middle infield, the outfield and as a designated hitter and is batting .277 ... Reserve sophomore first baseman and pinch-hitter Carlos Casillas is hitting .400 (4-for-10) ... Reserve catcher Camilo Gomez got his first career hit against HawaiOEi Hilo (April 6). Gomez (.667), a junior, slugged a home run to left field in his first at-bat of the year ... Freshman Josh Persell is hitless in seven at-bats as a pinch-hitter but has one run scored and one RBI.