USC Plays UCLA in Three-Game Set
April 22, 1998
THE TEAM - The No. 5 USC baseball team - which won the 2,000th game in school history earlier this season - is 33-12 overall and 17-7 for third place (but only one-half game out of first) 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, meet crosstown rival UCLA (18-27, 10-17) plays Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday, April 22) for a three-game series this weekend (April 24-26). Friday's game is at 7 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium, Saturday's game is at 1 p.m. at Dedeaux Field and Sunday,s game is at 1 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
THE RANKINGS - USC is ranked No. 5 by Baseball America, No. 6 by The Sporting News and No. 9 by both USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN 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). UCLA is not ranked.
ON THE AIR - Sunday's game against UCLA will be televised on a tape-delay basis by FOX Sports West 2. It will be shown at 5 p.m. on Sunday night. Jim Watson and Ken Brett will call the action ... Four remaining 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. The May 10 contest will be on tape-delay. Saturday,s game against UCLA will be aired live. It can also be heard over the internet at www.audionet.com/schools/usc.
SCOUTING THE BRUINS - UCLA, under 24th-year head coach Gary Adams, is 18-27 overall (plays Cal State Fullerton on April 22) and 10-17 in the Six-Pac. Freshman 3B Garrett Atkins has a 29-game hitting streak and a .376 batting average. Junior CF Eric Valent leads the Pac-10 with 23 home runs and has tied the UCLA career record with 62. The Bruins have a team average of .310 and a team ERA of 8.39.
THE SERIES - USC leads the all-time series, 218-95. Since 1987, the Trojans are 28-9 against the Bruins at Dedeaux Field.
PITCHING ROTATION - USC's starting pitching rotation for this weekend's series against UCLA is as follows: senior RHP Seth Etherton (9-2, 2.39 ERA) on Friday, freshman RHP Rik Currier (4-1, 4.86) on Saturday and TBA on Sunday. For UCLA, it's freshman RHP Paul Diaz (1-3, 6.50), freshman LHP Ryan Carter (2-1, 6.55) and TBA.
FIRST TIME AROUND - USC took two out of three earlier this season (Feb. 27-March 1). Seth Etherton struck out 10 in 8 2/3 innings in a 6-1 victory at Dedeaux Field in the first game. In the second game, Jason Lane pitched three innings of effective relief to get the win and knocked a two-run home run in a 10-7 USC win at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Bruins scored five runs in the top of the eighth to break a 7-7 tie and win the finale, 12-7, at Dedeaux Field.
INJURY UPDATE - Sophomore C Eric Munson, a preseason All-American first teamer, has missed the last eight games after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right foot. He's not expected back until early-to-mid May. Senior Jeff DePippo, his backup, returned against California after missing seven games with torn cartilage in his rib area. Sophomore Josh Townsend had never started prior to this injury outbreak, but was called on to make five starts while Munson and DePippo were out.
PITCHING RECORDS - Senior RHP Seth Etherton has been named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week 13 times in his career, more than any other player in Pac-10 history. He has also been named a National Pitcher of the Week four times this season. Etherton should also set the Pac-10 career record for strikeouts (363) this Friday against UCLA. He has 361 ... Senior RHP Jack Krawczyk has 43 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 17 saves in 1998. His next save will tie the USC single-season record. He has pitched in more games (103) than anyone in USC history.
HITTING THE LONG BALL - USC has 74 home runs and is on pace to break the school record of 85 ... Four Trojans have hit double-digit home runs (Morgan Ensberg with 13, Eric Munson with 12, Jeremy Freitas with 11 and Jason Lane with 10), a school first ... Ensberg has 32 home runs in his career, good for No. 4 (tied) on USC's all-time list.
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 recent 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 19) - USC was third in team hitting (.323), second in team pitching (4.53 ERA) and fourth in team fielding (.960) ... Seth Etherton was first in strikeouts (123), tied for first in wins (nine) and second in ERA (2.39) ... Jack Krawczyk was first in saves (16) ... Seth Davidson was sixth in hitting (.376) ... Eric Munson was tied for fifth in home runs (12) ... Morgan Ensberg was tied for fifth in home runs (12) and ninth in stolen bases (12) ... Robb Gorr was eighth in hits (64) and 10th in hitting (.360) ... Jeremy Freitas was tied for eighth in home runs (11) ... Wes Rachels was eighth in stolen bases (13) ... Rod Perry was tied for seventh in triples (three) ... Mike Penney was seventh in ERA (4.73).
LAST FOUR GAMES(3-0 vs. California, 1-0 vs. San Diego State) - In the first game of three against California at Dedeaux Field, senior RHP Seth Etherton was masterful yet again, throwing a no-hitter for 7 2/3 innings in a 10-0 victory over the Golden Bears on Friday night. Etherton (9-2) went eight innings and gave up just one hit while striking out 11. The hit came with two out in the top of the eighth inning on a ground ball up the middle. The only other Cal runners to reach base off Etherton came on an error in the third inning and a hit-by-pitch and walk in the fourth inning. Senior RHP Mike Weibling pitched the ninth inning and gave up Cal's second hit. Freshman shortstop Seth Davidson was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI and junior 1B Robb Gorr, senior 2B Wes Rachels and junior RF Brad Ticehurst had two hits each. Senior 3B Morgan Ensberg also homered.
USC survived a 9-0 deficit and five California home runs in a 14-13 victory on Saturday afternoon. The Trojans trailed, 13-10, entering the bottom of the eighth but scored four runs on three hits. After junior CF Greg Hanoian singled with one out, the second out was made. But Ensberg singled, junior DH Jason Lane walked to load the bases and senior LF Jeremy Freitas followed with a two-run single. A wild pitch advanced sophomore Kevin Schultz (who was pinch-running for Lane) to third base and Freitas to second base. After an intentional walk to Davidson, both Ticehurst and sophomore C Josh Townsend walked with the bases loaded to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs. USC senior RHP Jack Krawczyk pitched the ninth to earn his 15th save. Senior RHP Steve Immel (4-1) got the win in relief. Davidson and Ensberg each went 3-for-4. Davidson hit his first career grand slam and Gorr also homered.
Freshman RHP Rik Currier pitched 6 2/3 strong innings and struck out a career-high 10 batters in a 5-2 win over Cal on Sunday afternoon. The Trojans swept six games from the Bears in 1998. Currier (4-1) gave up six hits, two runs and one walk. Krawczyk picked up his 16th save. Davidson went 3-for-4 for the third straight day and scored two runs. Freitas and Ticehurst also had two hits. The Trojans never trailed after taking a 2-0 lead in the second inning as Davidson singled, Freitas hit an RBI triple and Ticehurst had a bunt single.
USC outlasted San Diego State, 9-4, in a game that nearly lasted four hours at Tony Gwynn Stadium on Tuesday night. The game was tied, 4-4, until the top of the eighth when Ensberg crushed a solo home run to deep center field to break the tie. In the top of the ninth, USC scored four more runs, all with two outs. After the first two batters were retired, the next two Trojan hitters walked. Hanoian knocked a two-run double and Gorr crushed a two-run home run to center field. Krawczyk pitched the final 1 2/3 innings and earned his 17th save of the season. Junior Lane (5-1) went 2 1/3 innings and got the win. Hanoian went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two doubles, Freitas was 3-for-5 and Gorr was 2-for-5 with three RBI.
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 were 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 467-262-2 (.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 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 2,026-965-17 collegiate record.
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 4.45, though it had been less than 4.00 for the first 39 games of the season. On the whole, the pitchers have given up fewer hits (397) than innings pitched (400) and have nearly as many strikeouts (394).
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 9-2 in 12 starts with a 2.39 ERA in 1998. He has 123 strikeouts and only 20 walks and 64 hits in 94 innings and opponents are batting .185 against him. Seth has moved into USC,s career Top 10 list for wins (33, No. 7) and strikeouts (361, No. 2). Etherton needs only three strikeouts to set Pac-10 and USC career records, marks currently held by former Trojan pitcher Brent Strom, who had 363 strikeouts from 1968-70.
He is one of 12 semifinalists for the Rotary Smith Award, given to the top player in college baseball. Etherton is a four-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.
The fourth honor, from Collegiate Baseball, came against California (April 17) when he had a no-hitter for 7 2/3 innings en route to an eight-inning, one-hit, 11-strikeout performance. He was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week after all four contests, as well as against then-No. 4 Arizona on Feb. 20. He has been named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week 13 times in his career (five 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).
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 (43), 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 0.63 ERA and a nation-leading 17 saves. He once had a stretch of six saves in eight games and currently has saves in each of the last three 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 103 appearances are No. 1 on Troy,s career list.
RIK CURRIER (#28 or #15, RHP, Fr., 5-10, 175, Dana Point) - True freshman RHP Rik Currier, who has made six starts for the Trojans, has established himself in the pitching rotation. He is 4-1 with a 4.86 ERA in 12 appearances and has 52 strikeouts in 37 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 nine in six innings. The second time against Cal (April 19), he won and went 6 2/3 innings and struck out 10, both career highs.
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 5-1 with a 4.54 ERA in 21 appearances (two starts) and 39 2/3 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.
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 a regular starter this season. He is 5-2 with a 4.54 ERA in 73 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 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 eclipsed that mark early in the season and is 1-2 in 15 appearances (seven starts) with a 4.59 ERA. In 33 1/3 innings, he has 31 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 4-1 with a 5.18 ERA in 16 appearances (three starts) ... Senior RHP Mike Weibling is again being used in long relief, with a 2-0 record and a 6.46 ERA ... 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, 11.12).
OVERVIEW - USC is hitting .324 as a team and is averaging 7.8 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 74 home runs in 45 games, an average of 1.64 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 .348 with 13 home runs, 46 RBI, 45 runs scored, 12 stolen bases and 13 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. With 32 home runs in his career, he is tied for No. 4 on USC,s all-time list.
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 .361 batting average, nine home runs and a team-best 49 RBI. He had a 10-game hitting streak (20-for-42, .476) at the beginning of the season and has hit safely in 39 of 45 games. He leads the team with 23 multiple-hit and 17 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 .335 with 16 RBI and a team-high 13 stolen bases and has reached base in 37 of 42 games. At Arizona (March 20-22), he batted .500 (6-for-12) with six stolen bases. With 38 stolen bases in his career, Rachels is No. 9 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 .338 average and 40 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 .319 with 10 home runs, 34 RBI and 39 runs scored. When Lane comes to the plate as the pitcher, he,s batting .529 (9-for-17) with two home runs. He went 4-for-5 with an RBI against California (March 28).
SETH DAVIDSON (#2, SS, Fr., 6-0, 170, San Diego) - A true freshman who has been one of USC,s big surprises with both the glove and bat, shortstop Seth Davidson is hitting a team-high .367 overall and .426 in Six-Pac play. He also has four home runs, 21 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He had a midseason 10-game hitting streak (.390, 16-for-41). Davidson hit his first career home run at Arizona (March 20) and his first grand slam against California (April 18). His suicide squeeze bunt in the top of the 10th inning gave USC the go-ahead run in a victory against Cal (March 28). He feasted on Cal's pitching, hitting .542 (13-for-24) with three home runs and 11 RBI in six games.
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 .262 with eight home runs and 24 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 last five games, he's 8-for-17 (.471). In the Baseball America early draft preview, he was rated No. 78 among college prospects.
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 is batting .311 with three home runs and 13 RBI. Currently the starting catcher because Eric Munson is injured, DePippo has also been used in all three outfield positions, at designated hitter and as a pinch-hitter. He missed seven games after suffering an off-the-field mishap during the Stanford series that tore cartilage in his rib area, but returned against Cal (April 17).
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 .307 and has scored 25 runs with 15 RBI in 26 games in 1998.
ROD PERRY, Jr. (#6, CF, Fr., 5-10, 185, Irvine) - True freshman Rod Perry, Jr. (.254) 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.
JOSH TOWNSEND (#40, C, So., 6-0, 190, Villa Park) - With the top two catchers out with injuries during one stretch, sophomore Josh Townsend (.300) moved into a starting role for five games. In his first career start, against Hawai'i 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.
ERIC MUNSON (#3, C, So., 6-3, 220, San Diego) - An injury has put on hold what could have been one of the top offensive performances in USC history. Sophomore catcher Eric Munson is out until early-to-mid May with a stress fracture in his right foot. He has missed the last eight games. Though just a sophomore, there's little doubt that Munson, when healthy, 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.
Prior to his injury in 1998, he was hitting .352 with 12 home runs and 41 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 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.
ADDITIONAL HITTERS - Sophomore Kevin Schultz has seen time at shortstop and has fared well. Schultz has started seven games (appearing in 18) while hitting .261 ... Junior Dominic Correa has seen playing time in the middle infield, the outfield and as a designated hitter and is batting .271 ... Reserve sophomore first baseman and pinch-hitter Carlos Casillas is hitting .333 (4-for-12) ... 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.