Baseball Battles Power Teams From Big West Conference
Feb. 5, 2001
LOS ANGELES -- The USC baseball team (3-0) -- winner of 12 NCAA championships, more than twice as many as any other school -- will face the two top teams in the Big West Conference by hosting Cal State Fullerton (1-3) on Tuesday (Feb. 6) at Dedeaux Field and facing Long Beach State (3-0) in a three-game series this weekend. The games on Friday (Feb. 9) and Sunday (Feb. 11) will be played at Blair Field at 7:05 and 1:05 p.m., respectively, while Saturday's (Feb. 10) game will be played at Dedeaux Field at 1 p.m.
RANKINGS -- USC is ranked No. 2 in the latest Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball polls and No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today Baseball Weekly preseason poll. Cal State Fullerton is ranked No. 12 by ESPN/USA Today Baseball Weekly (preseason), No. 15 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 18 by Baseball America. Long Beach State is ranked No. 13 by Collegiate Baseball, No. 17 by Baseball America and No. 22 by ESPN/USA Today Baseball Weekly (preseason).
LAST WEEK -- USC opened the 2001 season by defeating Santa Clara on Wednesday (Jan. 31), 10-3, and Louisville in a two-game series, 19-4, on Saturday (Feb. 3) and 11-4 on Sunday (Feb. 4). The Trojans won their sixth straight season opener and have not lost an opener since a 4-2 decision in 1995 against Cal State Northridge. In Saturday's game against Louisville, the Trojans opened the game with 10 runs in the first inning.
CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTES -- Cal State Fullerton is 1-3 on the season after losing at Pepperdine last week and dropping two of three at home to Stanford. The Titans were shut out for the first time since 1999 in a 3-0 decision on Sunday (Feb. 4). Shortstop Mike Rouse is batting .455 (5-for-11) for the Titans while catcher Brett Kay has started in all four games this season and is batting .412 (7-for-17). George Horton is in his fifth season as head coach of the Titans. Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series with USC by a 29-28-1 margin.
LONG BEACH STATE NOTES -- Long Beach State is 3-0 on the season after a three-game series sweep last weekend at Arizona. The 49ers outscored the Wildcats by a 45-24 margin for the series. Jeff Jones leads the team with a .700 batting average (7-for-10) and has two home runs and six RBI. Starting pitcher Matt Paz is coming off a seven-inning, one-hit performance against Arizona. Head Coach Dave Snow is in his 16th season at Long Beach State. USC holds a 63-25 all-time series advantage over Long Beach State.
PAC-10 PRESEASON POLL -- In a preseason poll of the Pac-10 coaches, USC was picked to win the conference title. In order, the poll went as follows: USC (six first-place votes), Arizona State (one first-place vote), Stanford (one first-place vote), Arizona, California, UCLA, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.
COACH'S CORNER -- Mike Gillespie, in his 15th season as the Trojans' head coach, has a 566-313-2 (.644) career record and has led USC to the 1998 national championship, three conference titles (1991-95-96), 12 trips to the NCAA Regionals in 14 years (reaching the regional finals 10 times), and trips to the 1995, 1998 and 2000 College World Series (Troy finished as the nation's runner-up in 1995). He was named the 1998 National Coach of the Year, the Pac-10 Coach of the Year three times (1991-95-96) and the West Region Coach of the Year twice (1996-98). The starting leftfielder on USC's 1961 NCAA-winning team, he is one of just two men who have both coached and played on championship teams. Gillespie also was named by the United States Olympic Committee as the baseball coach of the year after serving as the head coach for the 2000 U.S. National Team, which posted a 27-3-1 record and the best winning percentage in club history.
FRESH CUT LAWN -- Dave Lawn joins the coaching staff this season, replacing John Savage as the team's pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. Savage took over the head coaching position at UC Irvine, which is scheduled to begin play next year. Lawn served as an assistant coach the past 10 years at California. He was instrumental with recruiting classes that were ranked in the Top 30 nationally from 1991 to 1998, including 1998 National Freshman of the Year Xavier Nady (San Diego Padres). He also served last summer as manager for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League. The Whitecaps won the league championship and set the franchise record with 28 wins during the regular season.
YOUNG (ALL) AMERICANS -- The Trojans have three possible All-America candidates on the roster this season. Senior pitcher Rik Currier already has a couple of honors to his credit after earning Collegiate Baseball and The Sporting News All-America second team honors last season. Currier is a preseason All-America first teamer this season, according to Collegiate Baseball. Senior shortstop Seth Davidson was named to the 1999 All-America third team by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association and was a Freshman All-America first teamer in 1998. Junior pitcher Mark Prior was selected this season as a preseason All-America second teamer by Collegiate Baseball and earned Freshman All-America second team honors while at Vanderbilt in 1998.
OFFENSIVE ONSLAUGHT -- Despite losing Justin Gemoll and Beau Craig, who each hit 18 home runs last year, the Trojans have not missed a beat at the plate. This year, USC scored 10 runs or more in the first three games of the season for the first time since 1951. Troy's 1951 team opened the season with run totals of 22, 11 and 10 en route to the CIBA Conference championship and a berth in the College World Series. The school record for most runs in a season is held by the 1998 national championship squad with 543 runs (8.23 runs per game). After scoring 10, 19 and 11 runs to open this season, the 2001 Trojans are averaging 13.33 runs per game.
A CURRIER OF VICTORIES -- Senior Rik Currier (Dana Point/Capistrano Valley HS) is coming off his best season as a Trojan pitcher, which helped him to start the 2001 season on the Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-America first team. Last season, Currier earned Pac-10 Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year, along with Stanford's Justin Wayne, and All-America second team honors by Collegiate Baseball and The Sporting News. He was USC's No. 2 pitcher in the rotation for most of the 2000 season, but moved up to the No. 1 spot on April 7 at UCLA when Mark Prior could not pitch due to flu symptoms (Currier remained the Friday pitcher for the rest of the season). He responded by pitching his second complete game of the season in the Trojans' 5-1 win over the Bruins. Currier allowed one run on five hits and struck out a season-high 12 batters while only walking two. For the season, Currier was 15-3 with a 3.31 ERA. In 125 innings of work, Currier allowed 116 hits, walked 56 and struck out 141 batters. He won 10 of his last 11 starts, including wins at No. 1 Georgia Tech in the NCAA Super Regional and against Florida State in the Trojans' opener at the College World Series.
'K'LIMBING UP THE CHARTS -- Rik Currier, with 141 strikeouts last year, is in third place on USC's all-time career list with 338 strikeouts. He has nine this season and needs 25 to tie Brent Strom (1968-70) for second place and 82 to tie Seth Etherton (1995-98) for first.
Career Strikeouts1. Seth Etherton, 1995-98 420*2. Brent Strom, 1968-70 3633. Rik Currier, 1998-00 338 *Pac-10 record
DEALING WITH DAVIDSON -- Senior Seth Davidson from San Diego (USD HS) returns to give the Trojans one of the top defensive shortstops in the nation. Along with his prowess on the basepaths (see below), Davidson is one of two current Trojans (Rik Currier being the other one) who were part of USC's 1998 national championship team. Last year, Davidson went 10-for-14 (.714) with a double, home run and six RBI, earning him Most Outstanding Player honors at the NCAA First-Round Regional at Fullerton, Calif. Davidson led the team with 26 stolen bases. He had a 13-game hitting streak snapped on May 19, where he batted .442 with eight stolen bases. He hit safely in 23 of his last 24 games of the season. On May 21 at Washington, he pushed an RBI bunt single to second base to cap the Trojans' three-run rally in the top of the ninth for a 4-3 win.
TO CATCH A THIEF -- Seth Davidson has been climbing the school's career list for most stolen bases. Davidson is fourth with 52 career steals and needs just one to tie Damon Buford (1988-90) for third place, two to tie John Jackson (1987-90) and five to tie the record holder Mark Smith (1989-91). Last year, he tied the school record with 26 stolen bases in a season, first set by Aaron Boone (1994).
Career Stolen Bases1. Mark Smith, 1989-91 572. John Jackson, 1987-90 543. Damon Buford, 1988-90 534. Seth Davidson, 1998-2000 52
PRIOR NOTICE -- Junior pitcher Mark Prior (Bonita/USD HS/Vanderbilt) will get a lot of attention in 2001 as many view him as a possible top five pick in this year's major league draft. The 6-5, 220-pound right-handed pitcher was named to the Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-America second team after he registered a 10-7 record with a 3.56 ERA last year. This season, Prior started on a positive note. On Feb. 3 vs. Louisville, he allowed three hits in five innings of work, striking out 10 batters while not allowing a walk. At one point, Prior struck out five straight Cardinals en route to his first win of the season. In 136 1/3 innings last year, he allowed 126 hits, struck out 150 batters (fourth-most in school history) and walked only 46 batters. His best performance came on June 3, 2000, when he pitched eight innings and allowed only one run on six hits at No. 1 Georgia Tech at the NCAA Super Regional. With the 6-3 win, the Trojans qualified for the College World Series. He also hit four home runs in 33 at-bats.
LUNAR ECLIPSE -- Sophomore second baseman Anthony Lunetta (Riverside/Arlington HS) will look to build on last year's stellar freshman campaign. This year, Lunetta is off to another hot start as he is batting .778 (7-for-9) with a home run, four RBI and two stolen bases. Last year, he was third on the team with a .343 batting average (80-for-233) and was named Pac-10 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year. He led the team with 22 doubles. On June 2 at the NCAA Super Regional at No. 1 Georgia Tech, Lunetta hit two home runs in the Trojans' 7-2 win and hit two home runs in a 2-for-4 day with five RBI on April 1 at Arizona. On March 18 at Stanford, Lunetta hit three doubles in a 3-for-6 performance with four RBI in the Trojans' 11-7 win. He also belted two home runs in the Trojans 6-5 win over UC Santa Barbara on March 7 and went 4-for-5 in game two of a doubleheader on March 14 at San Diego. In his collegiate debut on Jan. 29 at Pepperdine, he went 5-for-5 at the plate.
OUT OF THE GATE -- Anthony Lunetta has done well in season openers, going 8-for-9 with two home runs and six RBI in two outings. This year against Santa Clara, Lunetta went 3-for-4 with a double, home run and four RBI while he went 5-for-5 last year at Pepperdine with a home run and two RBI.
A REY(ES) OF HOPE -- Sophomore Anthony Reyes (Whittier/California HS) used last year as a transition period as the Trojans' No. 3 starter and received valuable experience behind teammates Rik Currier and Mark Prior. After a summer with the USA National Team, Reyes is ready to establish himself as a top future prospect. In his freshman season with Troy, Reyes went 6-6 with a 4.02 ERA. In 96 and 1/3 innings, he allowed 98 hits, struck out 86 and walked 45 as opponents hit .268 against him. His best performance came on June 14 at the College World Series against Florida State when he struck out a season-high 10 batters in 7 and 1/3 innings, allowing only two runs on three hits.
READY AND ABEL -- Senior Abel Montanez (Montebello/Bishop Amat HS), who was a team manager in 1998, did not make a start last year until April 25 at UC Santa Barbara and then did not leave the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. Montanez went 7-for-10 (.700), including a pivotal home run (the first of his career) on May 28 vs. Cal State Fullerton in the three-game NCAA First-Round Regional to earn a spot on the All-Tournament team.
THE GREAT GARIBALDI -- Junior Rob Garibaldi (Petaluma/Santa Rosa College) was steady for the Trojans last year at the plate and in the field as the starting right fielder. Garibaldi finished fourth on the team with a .329 batting average and had eight home runs and 44 RBI. He made only three errors for a .977 fielding percentage. He had a season-high 10-game hitting streak snapped on June 2 at Georgia Tech.
PERSELL POWER -- Senior Josh Persell (Sherman Oaks/Montclair Prep) was a power source during last year's post-season run for the Trojans. In eight post-season games, Persell was 11-for-28 with four home runs (all solo home runs) and four RBI. He hit two solo home runs on June 2 at No. 1 Georgia Tech. He hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games. For the season, Persell was second on the team with a .351 batting average (67-for-191) with nine home runs and 40 RBI.
BASEBALL HAS BEEN BARRE, BARRE GOOD TO ME -- Junior Brian Barre (Garden Grove/Pacific HS) became the first player to hit a grand slam since Jason Lane hit one against Arizona State on April 24, 1999. Barre hit the grand slam in the sixth inning on Feb. 3 vs. Louisville in the Trojans' 19-4 victory.
CAREER MARKS -- Here are some updated numbers for USC players currently in the Top 20 lists:- Seth Davidson with 233 hits needs four to tie Wes Rachels for seventh place.- Davidson with 155 runs scored needs one to tie John Jackson and Gabe Alvarez for ninth place.- Davidson with 52 stolen bases needs one to tie Damon Buford for third place, two to tie John Jackson for second place, five to tie Mark Smith for first place..- Davidson with 37 doubles needs one to tie three players for 16th place.- Rik Currier with 27 wins needs two to tie Bill Lee and Greg Widman for ninth place.- Currier with 338 strikeouts needs 25 to tie Brent Strom for second place.- Mark Prior with 162 strikeouts needs 42 to tie Randy Johnson for 20th place.
OPERATION: OMAHA -- From 1948 to 1978, USC dominated the world of college baseball with 11 national championships in 17 appearances at the College World Series (the 1948 CWS was held in Kalamazoo, Mich., with the CWS moving to Omaha, Neb., in 1949). After the 1978 season, the Trojans went through a drought and did not return to Omaha until 1995, when Troy reached the national championship game. Since 1995, the Trojans have made three trips to Omaha in the last six years, winning it all in 1998. USC has the most wins (73) at the CWS and is second for most appearances (20) behind Texas.
PLAYING FOR THE U.S.A. -- Head Coach Mike Gillespie held similar duties last year with the United States National Team. USC pitchers Mark Prior and Anthony Reyes were on the team as well. Gillespie guided Team USA to a 27-3-1 record, posting the highest winning percentage (.900) in club history. The team reeled off a 21-game unbeaten streak at the end of the season, including capturing the Haarlem Honkbal Week championship in The Netherlands. Prior was the winning pitcher in the championship game against Cuba.
DEDEAUX FIELD -- This season marks the 27th year of play at Dedeaux Field, where USC has an all-time record of 573-255-1 (.692). When USC hosted San Diego State on March 30, 1999, it was 25 years to the day from when the first game was played at Dedeaux Field. It was a special opening day in 1974, as in the first game of a doubleheader, Russ McQueen threw a no-hitter against California. Dedeaux Field features dimensions of 335 feet down the right and left field lines, 365 in the right field power alleys and 375 to the left field power alleys, and 395 to straightaway center. The surface is a natural grass field and seating is around 1,800. In 1994, Dedeaux Field received a state-of-the-art scoreboard/message center, which was donated by the Port Family in memory of Al Port, whose two sons, Randy (1967-69) and Jeff (70-72), both played baseball at USC, and whose grandson, Ryan, also was a part of the program. Prior to the 1997 season, the first base pavilion was turned into modern office facilities for the baseball coaching staff. The foyer of the office now houses the newly created Al Port Trojan Baseball Hall of Fame. Prior to the 2000 season, the most recent project saw the expansion of the press box. Construction for the enlargement and improvement of the Hall of Fame room, coaches' office, locker rooms and the umpires' room will begin after the 2001 season. New additions will include an expanded players' team room, another batting cage, more restrooms and bleacher seating along the first-base side of the stadium, with completion of the project to be completed prior to the 2002 season.
2000 SEASON RECAP -- After a 28-18 start, the Trojans used a 16-game winning streak to propel themselves to a 20th appearance at the College World Series. Despite going 1-2 at the CWS, USC shocked the college baseball world by sweeping No. 1 Georgia Tech in Atlanta in the NCAA Super Regional to earn its ticket to Omaha. The Trojans finished the season with a 44-20 record and a fourth-place finish in Pac-10 Conference play with a 16-8 record, one game behind tri-champions Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA. Pitcher Rik Currier earned Collegiate Baseball and The Sporting News second team All-America honors and was also named Pac-10 Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year. Third baseman Justin Gemoll earned Collegiate Baseball third team All-America honors while second baseman Anthony Lunetta was named Pac-10 Conference Freshman/Newcomer of the Year.
TEAM OF THE 20TH CENTURY -- No other university can match the collegiate baseball tradition of USC, and it showed when Baseball America awarded the Trojans the title of 'Greatest Program of the 20th Century' in its Feb. 1, 1999 issue. Troy has an unprecedented 12 NCAA championships (no other school has more than five), 36 conference titles and 20 College World Series appearances (second most in the nation). Legendary former coach Rod Dedeaux was named 'Coach of the Century' by both Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America. Trojan players have been named All-American first teamers 79 times, and 84 players have gone on to play in the majors, including such stars as Tom Seaver, Fred Lynn, Ron Fairly, Randy Johnson, Mark McGwire, Jeff Cirillo and Bret Boone.