Baseball Begins Five Games In Six Days Stretch
Feb. 20, 2001
LOS ANGELES -- The USC baseball team (8-2) -- winner of 12 NCAA championships, more than twice as many as any other school -- will host Loyola Marymount on Tuesday (Feb. 20) at 5 p.m., travel to Pepperdine (6-0) on Wednesday (Feb. 20) for a 2 p.m. game as a makeup from a Feb. 13 rainout and will host its first-ever Southeastern Conference opponent when Mississippi State visits for a weekend series beginning on Friday (Feb. 23) at 5 p.m. The series vs. Mississippi State will continue with 1 p.m. games on Saturday (Feb. 24) and Sunday (Feb. 25).
RANKINGS -- USC is ranked No. 2 in the latest ESPN/USA Today Baseball Weekly and Baseball America polls and No. 3 by Collegiate Baseball. Pepperdine is ranked No. 10 in Baseball America, and No. 13 by Collegiate Baseball and ESPN/USA Today Baseball Weekly. Mississippi State is No. 30 in Collegiate Baseball. Loyola Marymount is not ranked.
LAST WEEK -- USC won two of three in a non-conference series at UCLA (3-4, 6-0 and 5-4 in 11 innings). Mark Prior had another strong start for the Trojans in Friday's game, going seven innings and striking out 12 batters with two hits and one walk. The Bruins, however, provided a dramatic win when Adam Berry hit a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Trojans' reliever Brian Bannister for the win. Rik Currier and Fraser Dizard combined for the shutout in Saturday's game. Currier allowed only two hits and struck out seven in eight innings as he improved to 3-0 on the season. It was the first shutout thrown by USC pitchers since May 28, 1999, vs. Virginia Commonwealth (10-0) at the NCAA First-Round Regional at Dedeaux Field. It was also the first time that UCLA had been shut out at home since May 10, 1991, when, ironically, USC won 4-0. In Sunday's contest, Michael Morales recorded the game-winning hit in the top of the 11th with a flare to right field, scoring Jon Brewster from second base. Jordan Olson, Bannister and Dizard threw seven shutout innings of relief, allowing only two hits for the Trojans. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on third, Dizard got third baseman Randall Shelley to pop up to second to end the Bruins' threat. Dizard registered his first collegiate win with 2 1/3 no-hit innings.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT NOTES -- Loyola Marymount is 8-5 on the season after losing two of three at home against California last weekend (6-14, 9-8, 5-8). Infielder Tommy Perez leads the team with a .462 batting average. Perez has four home runs and 10 RBI on the season. Outfielder Robert Hirsh has a .348 average while catcher Kris Zacuto is batting .347 for the Lions. The Lions' pitching staff has a 5.14 ERA. Head Coach Frank Cruz is in his fifth season at Loyola Marymount after serving as Mike Gillespie's assistant at USC from 1993-96. USC has a 112-15-1 all-time series record with Loyola Marymount.
PEPPERDINE NOTES -- Pepperdine is 8-1 on the season and coming off two wins in a three-game series at Tulane (12-2, 4-7, 9-1). Senior infielder Jared Pitney leads the team with three home runs and 12 RBI with a .421 batting average while Woody Cliffords has a team-leading .450 average with nine RBI. The Waves' pitching staff has a 2.14 ERA. Head Coach Frank Sanchez is in his fifth season at Pepperdine after serving as Mike Gillespie's top assistant at USC from 1987-96. USC has a 74-27-1 all-time series record with Pepperdine.
MISSISSIPPI STATE NOTES -- Mississippi State is 0-2 on the season after suffering 4-2 and 7-5 losses at home against Notre Dame. Catcher Jason Burkley leads the squad with a .429 batting average (3-for-7). Senior Jeff Hunter went five innings in his first start for the Bulldogs, allowing one run on seven hits with four strikeouts and no walks. Head Coach Pat McMahon is in his fourth season at the helm of the Bulldogs' program. Recently, McMahon was named to serve as head coach for the 2001 USA National Team, a year after USC Head Coach Mike Gillespie held similar duties. USC has played Mississippi State twice and won both games. Ironically, current Trojan Rik Currier figured prominently in both contests. Currier threw eight innings to record the win on June 2, 1998, at the College World Series in Omaha. At the time, the freshman pitcher allowed one run on four hits in a 12-strikeout performance that keyed USC's road to the 1998 national championship. He would strike again last year at the Kia Baseball Bash in Fullerton, Calif. On March 4, 2000, Currier became the sixth Trojan to throw a no-hitter when he did so in a rain-shortened affair against the Bulldogs (5 IP, 1 ER, 5 BB, 6 SO) as USC won, 7-1. This weekend's series also represents the first time in the history of the USC program that the Trojans have hosted a Southeastern Conference opponent at home.
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 571-315-2 (.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.
TROJANS' HIT PARADE -- In nine of 10 games this season, the Trojans have recorded 10 or more hits. USC is batting .313 as a team. The school record for team batting average is .335, held by the 1996 squad.
ALL WE NEED IS PATIENCE -- Being patient at the plate has been a key so far this season for the Trojans. USC has walked 55 times this season and struck out 50 times. The lowest number of strikeouts as a team in the past six years was 302 (1996). The last time the Trojans had more walks than strikeouts was 1991 when USC had walked 297 times and struck out 287 times.
STRIKE(OUT) A POSE -- USC pitchers have recorded 90 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings this season. The school record by a Trojan pitching staff is 471, set by the 1999 club.
DON'T WALK ON BY -- Conversely, the USC pitching staff has walked only 33 batters. The lowest number of walks allowed in the last eight years for a season was 203 by the 1993 staff.
FEELING A DRAFT -- Four USC players were rated by Baseball America in the Top 100 College Prospects for the 2001 amateur baseball draft. Junior pitcher Mark Prior was rated No. 2, senior shortstop Seth Davidson was No. 89, junior rightfielder Rob Garibaldi was No. 91 and senior pitcher Rik Currier was No. 100. Prior, who was rated No. 2 overall, also received attention as having the best breaking ball of all college pitchers, being one of the closest to the majors and being one of the best two-way players. In the history of the USC baseball program, 244 players have been drafted by major league teams. In the last seven years, 45 Trojans have been drafted including 10 players who have made it to the major leagues: Aaron Boone, Geoff Jenkins, Gabe Alvarez, Brian Cooper, Jacque Jones, Chad Moeller, Seth Etherton, Morgan Ensberg, Eric Munson and Barry Zito.
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. In 2001, Currier is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA. In 23 innings, he has allowed nine hits and has struck out 21 while allowing only five walks. Opponents are hitting a measly .120 against him. At UCLA on Feb. 17, Currier threw eight shutout innings, striking out seven and allowing only two hits. He did not allow a runner to reach second base until the eighth inning. On Feb. 10 against No. 17 Long Beach State, he threw a three-hitter in seven innings of work with five strikeouts and no walks in the Trojans' 10-1 win. Last season, Rik 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 350 strikeouts. He has 21 this season and needs 13 to tie Brent Strom (1968-70) for second place and 70 to tie Seth Etherton (1995-98) for first.
Career Strikeouts1. Seth Etherton, 1995-98 420*2. Brent Strom, 1968-70 3633. Rik Currier, 1998-00 350 *Pac-10 record
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. He continued his strong start on Feb. 9 vs. No. 17 Long Beach State with another 10-strikeout performance. In 7 1/3 innings, Prior allowed two runs on four hits and struck out 10 batters while walking only one batter. Prior threw his third straight game with 10 or more strikeouts on Feb. 16 at UCLA with a 12-strikeout effort in seven innings (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 12 SO). For the season, Prior has a 2-0 record with a 0.89 ERA. In 20 1/3 innings, he has allowed 10 hits, struck out 34 and walked three with opponents batting .143 against him. 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 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.
THE MAR'K' EXPRESS -- Mark Prior has been dominant early, especially in the strikeout department. He has 34 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings this season with a 15.05 strikeouts per nine innings ratio. The school record is 12.62 strikeouts per nine innings, set by Rik Currier in 1998.
A PITCHING 1-2 PUNCH -- Mark Prior and Rik Currier have put up strong numbers so far in the 2001 season. Prior and Currier are a combined 5-0 with a 1.04 ERA. In 43 1/3 innings, the duo has allowed only 19 hits, struck out 55 batters and walked eight. Prior has allowed only two doubles while Currier has allowed just one double and one home run.
TO CATCH A THIEF -- Seth Davidson has been climbing the school's career list for most stolen bases. Davidson is tied for second with 54 career steals and needs three to tie the record holder Mark Smith (1989-91). This season, he surpassed Damon Buford (1988-90) and tied John Jackson (1987-90) for second place on Feb. 11 against Long Beach State. 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. Seth Davidson, 1998-2000 54 John Jackson, 1987-90 54
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 .389 (14-for-36) with a home run, five RBI and three 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.
BASEBALL HAS BEEN BARRE, BARRE GOOD TO ME -- Junior Brian Barre (Garden Grove/Pacific HS) is having a banner season for the Trojans. He is batting .433 (13-for-30) with a home run and 12 RBI. He needs only six to tie his career high of 18, set last year. Barre became the first player to hit a grand slam since Jason Lane hit one against Arizona State on April 24, 1999. He hit the grand slam in the sixth inning on Feb. 3 vs. Louisville in the Trojans' 19-4 victory.
BIG BILL FROM BRISBANE -- Senior first baseman Bill Peavey (Brisbane/Serra HS) has exploded at the plate in his final go-around with Troy. Peavey is batting .371 (13-for-35) and leads the team in RBI (14). His lone home run of the season came in timely fashion on Feb. 6 vs. No. 18 Cal State Fullerton when his solo shot tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth. The Trojans would win the game, 6-5, in 13 innings. He also tied the game in the seventh inning on Feb. 18 at UCLA on an RBI single, leading the way for a 5-4 victory in 11 innings.
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.
PERSELL POWER -- Senior Josh Persell (Sherman Oaks/Montclair Prep) is off to a good start for the Trojans, batting .310 (9-for-29) with a home run and six RBI. Last year, he was a power source during the Trojans' post-season run. 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.
TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM -- Josh Persell is on pace to set a painful school record. Persell has been hit by a pitch seven times this season. The school record is 16, held by Brett Jenkins (1991). Last year, Persell was hit 15 times, good for second place.
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. He has started in six games this season as Troy's left fielder. On Feb. 6 against No. 18 Cal State Fullerton, his pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 13th inning gave USC the 6-5 victory. Last year, 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. Last year, 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.
MAINTAINING 'MO'MENTUM -- Sophomore Michael Morales (Anaheim/Loara HS) served as a team manager last year, similar to what teammate Abel Montanez did three years ago, but has made an early contribution to the 2001 squad. On Feb. 18 at UCLA, Morales hit a flare to right field in the top of the 11th for the game-winning hit in a 5-4 victory. Morales did not take batting practice, due to the rain-soaked field, and came into the game in the ninth as a pinch-runner for designated hitter Josh Persell. Morales hit a 2-2 pitch off UCLA closer Doug Silva.
CAREER MARKS -- Here are some updated numbers for USC players currently in the Top 20 lists:- Seth Davidson with 242 hits needs nine to tie Geoff Jenkins for fourth place.- Davidson with 160 runs scored needs six to tie Bret Boone for sixth place, nine to tie Mark Smith for fifth place.- Davidson with 54 stolen bases needs three to tie Mark Smith for first place.- Davidson with 38 doubles needs one to tie Mark Smith and Greg Hanoian for 14th place.- Josh Persell with 22 times hit by a pitch needs two to tie Brad Ticehurst for third place.- Rik Currier with 29 wins needs one to tie Walt Peterson for eighth place, five to tie Jim Barr for seventh place.- Currier with 350 strikeouts needs 13 to tie Brent Strom for second place.- Mark Prior with 184 strikeouts needs 22 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.
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.