Baseball Does Texas-Two Step To Houston This Weekend

Feb. 27, 2001

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LOS ANGELES -- The USC baseball team (9-4) -- winner of 12 NCAA championships, more than twice as many as any other school -- will host San Diego on Wednesday (Feb. 28 ) at 4 p.m. before traveling to Houston for a three-game series, beginning on Friday (March 2). This will be the first time that USC has played in Houston.

RANKINGS -- USC is ranked No. 4 in the latest ESPN/USA Today Baseball Weekly and No. 5 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. San Diego and Houston are not ranked.

LAST WEEK -- USC suffered its first losing week of the season, going 1-2 with both losses against West Coast Conference teams. The Trojans suffered their worst loss of the season with a 9-1 defeat on Feb. 20 against Loyola Marymount at Dedeaux Field. The Lions scored four runs in the first with two outs off USC starter Chad Clark. Clark allowed five runs in 1 1/3 innings in the loss. Freshman Jon Brewster went 3-for-5 in the leadoff spot in the batting order for the Trojans. The Trojans played a makeup game the next day at Pepperdine and lost to the Waves, 5-3. Greg Ramirez, the Waves' closer, shut down the Trojans with seven strong innings as he scattered six hits. Daniel Haren stopped a late USC rally in the eight to record the save for Pepperdine. USC bounced back from the midweek losses with a 7-3 win against Mississippi State at home. Mark Prior struck out nine in six innings while Brian Barre capped a five-run inning in the second with a two-run homer to right. Rain forced the cancellation of the remaining two games of the series.

SAN DIEGO NOTES -- San Diego is 6-6 on the season. The team is batting .324 while the pitching staff has a 5.38 ERA. Shortstop Josh Harris has a .481 batting average with one home run and 11 RBI while catcher Greg Sain is batting .275 with a team-leading four home runs and 17 RBI. Rich Hill is in his third season as head coach at San Diego. USC leads the all-time series with San Diego, 10-2.

HOUSTON NOTES -- Houston is 6-8 on the season and has won three of its last four games, including a 14-5 win at No. 2 Rice on Feb. 21. The Cougars are batting .287 as a team while the pitching staff has a 6.22 ERA. Houston lost eight starting position players from last year's squad that reached the NCAA Super Regionals. Outfielder Josh Snook is batting .431 with four home runs and 15 RBI. Head Coach Rayner Noble is in his seventh season at Houston. The Cougars swept the Trojans last year at Dedeaux Field (3-2, 14-7, 8-4). USC leads the all-time series with Houston by a 4-3 margin.

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 572-317-2 (.643) 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.

DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS -- The state of Texas has not been a kind destination for the USC baseball program in recent years. Since the 1980 season, the Trojans are a combined 9-16 in games played in Texas. Last year, the Trojans went 1-2 at Texas Tech and were swept in a three-game series at Texas in 1999. USC has played in three regionals (1989, 1993 and 1996) in Texas and was eliminated in all three.

TROJANS' HIT PARADE -- In 10 of 13 games this season, the Trojans have recorded 10 or more hits. USC is batting .306 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 65 times this season and struck out 64 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 118 strikeouts in 120 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 48 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). His streak was snapped on Feb. 23 vs. Mississippi State, but he still struck out nine in six innings. For the season, Prior has a 3-0 record with a 1.37 ERA. In 26 1/3 innings, he has allowed 14 hits, struck out 43 and walked five with opponents batting .151 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 43 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings this season with a 14.70 strikeouts per nine innings ratio. The school record is 12.62 strikeouts per nine innings, set by Rik Currier in 1998. The school and Pac-10 record for strikeouts in a season is 182, set by Seth Etherton 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 6-0 with a 1.28 ERA. In 49 1/3 innings, the duo has allowed only 23 hits, struck out 64 batters and walked 10. 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 batting .333 (16-for-48) with a home run, six 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 .390 (16-for-41) with two home runs and 14 RBI. He needs only four 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 .326 (15-for-46) and leads the team in RBI (15). 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 .333 (14-for-42) with a home run and eight 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.

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 244 hits needs seven to tie Geoff Jenkins for fourth place.- Davidson with 161 runs scored needs five to tie Bret Boone for sixth place, eight 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 193 strikeouts needs 13 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.

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