Baseball Takes Spring Break This Weekend
March 27, 2001
LOS ANGELES -- The No. 12 USC baseball team (19-10) -- winner of 12 NCAA championships, more than twice as many as any other school -- will travel to No. 24 Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday (March 27) for a 5 p.m. game. The Trojans will then host San Diego State on Wednesday (March 28) at Dedeaux Field at 5 p.m. USC will not play any games this weekend. All games will be broadcast live on www.usctrojans.com.
RANKINGS -- USC is ranked No. 10 in the latest ESPN/USA Today Baseball Weekly poll and No. 12 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Cal State Fullerton is ranked No. 24 by Baseball America and No. 29 by Collegiate Baseball. San Diego State is not ranked.
LAST WEEK -- The Trojans went 4-0 for the week, including a three-game series sweep at Arizona. USC avenged an earlier loss to Pepperdine by defeating the No. 13 Waves, 9-3, on Wednesday (March 21) at Dedeaux Field. The Trojans rallied from a 3-0 deficit as Jordan Olson recorded his first collegiate win with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Mark Prior opened the Trojans' series in Tucson with first collegiate shutout. In an 8-0 win, Prior allowed only three hits, struck out a career-high 15 batters and did not allow a walk. He pitched to two batters over the minimum and did not allow a runner to reach second base. On Saturday, the Trojans rallied from a 4-1 deficit, thanks to a four-run sixth inning. Freshman Michael Moon tied the game with a two-run shot to right and freshman Jon Brewster's sacrifice fly was the game-winner. The Trojans' bullpen held as the Wildcats had runners at first and third with no outs, but could not score as USC went on to the 6-4 win. It was Arizona's turn, however, to rally on Sunday. The Trojans jumped out to an early 6-1 lead before the Wildcats clawed their way back into the contest, tying the game at 7-7 with two runs in the eighth. USC played small ball in the 10th as Seth Davidson's RBI single to right clinched the series sweep for the Trojans, that won its 19th game in the last 21 in Tucson.
CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTES -- Cal State Fullerton is 15-10 on the season after taking two of three in a non-conference series last weekend at Long Beach State. The team is batting .265 while the pitching staff has a 2.68 ERA. Aaron Rifkin is batting .309 with five home runs and 16 RBI, but the big story for the Titans this season has been the strong effort by pitcher Kirk Saarloos. Saarloos is 6-2 on the season with a 1.36 ERA and four saves. In 68 innings, he has allowed 37 hits, walked only six and struck out 76 batters. Head Coach George Horton is in his fifth season at Cal State Fullerton. The Trojans defeated the Titans, 6-5 in 13 innings, earlier this season on Feb. 6 at Dedeaux Field. Pinch-hitter Abel Montanez hit the game-winning RBI single in the game for the Trojans. The all-time series between the two teams is tied at 29-29-1.
SAN DIEGO STATE NOTES -- San Diego is 16-11 on the season after losing two of three last weekend at New Mexico. The team is batting .305 while the pitching staff has a 4.41 ERA. Carlo Cota leads the team with a .370 batting average and has 25 RBI on the season. The Aztecs have been battered with injuries as shortstop Taber Lee and pitchers Chris Dunwell and Ben Rosenthal are out of action. Jim Dietz is in his 30th season at San Diego State. USC leads the all-time series with San Diego State by a 51-21-3 margin. The Trojans are 9-0-1 in their last 10 meetings against the Aztecs.
COACH'S CORNER -- Mike Gillespie, in his 15th season as the Trojans' head coach, has a 582-323-2 (.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.
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.
SWEEP OR BE SWEPT -- USC avenged getting swept last year at home by Houston by turning the tables on the host Cougars. The Trojans swept a doubleheader at Houston on March 3 (6-3, 7-3) and completed the series sweep on March 4 (4-3). A week later, however, the Trojans were swept by Stanford at Sunken Diamond. It was the first time since 1997 that Stanford swept a series against USC. In fact, Stanford swept both series at Sunken Diamond and Dedeaux Field in 1997. The Trojans added their second series sweep of the season at Arizona (March 23-25). USC is 19-2 in its last 21 games at Frank Sancet Field.
SCHEDULE CHANGES -- Two games have been added as a makeup for the two rained out Mississippi State games earlier this season. The Trojans will host San Francisco on Monday (April 23) at 3 p.m. and Long Beach State on Tuesday (May 15) at 5 p.m.
ALL WE NEED IS PATIENCE -- Being patient at the plate has been a key so far this season for the Trojans. USC has walked 126 times this season and struck out 136 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 280 strikeouts in 263 2/3 innings this season. The school record by a Trojan pitching staff is 579, set by the 1998 club (589 innings).
DON'T WALK ON BY -- Conversely, the USC pitching staff has walked only 96 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.
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.
PRIOR NOTICE -- Junior pitcher Mark Prior (Bonita/USD HS/Vanderbilt) is getting a lot of attention this season 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. Prior is 6-1 this season with a 1.36 ERA. In 59 2/3 innings this year, he has allowed 36 hits, struck out 95 and walked six with opponents batting .171 against him. In his first start 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. In the first game of a doubleheader at Houston on March 3, Prior struck out 10 and did not allow a walk in eight innings of work for his fourth victory of the season. Prior tied a career high by striking out 13 on March 9 at No. 10 Stanford (7 1/3 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 13 SO). The following week on March 17 at Washington, Prior pitched the 20th two-hitter at USC since 1976 with a complete game effort in the Trojans' 5-1 win. He struck out a career-high 14 batters and did not allow a walk for his fifth win of the season. He would set another career-high the following game on March 23 at Arizona when he struck out 15 batters and did not allow a walk in a three-hit shutout, his first of his career. 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 95 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings this season with a 14.33 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. In his last four games, Prior has struck out 52 batters and has allowed only one walk.
ROARING THROUGH MARCH -- On Wednesday (March 28), Mark Prior will be making his fifth start of the season in what has been an incredible month. In four starts (all on the road at Houston, Stanford, Washington and Arizona), Prior is 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA. In 33 1/3 innings, he has given up 22 hits, five earned runs and has struck out 52 batters while allowing only one walk.
KUDOS TO YOU -- Mark Prior was named Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week and Pac-10 Conference Pitcher of the Week in consecutive weeks for his performances on March 17 at Washington and March 23 at Arizona. Prior threw a complete game and allowed two hits in a 5-1 win at Washington. The one run against him was unearned as Prior struck out 14 and did not allow a walk. He did one step better the following week in Tucson, throwing his first career shutout (8-0). Prior struck out a career-high 15 batters and did not allow a walk. He pitched to two batters over the minimum and threw only 18 balls in 103 pitches. Prior also did not allow a runner to reach second base.
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 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA. In 49 2/3 innings, he has allowed 44 hits and has struck out 47 while allowing only 14 walks. Opponents are hitting .238 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 2000 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 second place on USC's all-time career list with 373 strikeouts. He has 47 this season and needs 44 to tie Seth Etherton (1995-98) for first. He surpassed Brent Strom (1968-70) for second place on the list with a six-strikeout performance on March 10 at Stanford.
Career Strikeouts1. Seth Etherton, 1995-98 420*2. Rik Currier, 1998-00 376 *Pac-10 record
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 11-2 with a 1.89 ERA. In 109 1/3 innings, the duo has allowed only 80 hits, struck out 142 batters and walked 20. Opponents are batting .202 against them.
TO CATCH A THIEF -- Seth Davidson can now lay claim as the top career stolen base leader at USC. On March 24 at Arizona, Davidson tied Mark Smith (1989-91) for first place with his 57th career stolen base and on the following play, stole third to set the record with steal No. 58. This season, he also 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).
RECORD BREAKER -- After setting the school career mark for stolen bases, Seth Davidson is close to setting additional marks. He needs only 18 hits to break the record of Murph Proctor (1988-91), who had 282 with the Trojans. Davidson can break another Proctor record by scoring 12 runs to surpass his record of 187 career runs.
KUDOS TO YOU, PART II -- Seth Davidson was named Pac-10 Player of the Week for March 6 after going 7-for-14 (.500) with a triple and one RBI in three games at Houston. Davidson also registered two stolen bases, including stealing home in the second game of a doubleheader on March 3.
LUNAR ECLIPSE -- Sophomore second baseman Anthony Lunetta (Riverside/Arlington HS) is looking to build on last year's stellar freshman campaign. This year, Lunetta is batting a .315 (35-for-111) with four home runs, 15 RBI and five stolen bases. He hit solo home runs in three straight games on March 10 and 11 at No. 10 Stanford and March 13 at UC Santa Barbara. 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.
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 a team-leading .327 (32-for-98) with four home runs and a team-leading 26 RBI. On Sunday (March 25) at Arizona, he hit his first career triple as part of a 6-for-12 (.500) weekend against the Wildcats. Peavey hit a home run in all three games of the Washington series, becoming the second Trojan (Anthony Lunetta) to hit a home run in three straight games. His first 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.
PERSELL POWER -- Senior Josh Persell (Sherman Oaks/Montclair Prep) is batting .303 (33-for-109) with three home runs and 22 RBI. In the first game of a doubleheader at Houston on March 3, Persell hit a go-ahead, two-run blast to deep center in a 6-3 win against the Cougars. 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 12 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 CRUSHER -- At only 5-8, junior Brian Barre (Garden Grove/Pacific HS) is having a strong season for the Trojans. He is batting .316 (31-for-98) with four home runs and a career-high 24 RBI. 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.
MAN ON THE MOON -- Freshman Michael Moon (Alta Loma/Rancho Cucamonga HS) had the difficult task of replacing standout Justin Gemoll, who graduated last year, at third base. Moon, however, has shown that he is up to the task of playing at the hot corner. He is batting .314 (29-for-90) on the season with one home run, 17 RBI and six stolen bases. His first collegiate home run, a two-run shot, tied the game in the sixth in the Trojans' 6-4 win on March 24 at Arizona. He has recorded only one error in 65 chances this season.
BREW CREW -- The Trojans have received strong contributions from another freshman with Jon Brewster (Sherman Oaks/Notre Dame HS). Brewster is batting .322 (19-for-59) with six RBI and seven stolen bases. Brewster hit his first home run as a Trojan on March 19 at Washington. His strength, though, is his ability to play different positions. As a utility player, Brewster has played this season in left field, right field, first base and third base. Brewster recorded three stolen bases in the second game of a doubleheader on March 3 at Houston.
WELL EXCUUUUUUUUUUSE ME -- Freshman Jon Brewster perhaps set an unofficial NCAA record when he was called out on batter's interference on consecutive at-bats on March 25 at Arizona. As the Trojans attempted hit-and-run plays with a runner on first, Brewster was called out both times for interfering with the catcher on his attempt to throw out the runner at second.
RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY -- Rain has played a major role early in the 2001 season for the Trojans. The 'streak' began on Saturday (Feb. 24) when the Trojans hosted Mississippi State. Both teams made the decision to play a doubleheader since heavy rains were forecast for Sunday (Feb. 25). Unfortunately, rain cancelled both games. San Diego was next on the schedule for Tuesday (Feb. 27), but rain cancelled that game and the immediate makeup date the following day (the game has been moved to Wednesday, March 14, at 5 p.m.). The opening game at Houston on Friday (March 2) was also cancelled due to rain which forced a doubleheader the next day, meaning the Trojans had been rained out in five straight possible game days.
AVOIDING HISTORY -- Anthony Lunetta's home run on March 10 at Stanford halted what would have been an ugly mark in the record books. After being shutout on March 9, the Trojans were in danger of being shut out in back-to-back games for just the third time in modern history. The two times it happened since 1921 was Feb. 19-20, 1982 (both games against Long Beach State) and during the 1968 season when the Trojans were shut out in three straight games. Ironically, the Trojans went on to win the 1968 national championship, starting a streak of six national titles in seven years.
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 265 hits needs three to tie Jacque Jones for second place and 17 to tie Murph Proctor for first place.- Davidson with 176 runs scored needs four to tie Geoff Jenkins for second place and 11 to tie Murph Proctor for first place.- Davidson with 40 doubles needs two to tie Casey Burrill, Walter Dawkins and Geoff Jenkins for 10th place.- Josh Persell with 27 times hit by a pitch needs four to tie Morgan Ensberg for second place.- Rik Currier with 31 wins needs three to tie Jim Barr for seventh place.- Currier with 376 strikeouts needs 44 to tie Seth Etherton for first place.- Mark Prior with 245 strikeouts needs nine to tie Dan Hubbs for 10th place and 16 to tie Randy Scarbery for ninth 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.