Play Ball! USC Opens 2006 Campaign Against Long Beach State
Jan. 30, 2006
LOS ANGELES -- The No. 17/18 USC baseball team opens the 2006 season against No. 22/20 Long Beach State on Friday (Feb. 3) at Blair Field in a 6:30 p.m. game. The series will continue on Saturday (Feb. 4) at 1 p.m. at Dedeaux Field before the series finale on Sunday (Feb. 5) at noon at Blair Field.
SEASON OPENER -- The 2006 season represents the 111th season of baseball at USC since its inception in 1889. Records show sporadic play from 1889 through 1901 until USC played on a yearly basis starting in 1902. The exception came in 1918 and 1919 when World War I wiped out the seasons.
RANKINGS -- USC is ranked No. 17 in the Baseball America preseason poll and No. 18 by ESPN/USA Today Sports Weekly. Long Beach State is ranked No. 22 by Baseball America and No. 20 by ESPN/USA Today Sports Weekly.
NO. 22/20 LONG BEACH STATE NOTES -- Long Beach State returns five starters from last year's squad that went 37-22 and 1-2 at the NCAA First-Round Regional at Blair Field that USC eventually won. Head coach Mike Weathers is 157-84 in his fifth season at Long Beach State. Friday's starter Jared Hughes is on the 2006 Roger Clemens Award Watch List and a preseason All-America third team selection after going 8-3 with a 2.83 ERA last season. USC leads the all-time series with Long Beach State by a 73-32 margin. The Trojans swept the 49ers in four games last season, the first time USC had accomplished that feat since a three-game sweep in 1998. This weekend's series continues a recent tradition between the two programs where the Friday and Sunday games are played at one site sandwiching Saturday's game at the other team's home stadium.
PAC-10 PRESEASON POLL -- In a preseason poll of the Pac-10 coaches, USC was picked to finish second in the conference. Oregon State (seven first-place votes) was picked to win the conference followed by USC (one first-place vote), Stanford (one vote) and Arizona State in a tie for third, Arizona and California in a tie for fifth, Washington, UCLA and Washington State.
TROJANS ON THE NET -- All USC baseball games this season will be broadcast live on usctrojans.com with live video webcasts for home games at Dedeaux Field. A rotation of USC students will handle the majority of the broadcasts while baseball sports information director Jason Pommier will handle selected road games.
IN ROD WE TRUST -- On January 5, 2006, the USC baseball program, as well as college and amateur baseball, suffered a great loss with the passing of Rod Dedeaux at the age of 91. Dedeaux was the main architect of the USC program, guiding the Trojans to 11 national championships and 28 conference titles. He posted an overall record of 1,332-571-11 (.699) and, at his retirement, had won more games than any other baseball coach. His teams from 1970-74 won five straight NCAA championships, a record that may never be broken as no other school has won more than two titles in a row. During his career, Dedeaux developed 59 major league players, including Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson, Tom Seaver, Fred Lynn, Dave Kingman, Roy Smalley, Rich Dauer and Steve Kemp. Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball bestowed 'Coach of the Century' honors to Dedeaux in 1999 as a testament to his coaching career. He also was a driving force behind the USA-Japan Collegiate World Series in 1972 and was instrumental in bringing baseball to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as a demonstration sport. During the 1930s, he started Dart Transportation, Inc., and built the company into a multi million-dollar trucking firm that specializes in world-wide distribution today. The legacy of Rod Dedeaux will always live on at the University of Southern California.
SALUTE TO TIGER -- Thanks to the efforts of current Loyola Marymount head coach Frank Cruz, who was a former USC assistant coach and U.S. National Team coach, many schools will be honoring Rod Dedeaux with a banner featuring the No. 1 (Dedeaux's uniform number at USC) for the 2006 season. The USC baseball team will wear a commemorative patch in honor of Dedeaux on their uniform sleeves for the entire 2006 season.
TROJANS IN THE MAJORS -- During the history of the USC baseball program, a total of 92 former players have made it to the majors. The 2005 season proved to be a tremendous year for USC as 18 former Trojans played at least one game in the major leagues (Aaron Boone, Bret Boone, Jeff Cirillo, Brian Cooper, Morgan Ensberg, Seth Etherton, Randy Flores, Ron Flores, Geoff Jenkins, Randy Johnson, Jacque Jones, Jason Lane, Justin Lehr, Chad Moeller, Eric Munson, Mark Prior, Anthony Reyes and Barry Zito).
TOP 10 REASONS TO DRAFT A TROJAN -- In the 2005 MLB draft, former USC catcher Jeff Clement became the fifth Trojan since 1995 to be selected in the top ten overall spots after the Seattle Mariners picked him third. The other four players are: Geoff Jenkins (Milwaukee - 9th overall in 1995), Eric Munson (Detroit - 3rd overall in 1999), Barry Zito (Oakland - 9th overall in 1999) and Mark Prior (Chicago Cubs - 2nd overall in 2001).
COACH'S CORNER -- Mike Gillespie, in his 20th season as the Trojans' head coach, holds a 738-438-2 (.627) career record. During his career at Troy, he led USC to the 1998 national championship, five conference titles (1991, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2002), 15 trips to the NCAA Regionals in 19 years (reaching the regional finals 13 times), and trips to the 1995, 1998, 2000 and 2001 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 four times (1991-95-96-2002) 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 (until it was surpassed by the 2003 squad). During his tenure at USC, Gillespie has coached 24 players who have played in the major leagues, including Aaron Boone, Bret Boone, Geoff Jenkins, Jacque Jones, Mark Prior and Barry Zito.
CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED GLOVE -- With the return of seven position players from last year's squad, things bode well for the 2006 Trojans in terms of fielding. Last year's team finished with a .971 percentage on the season, which was the second-highest in Mike Gillespie's 19-year tenure. The 2001 team produced a .973 fielding percentage and the school's last trip to the College World Series.
ON THE SHELF -- Two pitchers, sophomore Anthony Encinas (Norwalk/Santa Fe HS) and freshman Nate Klein (Goleta/Dos Pueblos HS), are out for the 2006 season after both players underwent Tommy John surgery on their right elbows. Encinas went 7-4 last season for the Trojans with a 4.68 ERA (50 IP, 46 H, 26 ER, 22 BB, 43 SO, .241 opponents' batting average).
BE LIKE IKE -- Junior right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy (Huntington Beach/La Quinta HS), nicknamed 'Ike,' has been the Trojans' No. 1 starter for two seasons and begins the 2006 campaign as one of the nation's top pitchers. As a returning All-American, Kennedy should be a lock as a first-round selection in the 2006 draft. He has a career 19-5 record with a 2.70 ERA and 278 strikeouts.
THEY LIKE IKE -- Kennedy was a semifinalist for three major national awards last year: the 2005 Roger Clemens Award, the Xanthus-Dick Howser Trophy and the Brooks Wallace College Player of the Year Award. This year, he is on the 2006 Roger Clemens Award Watch List.
LEADER OF THE PAC -- Ian Kennedy earned 2005 Pac-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year honors, becoming the eighth Trojan to receive the honor since the award was created in 1991. He was the first USC pitcher to win it since Mark Prior in 2001.
THE KING OF K'S -- Ian Kennedy is putting himself in good company based on his strikeout numbers. Kennedy currently holds the school career record for strikeouts per nine innings (11.93), surpassing the top mark (11.52) held by Mark Prior (2000-01).
USC Career Strikeouts Per Nine Innings 1 Ian Kennedy, 2004-06 11.93 2 Mark Prior, 2000-01 11.52 3 Rik Currier, 1998-2001 10.27 4 Peter Kenney, 1960-62 9.53 5 Spiro Psaltis, 1979-81 9.52 Other Notables Seth Etherton, 1995-98 9.47 Tom Seaver, 1965-66 8.00 Randy Johnson, 1983-85 7.62(Note: Career marks at USC are based on at least two seasons - Barry Zito played only one season, 1999).
PLAYING FOR THE USA -- Ian Kennedy became the fifth Trojan to play in back-to-back seasons (2004 and 2005) for the U.S. National Team, joining Jacque Jones, Eric Munson, Anthony Reyes and Jeff Clement. Last summer, he went 4-1 with a 2.89 ERA (28 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 10 BB, 35 SO, .118 opponents' batting average). He tossed seven no-hit innings against Chinese Taipei on July 15, 2005, in Taiwan, striking out nine and walking two in a 1-0 victory.
KENNEDY (2005) -- In his 2005 sophomore season, Kennedy was a consensus All-American, earning Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-America first team honors. He went 12-3 with a 2.54 ERA (117 IP, 85 H, 33 ER, 38 BB, 158 SO, .201 opponents' batting average). His 158 strikeouts were the most in the nation and placed him fourth on USC's all-time single-season list while his 12.15 strikeouts per nine innings ratio put him fifth on USC's list. In Pac-10 games this season, he was 7-1 with a 2.12 ERA (59 1/3 IP, 42 H, 14 ER, 17 BB, 88 SO, .200 OBA) and was named Pac-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year. He lasted eight and 1/3 innings on June 4 in a 6-4 win against host Long Beach State at the NCAA First-Round Regional, scattering eight hits with four runs and six strikeouts. He struck out 14 in seven innings on May 13 against Washington State, allowing one run on four hits with two walks. On May 3, he earned his second Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors of the season after striking out 14 batters in eight scoreless innings at No. 9/10 Arizona on April 29, allowing just three hits against a Wildcat team that was batting .328 prior to the game. In the 13-0 shutout, Kennedy and the Trojans gave Arizona starter John Meloan his first loss in 18 career starts. This season, Kennedy has defeated four front-line pitchers (all on the road): John Meloan (Arizona), Ricky Romero (Cal State Fullerton), Cesar Ramos (Long Beach State) and Tim Lincecum (Washington). Kennedy recorded two 'victories' in two days on April 20 at No. 2 Cal State Fullerton and April 22 at Cal. In the resumption of a halted game from Feb. 20, Kennedy went eight against against the defending national champion Titans, allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts. He pitched seven innings on Feb. 20 and one inning on April 20 for the win. He improved to 7-1 on the season at Cal with seven innings as he allowed two earned runs with no walks and seven strikeouts. On April 9 against UCLA on a televised broadcast, Kennedy threw his first complete game with a three-hit shutout, walking two and striking out a career-high 15 batters in a 9-0 victory. He earned his first Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors for his efforts against UCLA. Kennedy struck out a then career-high 13 batters on April 1 at Washington in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out six straight batters in a 2-1 win against the Huskies. He took the loss on March 4 against Texas A&M at the Maxwell Auto Group Round Rock Classic, but opened the game by striking out the first seven batters he faced and finishing with 10 strikeouts for the game. He struck out the side in the ninth inning in his first appearance on Feb. 8 against San Diego State and outdueled 2004 USA National Team cohort Cesar Ramos in a 4-3 win on Feb. 12 at No. 17 Long Beach State. Against the Dirtbags, Kennedy went six innings, allowing just four hits with one unearned run, two walks and six strikeouts.
KENNEDY (2004) -- In 2004, Ian Kennedy was the first freshman to be the Trojans' No. 1 pitcher since Randy Flores in 1994. He went 7-2 with a 2.91 ERA and one save (92 2/3 IP, 86 H, 30 ER, 31 BB, 120 SO, .244 opponents' batting average). Kennedy was a selection on the 2004 Baseball America Midseason Freshman All-America team. He pitched six innings, allowing two runs to earn the win at No. 1 Stanford on May 21 with the Trojans' 9-3 victory. Kennedy snapped a personal two-game losing streak on April 16 at Washington State, allowing a run in seven innings of work on six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. He struck out the side in the third and the seventh innings against the Cougars. In a televised game on March 27 against UCLA, Kennedy threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings, scattering seven hits and striking out eight with one walk in a 5-0 win against the Bruins. On March 12 at No. 22 Mississippi State, he earned the victory with 6 2/3 innings, allowing only one run on five hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. He struck out the side in the ninth on March 2 to earn his first collegiate save in a 2-0 win at UC Irvine. Kennedy struck out 10 batters in five innings on Feb. 27 to earn the win against No. 5 Georgia Tech, allowing two runs on five hits. On Feb. 20 against Louisville, Kennedy struck out 11 batters in seven shutout innings of work while giving up two hits and not allowing a walk. He was a member of the 2002 U.S. Junior National Team and started for the team at the 2002 IBAF World Junior Championships in the bronze medal game, but did not get a decision in a 12-3 win (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 10 SO).
KOSS AND EFFECT -- Junior Paul Koss (Orange/Orange Lutheran HS) is the Trojans' closer this season after a stellar sophomore season. He was 4-1 last season with a 2.81 ERA and 14 saves (51 1/3 IP, 39 H, 16 ER, 21 BB, 42 SO, .214 OBA). His 14 saves put him fifth on USC's all-time single season list. He retired the final 11 batters he faced in a dramatic 9-8 win in 10 innings on June 12 at No. 2 Oregon State in the NCAA Super Regional to earn his fourth victory of the season. During the NCAA First-Round Regional, he recorded three saves with 3 2/3 scoreless innings (four hits, no walks and three strikeouts). He recorded his tenth save on May 15 against Washington State with two no-hit innings. He threw a perfect inning on April 23 at Cal for his ninth save. On April 5 against Pepperdine, he allowed just one run in 2 2/3 innings for the save despite facing bases-loaded situations twice. He threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the save on March 24 against Arizona State. Koss retired four straight batters with two strikeouts to earn his third save of the year on March 12 against No. 19 Wichita State. He earned his first collegiate win on March 6 against No. 21 Nebraska, throwing a career-high 3 1/3 innings. Koss earned saves in back-to-back contests against No. 17 Long Beach State on Feb. 12 and 13.
CUE BALL -- Last season, Matt Cusick (Mission Viejo/Santa Margarita HS) became the first freshman to be the Trojans' leadoff hitter in a season opener since Wes Rachels did it in 1995. This season, he will make the switch to third base, replacing starter Billy Hart. Cusick was third on the team last year with a .311 batting average (70-for-225), earning him All-Pac-10 honorable mention recognition. He added four home runs and 35 RBI. Cusick was named most outstanding player at the NCAA First-Round Regional after batting .750 (9-for-12) with five runs, three doubles and four RBI. In fact, he was 9-for-10 in the first three games after a 4-4 performance on June 5 against Pepperdine. He had a season-long, 10-game hitting streak snapped on May 1 at Arizona and hit .439 during the streak. On Feb. 15 against San Diego, he delivered a 'cue shot' in the bottom of the ninth with a walkoff, two-run homer with two outs in USC's 7-5 win. Cusick struck out only five times in 95 at-bats during his senior season at Santa Margarita High and batted .389 with three home runs and 21 RBI. He earned Orange County Register All-County first team honors as Santa Margarita went on to win the 2004 CIF Southern Section Division IV championship.
STAR OF THE INFIELD -- Junior Hector Estrella (Rosemead/Northview HS) played the majority of his 2005 sophomore season at second base, but has the ability to play at shortstop as well. Estrella batted .271 (51-for-188) last year with three home runs and 28 RBI, earning him All-Pac-10 honorable mention recognition. He earned NCAA First-Round Regional All-Tournament honors after batting .222, but playing spectacular defense. On April 29 in a 13-0 shutout at No. 9/10 Arizona, he went 4-for-5 including a two-run triple. He had a career-high five RBI, along with a home run, on April 20 at No. 2 Cal State Fullerton with all five runs coming off Fullerton ace Ricky Romero. Estrella's two-run homer in the second inning held up in a 2-1 win on April 1 at Washington. Last summer, he batted .289 (43-for-149) with the Santa Barbara Foresters, along with 17 RBI and 19 stolen bases. He made 16 starts in 27 games and batted .216 (11-for-51) with six RBI and three stolen bases as a 2004 freshman.
HAMMERIN' HANK(ERD) -- Junior outfielder Cyle Hankerd (Covina/South Hills HS) is coming off a standout summer season after earning most valuable player honors in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Hankerd batted .383 (44-for-115) with nine home runs and 36 RBI for the league champion Newport Gulls. Last season for the Trojans, he batted .298 (65-for-218) with a home run and 39 RBI. On April 12 against No. 2 Cal State Fullerton, he hit a bases-loaded double with two outs in the eighth for USC's 4-2 win. Hankerd earned most valuable player honors at the 2005 OCYSF-UC Irvine Tournament (March 18-20) after going 7-for-11 (.636) with two doubles and six RBI. On March 18 vs. Nevada, he went 3-for-4 with two RBI and 2-for-3 with three RBI on March 20 against UC Irvine. He hit a bases-loaded triple on Feb. 13 in a 2-for-4 performance against No. 17 Long Beach State and 3-for-5 with a double, triple and three RBI on March 1 against UC Riverside. Last season, he made 49 starts in 50 appearances as a freshman last year, finishing second on the team with a .333 (47-for-141) batting average with a home run and 29 RBI. He recorded seven RBI during the Arizona State series (April 2-4) and collected his first college home run on April 13 at Pepperdine.
IT'S THE `V' ERA -- Senior utility Darin Vieira (San Jose/Bellarmine Prep) batted .241 (42-for-174), posting career bests with five home runs and 32 RBI. Vieira had a career-high, four RBI performance on May 22 at No. 3/5 Oregon State, adding his fifth home run of the season on a two-run shot to right. He also led the Trojans with three RBI in a 9-3 win on May 18 at Notre Dame. He hit his fourth home run of the season on April 29 in a 13-0 shutout at No. 9/10 Arizona and snapped a 3-3 tie with a two-run shot in the sixth on April 22 at Cal for the Trojans' 7-4 victory. He produced his first collegiate homer on April 8 against UCLA, adding three RBI on the day.
SHARPE AS A TACK -- Senior Blake Sharpe (Moorpark/L.A. Pierce College) showed his versatility last season after playing four positions for the Trojans (right field, first base, shortstop and second base). He finished the season with a .297 (74-for-249) average, along with 15 doubles, five home runs, 36 RBI and a team-leading 11 stolen bases. Sharpe earned 2005 All-Pac-10 honorable mention recognition. During the Washington State series (May 13-15), Sharpe went 9-for-13 (.692) with a triple, home run and seven RBI to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. As the leadoff hitter on May 14, he reached base safely in all six plate appearances, going 4-for-4 with a home run and career-high five RBI. He went 4-for-4 with a leadoff homer on April 10 in a 6-0 shutout against UCLA. On March 12 against No. 19 Wichita State, he recorded his first career five-hit game with a 5-for-5 effort and two doubles. He went 2-for-3 with two doubles and four RBI on March 1 against UC Riverside. Last season, Sharpe batted .316 (74-for-234) with two home runs and 28 RBI as a middle infielder. He batted .500 (9-for-18) in four games March 31-April 4, including a 4-for-5 performance on April 2 at No. 14 Arizona State. On Feb. 14 against No. 9 Long Beach State, he went 4-for-4 with a home run and four RBI in a 6-4 win.
THE RED BARON -- Senior Baron Frost (San Diego/St. Augustine HS) will see action in the outfield, as well as a designated hitter. Last season, he batted .274 (54-for-197) with four home runs and 30 RBI. He hit his first home run of the season on May 1 against Arizona off closer Mark Melancon. On May 13 against Washington State, Frost hit a grand slam to go with a career-high five RBI evening in the 9-1 win. Frost batted .303 (64-for-211) in his 2004 sophomore season with four home runs and 32 RBI. He led the Trojans with 20 doubles. Frost went 8-for-15 in the Arizona State series (April 2-4, 2004) with two doubles, a home run and seven RBI and went 3-for-6 with a double, home run and six RBI in the April 3 game.
PIANO MAN -- Sophomore Roberto Lopez (La Mesa/Rancho Bernardo HS) batted .264 (28-for-106) last season with a home run and 21 RBI. Lopez hit his first collegiate home run with a three-run shot to break a 5-5 tie in the seventh on May 10 at San Diego State. While playing in center field in the Feb. 13 game against No. 17 Long Beach State, Lopez started a double play to end the eighth inning when he threw a one-hop bullet to the plate to prevent the game-tying run. Although he can not read music, Lopez is an accomplished piano player and can also speak Spanish.
THE DUDE -- Sophomore Lucas Duda (Riverside/Arlington HS) played at first base and also was a designated hitter last year. He suffered a left wrist injury on March 25 against Arizona State and did not play again until April 26 against Loyola Marymount. He finished with a .208 (16-for-77) average with a home run and 11 RBI. He clubbed his first collegiate home run on March 19 against Stony Brook with a three-run homer. Duda was the 2004 CIF-SS Division I Player of the Year. He earned the save in Arlington's 4-3 win over Long Beach Wilson (against current USC teammates Spencer Pabst and Ryan Schlack) in the CIF Division I Championship game at Dodger Stadium. He earned All-CIF and All-Ivy League honors as a junior after batting .493 with nine home runs and 33 RBI.
MEET YOU IN WILLIAMSPORT -- USC has two players who played in the Little League World Series. In the 1996 LLWS, Blake Sharpe played for the Moorpark, Calif, team. Infielder Matt Cusick played for the South Mission Viejo squad in the 1997 LLWS.
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 four trips to Omaha (1995-1998-2000-2001), winning their 12th CWS title in 1998. USC has the second-most wins (74) at the CWS and is second for most appearances (21) behind Texas (32). The Trojans also have the highest winning percentage for all teams (.740) that have played at least 20 games at the CWS.
BASEBALL HALL OF FAME -- On Feb. 1, 2003, the USC Baseball Hall of Fame opened to the public for the first time. The Hall of Fame was the final part of a $4 million Dedeaux Field renovation project that included a new locker room, seating pavilion on the first base side and stadium seating. All 12 national championship trophies are permanently displayed as well as the awards won by former Trojan and current Chicago Cub pitcher Mark Prior during his 2001 national player of the year season. The major league uniforms of former Trojans are also on display.