Baseball Prepares For Big Series At Stanford
March 6, 2001
LOS ANGELES -- The USC baseball team (12-4) -- winner of 12 NCAA championships, more than twice as many as any other school -- will host UC Riverside on Tuesday (March 6) and Hosei University from Japan in an exhibition on Wednesday (March 7) at Dedeaux Field. Both games will start at 5 p.m. The Trojans will then travel to No. 10 Stanford for a three-game non-conference series, beginning on Friday (March 9) at 6 p.m. Saturday (March 10) and Sunday's (March 11) game will take place at 1 p.m. All three games will be carried live on www.usctrojans.com.
RANKINGS -- USC is ranked No. 4 in the latest Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and ESPN/USA Today Baseball Weekly polls. Stanford is ranked No. 9 by Collegiate Baseball and ESPN/USA Today Baseball Weekly and No. 10 by Baseball America. UC Riverside is not ranked.
LAST WEEK -- USC garnered a three-game series sweep at Houston, avenging last year's series sweep by the Cougars at Dedeaux Field. Rain cancelled Friday's game so both teams played a doubleheader on Saturday (March 3). The Trojans won both games by scores of 6-3 and 7-3. In the first game, Mark Prior struck out 10 and did not allow a walk in eight innings. Josh Persell hit a two-run homer to center in the seventh. In the second game, Alberto Concepcion and Brian Barre hit back-to-back homers as part of a key fourth inning. Rik Currier struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings for his fourth win of the season. In the series finale, Fraser Dizard registered his first collegiate save in a 4-3 win. Dizard entered in the ninth with the tying run on second. Anthony Reyes recorded his first decision of the season, going six innings for the Trojans.
UC RIVERSIDE NOTES -- UC Riverside is 5-13 on the season. The Highlanders lost three of four games to Washington last weekend. Catcher Jimmy Anderson is batting .339 while first baseman Brandon Smith is batting .309 with a team-leading four home runs and 20 RBI. Head Coach Jack Smitheran is in his 28th season at UC Riverside. USC leads the all-time series with UC Riverside by a 10-1 margin.
STANFORD NOTES -- Stanford is 14-5 on the season. The Cardinal had a five-game winning streak snapped on March 3 in a 3-2 non-conference loss to California. Sophomore outfielder Jason Cooper is batting .333 with six home runs and 16 RBI while infielder Chris O'Riordan is batting .364 with three home runs and 22 RBI. Stanford as a team is batting .275 while the pitching staff has a 2.98 ERA. BYU transfer Jeremy Guthrie is the No. 1 starter with a 4-0 record and 1.15 ERA while USC transfer Jeff Bruksch is 3-0 with a 3.48 ERA. Head Coach Mark Marquess is in his 25th season at Stanford and recently recorded his 1,000th victory. Stanford went 4-2 against USC last year. The Cardinal won two of three from the Trojans at Stanford (4-3, 7-11, 11-4) and two of three in the Pac-10 series at Dedeaux Field (3-7, 4-1, 18-4). USC leads the all-time series with Stanford by a 193-139-2 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 575-317-2 (.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.
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.
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. Ironically, rain is forecast for Tuesday's game against UC Riverside and on Friday and Saturday in the Bay Area for the Stanford series.
SCHEDULE CHANGES -- The game against San Diego that was rained out on Feb. 27 has been moved to Wednesday, March 14, at 5 p.m. at Dedeaux Field. A game has also been added for Tuesday, May 15, against Long Beach State at 5 p.m. as a makeup for the two rained out Mississippi State games.
TROJANS' HIT PARADE -- In 12 of 16 games this season, the Trojans have recorded 10 or more hits. USC is batting .297 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 74 times this season and struck out 81 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 150 strikeouts in 147 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 55 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 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA. In 29 2/3 innings, he has allowed 16 hits and has struck out 30 while allowing only eight walks. Opponents are hitting .157 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 third place on USC's all-time career list with 350 strikeouts. He has 30 this season and needs four to tie Brent Strom (1968-70) for second place and 61 to tie Seth Etherton (1995-98) for first.
Career Strikeouts1. Seth Etherton, 1995-98 420*2. Brent Strom, 1968-70 3633. Rik Currier, 1998-00 359 *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. Prior is 4-0 this season with a 1.83 ERA. In 34 1/3 innings this year, he has allowed 23 hits, struck out 53 and walked five with opponents batting .183 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. 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 53 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings this season with a 13.89 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 8-0 with a 1.83 ERA. In 64 innings, the duo has allowed only 39 hits, struck out 83 batters and walked 13. Both pitchers have allowed two doubles and two home runs each.
TO CATCH A THIEF -- Seth Davidson has been climbing the school's career list for most stolen bases. Davidson is second with 56 career steals and needs one 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 56
KUDOS TO YOU -- 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. He became the first Trojan to steal home since Morgan Ensberg did it in the 1998 national championship game at the College World Series in USC's 21-14 win against Arizona State.
PERSELL POWER -- Senior Josh Persell (Sherman Oaks/Montclair Prep) is off to a good start for the Trojans, batting .345 (19-for-55) with two home runs and 12 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 eight times this season. The school record is 16, held by Brett Jenkins (1991). Last year, Persell was hit 15 times, good for second place.
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 .295 (18-for-61) 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.
THE CRUSHER -- At only 5-8, junior Brian Barre (Garden Grove/Pacific HS) is having a banner season for the Trojans. He is batting .347 (17-for-49) with a team-leading three home runs. He also is tied with Bill Peavey with 15 RBI on the season. He needs only three 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.
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 .333 (19-for-57) on the season with eight RBI and two stolen bases. He has not recorded an error in 34 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 .323 (10-for-31) with two RBI and six stolen bases. 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.
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 .302 (16-for-53) and is tied for the team lead in RBI (15) with teammate Brian Barre. 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. Reyes was finally able to record his first win of the season on March 4 at Houston, going six innings and allowing two runs on seven hits. This season, he is 1-0 with a 4.44 ERA. 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.
THE GREAT GARIBALDI -- Junior Rob Garibaldi (Petaluma/Santa Rosa College) was steady for the Trojans last year at the plate and in the field as the starting right fielder. Garibaldi is batting .296 (16-for-54) this season with a home run and 13 RBI. 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 251 hits needs seven to tie Gabe Alvarez for third place and 17 to tie Jacque Jones for second place.- Davidson with 165 runs scored needs one to tie Bret Boone for sixth place, four to tie Mark Smith for fifth place and 10 to tie Walter Dawkins and Morgan Ensberg for third place.- Davidson with 56 stolen bases needs one 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 23 times hit by a pitch needs one to tie Brad Ticehurst for third place.- Rik Currier with 30 wins needs four to tie Jim Barr for seventh place.- Currier with 359 strikeouts needs four to tie Brent Strom for second place.- Mark Prior with 203 strikeouts needs three 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.