USC Signs 10 Players For 2009 Season

Nov. 20, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- A total of 10 high school players have signed national letters-of-intent to play for the USC baseball program in 2009, head coach Chad Kreuter announced today. The Trojans' class includes two Aflac High School All-Americans with six players ranked in the top 200 nationally by Baseball America.

The signees are: outfielder Jay Austin (Atlanta, Ga./North Atlanta HS), shortstop Tim Beckham (Kennesaw, Ga./Griffin HS), first baseman Beau Brett (Spokane, Wash./Ferris HS), left-handed pitcher Danny Coulombe (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral HS), catcher/outfielder Brandon Garcia (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman HS), infielder Ashton Kent (Tucson, Ariz./Catalina Foothill HS), first baseman/third baseman/pitcher Ricky Oropesa (Rancho Cucamonga/Etiwanda HS), right-handed pitcher Jon Pettibone (Yorba Linda/Esperanza HS), right-handed pitcher Chad Smith (Thousand Oaks/Thousand Oaks HS) and right-handed pitcher Michael Tonkin (Palmdale/Palmdale HS).

'We are extremely excited about what will be the first stage of our recruiting class,' said Kreuter. 'We were able to go out and get four front-line arms, an important ingredient with the new condensed schedule. All four guys have projectable arms with velocities in the low 90s. The trio of Pettibone, Smith and Tonkin all have a very high ceiling and Coulombe might have the best left-handed breaking ball around.'

'I think the commitment of Tim and Jay says a lot about what we are doing here now. This is the first time we have been able to recruit kids from the South. The signing of Tim and Jay out of Georgia will open the doors for us in places where we had typically been locked out. We will continue to hit the southern California area very hard, but will not shy away from the top out-of-state players.'

First-year assistant coach Doyle Wilson, the lead recruiter for USC and helped to compile the Trojans' class along with pitching coach Tom House and volunteer assistant coach Tim Burton.

'I think it's important for our fans to understand that there is a buzz about USC going on out there again with players and it should be there since this is one of the most storied programs in college baseball,' said Wilson.

Kreuter alluded to the impact that his coaching staff has made in recruiting.

'They have helped put us back on a national stage,' said Kreuter. 'They are the components that have allowed us to go out there and land the commitments we have received. Certainly, the football and men's basketball programs at USC have elevated the bar nationally. USC's athletics and academics are a powerful draw...the best of both worlds!'Here are brief biographies on the key players:

Jay Austin, OF, 6-1 180 (Atlanta, Ga./North Atlanta HS) -- Austin is rated by Perfect Game as the No. 17 outfielder nationally and No. 87 overall. He was named fastest baserunner and ranked No. 32 at the WWBA Fall Championship.

Kreuter on Austin: 'He is extremely athletic and runs a 6.2 in the 60-yard dash, which makes him well above average with world class speed. He has a plus arm from the outfield and is a contact line drive hitter with occasional power. He definitely is a front-line college players who will make an immediate impact at both USC and in the Pac-10 Conference.'

Tim Beckham, SS, 6-2 190 (Kennesaw, Ga./Griffin HS) -- Beckham is rated as the No. 2 high school prospect in the nation by Baseball America and as the top infielder in the nation by Perfect Game. He earned most valuable player honors at the 2007 Aflac High School All-American Classic in San Diego. In the Classic, he drove in three runs, including a triple in the eighth inning. He was also ranked as the fourth-best junior at the World Wood Bat Association fall championship in Jupiter, Fla. in October. As a junior at Griffin High, he batted .512 with nine doubles, six triples, six home runs, 39 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. He batted .498 with six home runs, 22 RBI and 18 stolen bases in his 2006 sophomore season.

Kreuter on Beckham: 'He has the most tools of any player on the board. He's big and physical. He has hands on defense similar to that of Omar Vizquel. His bat plays even bigger. Tim is also a 6.2 runner in the 60-yard dash. Tim's commitment to USC will open the door for other Southern players to take the journey out West. I have been impressed with Tim's maturity and professional manner. He is a true leader on the field and will be a beacon for USC baseball.'

Beau Brett, 1B, 6-3 170 (Spokane, Wash./Ferris HS) -- Brett is rated No. 175 in the nation by Baseball America as well as being rated as the No. 8 prospect in the state of Washington by His father, Bobby, is the managing partner for the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League and also involved with the High Desert Mavericks (California League) and the Tri-City Dust Devils (Northwest League). Two uncles, Hall of Famer George Brett and the late Ken Brett, both played in the major leagues.

Kreuter on Brett: 'Beau is a three-sport star in Washington. He is a lean, dangerous left-handed hitter with better than average power. He comes from a rich baseball lineage, ready to come out and make a name for himself. Beau's athleticism will allow him to battle for immediate playing time at several positions. Look for Beau to carve out some history of his own at USC.'

Danny Coulombe, LHP, 6-0 165 (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral HS) -- Coulombe earned Class 4A-1A All-East Valley Tribune first team honors last season after going 10-2 with a 1.08 ERA and 120 strikeouts. He is rated No. 199 in the nation by Baseball America while Perfect Game lists him at No. 22 nationally for left-handed pitchers and No. 172 overall.

Kreuter on Coulombe: 'Danny is a tremendous left-hander with polished mechanics and big game experience. He has been the anchor for his nationally-ranked high school and national championship summer teams. He features and average to above average fastball and changeup with a devastating curve ball. He works both sides of the plate extremely well and has a great feel for pitching. Danny will make an immediate impact in the Pac-10 and will be a staple in the Trojan rotation for years to come.'

Brandon Garcia, C/OF, 6-0 190 (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman HS) -- Garcia was a second-team all-state selection as an outfielder. He batted .466 with six home runs and 38 RBI last season as Bishop Gorman High won its second straight state championship.

Kreuter on Garcia: 'Brandon is a pure left-handed hitter with a great stroke. He is a contact hitter with power. We are expecting him to step into the lineup right away and be an offensive force. Like Oropesa, look for Brandon to be a power threat at Troy as he hits somewhere in the middle of the order.'

Ashton Kent, IF, 6-0 180 (Tucson, Ariz./Catalina Foothill HS) -- Kent earned Class 4A-5A second team honors after batting .425 (31-for-73) in 24 games for Catalina Foothill HS. He had seven doubles, two triples, one home run and 13 RBI while stealing 11 bases.

Kreuter on Kent: 'Ashton is a middle infielder with great hands and speed. He has a solid line drive approach with gap to gap power. He is also an elite soccer player, which will add speed and athleticism to the Trojan infield. Look for Ashton to push the Trojan veterans for an immediate spot in the infield.'

Ricky Oropesa, 1B/3B/RHP, 6-2 215 (Rancho Cucamonga/Etiwanda HS) -- As an Aflac High School All-American, Oropesa is a left-handed power hitter who is rated No. 91 nationally by Baseball America. He is also slotted as the No. 2 third baseman in the nation by Perfect Game and No. 18 for first basemen. As a junior, he hit .547 with 11 home runs, 46 RBIs, 11 doubles, 16 walks and seven strikeouts. He drove in a school-record 10 runs in his final game of the season, which included two home runs. He has appeared in numerous showcases and tournaments, including the Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C., and the Perfect Game National Showcase in Cincinnati.

Kreuter on Oropesa: 'Ricky is one of the top two-way players in the nation. Ricky's power potential is huge. He can play both outfield and infield corners and could also get behind the plate as a catcher. He can throw from the low to mid 90s on the mound, but most likely he will be spending his time at USC chasing Mark McGwire and Jeff Clement's home run marks.'

Jon Pettibone, RHP, 6-5 195 (Yorba Linda/Esperanza HS) -- Pettibone is rated No. 138 nationally by Baseball America. He earned Orange County Register All-Sunset League first team honors last season at Esperanza High after going 8-2 with a 2.88 ERA. In 68 innings, Pettibone allowed 57 hits with 16 walks and 48 strikeouts.

Kreuter on Pettibone: 'I'm very excited with the addition of Jon to the program. He has been a dominating high school pitcher, who is ready to take his game to the next level. He's a tall power pitcher with three quality pitches. Look for Jon to make his mark among the Trojan pitching greats.'

Chad Smith, RHP, 6-3 210 (Thousand Oaks/Thousand Oaks HS) -- Smith posted a 1.77 ERA in 35 2/3 innings last season at Thousand Oaks High, allowing 21 hits with four walks and 37 strikeouts.

Kreuter on Smith: 'Chad is a great competitor on the mound with great presence and leadership. He pitched very well this summer in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League. His experience proved invaluable as he returned to the Area Code Games as a buzz saw. Look for Chad to be a huge force for the Trojans.'

Michael Tonkin, RHP, 6-6 190 (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) -- Tonkin is rated No. 53 nationally by Baseball America while Perfect Game rates him as the No. 17 right-handed pitcher nationally and No. 56 overall. He went 8-2 for Palmdale High last season, posting a 1.87 ERA in 67 1/3 innings. He allowed 54 hits with 10 walks and 62 strikeouts.

Kreuter on Tonkin: 'Michael is a tall, hard-throwing right-hander with a pro sinker. He backs that up with two quality off-speed pitches that give him an unlimited ceiling. He has the promise to become another premier USC pitcher. His heavy sinker and hard slider will make him a household name.'

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