For most of us, growing up included a dominant USC Baseball team to follow. From Tom Seaver to Randy Johnson to Mark McGwire and Mark Prior, the Trojans were always the class of college baseball. Having won more titles than anyone(12), and the greatest man ever to manage at the college level in Rod Dedeaux, there’s no reason why the Trojans should not be in hunt for the College World Series every year. Yet, since Mike Gillespie retired in 2006 and ultimately wound up at UC Irvine a year later, the Trojans have fallen on very hard times, and have seen the crosstown rivals soar to new heights.
It’s been seven years since the Trojans made the NCAA Tournament, and 11 since they last made it to Omaha in 2001, as the team’s third trip in four years. Without Gillespie, the Trojans have had trouble recruiting, as the current seven year drought of having an All-American is longest in the program’s history. USC is in the greatest location for finding ballplayers, that’s evident in the success of local schools like Fullerton, Long Beach, Pepperdine, UCLA and the previously mentioned UC Irvine, whom Gillespie has taken to the College World Series. But even without the top players that the Trojans are used to getting, there’s still some hope that USC can put together a solid season in 2012, as they have an experience roster anchored by a solid senior class.
The Trojans return ace pitcher Andrew Triggs(right), who in his first outing of the season in Friday’s Opening Day game against Jacksonville, picked up the win and a quality start. Triggs pitched six, two-run innings and never labored too much, walking just two while he struck out six. Triggs, who is ironically enough this week’s USC Scholar Athlete of the Week, has lowered his ERA every season while at SC. Last year as a junior, the 6’3″ righty walked just 28 batters in 90 and two thirds innings, while striking out a career high 72 batters on his way to a 3.67 ERA and a 5-4 record.
Along with Triggs, the Trojans return Alex Sherrod, the Trojans’ best hitter and the guy manager Frank Cruz has in the three-hole. Sherrod hit at a .318 clip a season ago, while clubbing six homers and driving in 35. Other key contributors offensively for the Trojans include catcher Kevin Roundtree and first baseman Matt Foat. The trio combined to go 4 for 12 with four RBIs in Friday’s opener, and should provide the Trojans will plenty of senior leadership.
So while the Trojans lack a game changer like Mark Prior or Jeff Clement, a slew of seniors should help the Trojans establish a new identity, and give SC a shot and turning heads in the Pac-12.
The Trojans close out the opening weekend series with Jacksonville with two games over the weekend, and both are afternoon affairs at Dedeaux Field. First pitch on Saturday is at 2pm, while Sunday’s game will begin at 1pm.