USC Baseball: Seniors Reflect on Their Final Season


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The season has come and past from the friendly confines of Dedeaux Field, and the boys in Cardinal and Gold have already hung up the cleats for the final time.

While the younger players gear up for more collegiate baseball, the next class of freshmen begin summer school classes, as the coaching staff works to reel in the following recruiting class by attracting them towards the tradition and excellence of USC.

For some players however, the life of college baseball is over. Greg Zebrack, Adam Landecker, Matt Munson and Nick Berhel are among the Trojans who have officially played their last games at the University Southern California.

These players arrived back from Tucson, following their three-game series against the Arizona Wildcats, with the passion that fueled their curiosity towards loving the game. The moments all came together May 19th, when USC and UCLA clashed in the Crosstown Showdown on Senior Day.

The four seniors received special praise from the crowd, and following the 5-2 loss to UCLA, we spoke with some of the honored men to address their careers, and the future of the program.

“You make the play, you make the pitch, and you just grow up a little faster,” Greg Zebrack commented about the final moments of his playing career. That being said, “I did not feel to much nostalgia in the moment,” he said.

For Zebrack, finishing the season on the road is nothing new for the fifth-year senior. Zebrack played at Penn for three seasons and was honored at Senior Day for the Quakers last year, before traveling to Columbia for a two-game series to finish his undergraduate career.

Now in his final year, the return for Zebrack is rather chilling.

“I was trying to learn, looking at upperclassmen,” Zebrack mentions about his freshmen campaign. All the way back in 2009, Zebrack participated in 21 games for the Trojans, finishing the season with a .100 batting average.

Then, after spending three years at Penn, earning All-Ivy League honors in 2011-2012, Zebrack returned to USC with a different mindset. “Now I have to teach other guys,” he said.

Things were not all fun and games for Zebrack to start off his honeymoon season in Southern California. Luckily for him, a brief meeting with Trojans third base coach Gabe Alvarez helped boost an impressive second-half.

“I had to change something; I was scuffling and things were not working,” Zebrack said about his .270 batting average heading into Pac-12 play. After working with Alvarez and finding some kinks in his swing, Zebrack improved.

“I got kinda hot, and a little lucky too,” he said with a laugh.

Three head coaching changes later, and the stench of eight-straight losing seasons over their heads, Zebrack has noticed major changes with the program. “It’s totally different,” he said. “Back then, [I] was totally selfish, [thinking] more about where am I going to be drafted, but now it’s not [like that here].”

The Northridge-native loves his memories at USC and believes the future is rather bright for the program, despite the hard times.

“I can tell from last couple of years, games got out of hand,” said Zebrack. But he maintained that this season, that changed. “There is none of that here [now].”

The Trojans center fielder hit .345 on the season, finishing second on the team in batting average, hits and homeruns. As a veteran leader on the largely young Trojan squads, Zebrack exhibited patience early, but was rewarded down the stretch. “Those freshmen know how to win, and it’s sometimes frustrating, because our freshmen play very inconsistently.”

The Seniors on this ball club were on the same page, when it all began early in the year. “At the beginning of the year, it was tough,” senior second-baseman Adam Landecker said about working with the 16 true freshmen on the ball club.

Landecker has been the heart and soul of the program, starting at least 39 games in all four seasons. His senior season however, may have been his best one. He finished the year hitting a team-high .351 at the plate, including finishing third-best with 18 doubles on the year and an impressive 71 hits.

The buds have seen the Trojans struggle and succeed through thick and thin. “We’ve really turned the corner, going towards that buy in,” Zebrack said.

“It’s more of a team-team atmosphere,” Landecker said, before emphatically mentioning that, “this team wanted to win every game.”

The other seniors, Matt Munson and Nick Berhel, sparingly came out the bullpen for USC this season but were key parts of the Trojans program.

After redshirting his freshmen year back in 2010 and missing the entire 2011 campaign due to injury, Nick Berhel finished his career with 12 appearances out of the bullpen. The De La Salle High School standout finished his career with an 8.10 ERA, as a well-respected teammate in the locker room.

Matt Munson pitched for three seasons at USC, after transferring from Saddleback College. The Irvine-native was the cousin of Eric Munson, the All-American catcher at USC who played in the big leagues. Matt appeared 16 times out of the pen this season posting a 2-0 record with a 9.82 ERA, which unfortunately ballooned after struggling against Arizona last weekend.

What will the Trojans miss from their Seniors?

“Well, obviously some production,” manager Dan Hubbs said jokingly. “You have two guys hitting over .300, and two bullpen arms which are always valuable. Other guys will have to improve next season.

With that in mind, the Seniors clean out their lockers officially ending their playing careers at USC.