USC baseball might be turning the corner


This city is one that’s supposed to have eternal sunshine and always be 75, without a cloud in the sky.

But for some reason, Los Angeles decided to take a vacation last week and Seattle came and raided its house while it was gone.

But while it was tough to figure out Los Angeles, it wasn’t tough to figure out the USC baseball team.

Even rain, which causes frat houses to cancel parties, couldn’t stop the Trojans.

Yes, they went 2-1 in their opening tournament at Dedeaux Field, losing 11-7 in the championship game to perennial top-20 team North Carolina, but after a 6-3 road win at UC Riverside that brings USC’s record to 3-1 on the year, the forecast is beginning to look sunny for the Trojans.

These first four games are a sign that USC baseball is on the upswing.

The Trojans showcased some great young talent, beginning with freshman Jake Hernandez, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs against UNC, freshman pitcher Kyle Richter, who picked up the win by pitching one and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief against Riverside, and freshman shortstop James Roberts, who has only two hits in 13 at-bats, but also has three RBIs and has started all four games.

The Trojans also have a great new coach.

USC made progress before the season even started by firing Chad Kreuter — who was a mediocre coach at best, compiling a 111-117 record in his four years at USC — in the offseason.

In stepped Frank Cruz as the interim coach, and he’s done a fantastic job so far.

The former manager of the USA baseball team, Cruz has been very proactive, getting a lot of players playing time early on so he can find the right mix while players gain experience all across the board.

But I think the biggest positive  in these first four games is that in all four games, the Trojans left something to be desired.

All weekend they left runners stranded, most of them in scoring position.

All told, USC has left 36 players on base, which averages to nine per game.

If USC can score just a quarter of those runners, it could be a very good team.

Make no mistake, the Trojans still have a long way to go before being a consistently good team.

I am aware it is still ridiculously early in the season. But they are rounding first.

With a win at Rice tonight, the Trojans have a chance to be three games above .500 for the first time since April 2009.

That just shows how bad USC has been recently.

Three games above .500 won’t win you any NCAA Championships or even Pac-10 titles anytime soon.

It might get you into the tournament.

For a team predicted to finish ninth in the Pac-10, however, three games above .500 ain’t too shabby.

To complement the young talent, USC has a solid squad of veteran players it hasn’t seen in a while.

Junior Ricky Oropesa leads the way as a preseason All-American, and he hasn’t disappointed thus far.

The first basemen is batting .267 with four RBIs, including a clutch two-out, bases-clearing double to tie the game at 7 against the Tar Heels in the bottom of the sixth inning. Senior Joe De Pinto is proving a leader as well, batting a monstrous .643 with six runs and three RBIs.

Not to be forgotten, newcomer Austin Wood has proved a steady hand.

The community college pitcher who was picked in the fourth round by the Tampa Bay Rays is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA so far.

These three players, combined with another handful of juniors, give the Trojans depth but also stability as they look forward to this year.

They have a very big challenge with three games at No. 22 Rice this weekend.

If the Trojans can take two of three from the Owls, they will off to their best start in recent memory.

Baseball at USC is a heritage, and an honored tradition that has been missing for dozens of years.

Many current Trojans would probably find it hard to believe USC holds the record for national championships with 12, and has only won one of those since 1979.

I don’t see a championship coming in the next year or two, but I do see a program on the rise that has been in the cellar for many years.

Expect USC baseball to finish higher than ninth place in the conference this season as it begins to move toward a brighter future.

“Spittin’ Sports” runs Fridays. To comment on this article e-mail Kenny at klegan@usc.edu or visit dailytrojan.com.

1 reply
  1. Rich Salas
    Rich Salas says:

    We HAVE to get back to being the Trojans on the baseball field that we are supposed to be, the one that everyone hears and reads about!

    FIGHT ON!!

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