Trojans make strides throughout season
A quick glance at USC baseballâs record would tell you it was a difficult season, but to just look at the numbers wouldnât be fair.
The Trojans were picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10, without a full-time coach, and fresh off a last-place finish in the conference.
But the team finished seventh, the programâs best since 2006. Frank Cruz was appointed full-time coach May 19, and the Trojans dealt with their schedule valiantly, taking series from then-No. 11 Stanford, then-No. 6 Arizona State and then-No. 2 Oregon State , as well as knocking off then-No. 13 UCLA at Dodger Stadium.
âWe made a lot of strides this year,â Cruz said. âThe guys got a lot more comfortable with me and visa-versa.â
At nearly every position, the Trojans had players step up offensively and defensively. Junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa showed he was a worthy preseason All-American, leading the team in batting average (.322), RBI (44) and extra-base hits (18), among others. Senior second baseman Joe De Pinto hit .300 for the year and led the team in on-base percentage and steals. In addition to his reliability behind the plate, junior catcher Kevin Roundtree also hit leadoff for the Trojans and led the team in runs scored.
Following Oropesaâs move from first to third, sophomore infielder Adam Landecker was called upon to fill the void at first base. Landecker had a breakout season, hitting .280, committing just three errors on the year.
Junior Matt Foat proved more than capable in left field and Alex Sherrod shined in right field. The junior led the team in slugging at .486, and was second in almost every other stat category behind.
But perhaps no position player was as impressive as James Roberts. As a true freshman, Roberts started every single game at the most important defensive position â shortstop.
âAt the start of the season, we thought [Roberts] would pitch a bit for us,â Cruz said. âBut he was so impressive at short, we just couldnât move him.â
But the uncertainty surrounding the Trojans position players was nothing compared to their pitching staff, but despite this each of USCâs three starters more than earned their spots.
Junior Andrew Triggs returned as the Trojans top starter, finishing with a 3.67 ERA and led the team with 72 strikeouts. Triggs was especially brilliant down the stretch, going 3-1 with a 1.66 ERA in his final six games.
Austin Wood finished the season with a 5.61 ERA and 34 walks to his 50 strikeouts. But the junior flashed brilliance, including going eight strong innings against then-No. 11 Stanford and then-No. 2 Oregon State.
Senior Logan Odom was the most consistent starter, ending the season with a 3.96 ERA.
But for all the strides the team made this year, they might have lost many key players to the draft. Oropesa was selected in the third round by the San Franciso Giants, Odom was selected in the eighth round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Wood was selected in the sixth round by the Angels, junior pitcher Chad Smith was selected in the seventh round by the Minnesota Twins and DePinto was selected in the 21st round by the Chicago White Sox. The success of players like Sherrod, Roundtree and Triggs this year could cost the Trojans in the draft, too.
But Cruzâs focus is undeterred by what the draft could do to his present â or future â team.
âBottom line is at a program like USC, you expect to be playing in the postseason every year,â Cruz said. âAnd itâs disappointing weâre not right now.â