Every time the USC baseball team has taken the field this year, they have left with a win. Seven games and seven victories mean that for the first time since 1988, USC baseball is 7-0. The 1988 team ended up 15-0 before finally dropping a game, so this 2012 team has its work cut out if it wants to match that record.
Tuesday afternoon, the Trojans begin their toughest week of the season as they travel to Malibu to face Pepperdine at 2 p.m.
The tough stretch continues this weekend when they travel to North Carolina to take on the No. 6 Tar Heels in a three-game set, and will come to a close a week from today when the Trojans host No. 17 Cal State Fullerton back at Dedeaux Field.
With two ranked teams on the horizon, it would seem fairly easy to look past the Waves (6-2), but one look at the Waves’ record indicates that would be a bad idea.
“Pepperdine has played really, really well this year,” USC coach Frank Cruz said. “We’re gonna have to be really prepared, really focused and just execute.”
“Just execute” is exactly what the Trojans have done this year, getting both expected and unexpected contributions.
Among those expected: right fielder Alex Sherrod. While the senior hit just .259 to start the year, he is tied for the team lead in RBIs with seven and homers with two, including a mammoth grand slam against Akron on Sunday.
“Winning makes everything better,” Sherrod said. “It makes you feel 10 pounds lighter. We dance in the locker room after wins. It’s just fun.”
But for every player like Sherrod, who is an experienced senior and expected to make a significant contribution, there are also younger players who have stepped cleanly and successfully into their roles.
Freshman Dante Flores has established himself as the starting second baseman, and freshman Garrett Stubbs, recruited as a catcher, has locked down center field.
“I’d never played center field before in my life,” Stubbs said. “I’d actually never even played outfield in general.”
Stubbs has turned into a bit of a prodigy. He not only bats leadoff, but he is hitting .346 and has a .500 on-base percentage.
“It’s been pretty unbelievable,” Stubbs said of his first few weeks as a Trojan. “It’s just fun to be around all of these guys and winning a lot.”
Players like Stubbs are one of the principal reasons for the Trojans’ success: They simply don’t make outs. As a team, the players’ on-base percentage is an incredible .450. Stubbs is just one of five players with an on-base percentage above .500, led by sophomore walk-on left fielder Kevin Swick’s .556.
Both Swick and Stubbs are incredibly versatile players. Stubbs has played catcher, left field and center field. Swick can play both left field and third base. Senior catcher Kevin Roundtree can also play either corner infield position. Junior third baseman Adam Landecker can play both shortstop and second base as well.
Perhaps most impressive is the versatility of senior Brandon Garcia. On the weekends he serves as the Trojans’ designated hitter and leads the team in both slugging and walks. Today, he will take the mound for his second start of the season in his second year as USC’s midweek starter.