Baseball faces formidable tests this season

USC will travel for its home games amid construction at Dedeaux Field this season.

Senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Stromsborg appeared and started in 13 games as the Friday night starter for the Trojans last season. The California native led USC in innings pitched and was second in strikeouts. (Louis Chen / Daily Trojan)

After coming off a season with then-first-year Head Coach Andy Stankiewicz, the Trojans nearly secured their first bid to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship since 2015. They finished with a record of 34-23-1 last season, good for fourth place in the Pac-12, but not good enough for the top 64 teams in the country. 

USC seemed pretty comfortable at home last season, boasting a 26-6 record. They look to continue this record at home, but home will be a little different for the Trojans this season. USC baseball has called Dedeaux Field home since the 1974 season, but that won’t be the case for the next two seasons because of the demolition of the field and surrounding stadium.

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“One of the great things about having a home field is you get to collect a routine, right? Like you go to class, you go to lunch, you go to the cages. A lot of routines that you can create typically for baseball players is pretty helpful,” said Stankiewicz in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “In baseball, routine is a big deal.”

The Trojans will be back playing home games on campus at the new field for the 2026 season. In the meantime, USC will be taking buses back and forth, calling three different fields their home: Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Page Stadium on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Westchester and Cicerone Field at UC Irvine’s Anteater Ballpark. 

Senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Stromsborg sees this challenging circumstance with a positive mindset and a way to grow as a team.

“This is a great opportunity for us as a team to get closer,” Stromsborg said. “What’s unique about this situation is the fact that we get to stay together, we get to be with each other more than we normally would be.”

One current player on the team who is expected to have a tremendously positive impact is sophomore outfielder Austin Overn. The freshman-year standout led the nation in triples and shattered USC’s single-season triples record with 14. He was also a former wide receiver on the football team, seventh in the Pac-12 conference in steals with 16.

“People know about him now. Last year, he was kind of an unknown, he was playing football,” Stankeiwicz said. “Now people know. They’re going to pay attention to him more, and they’re going to understand how to pitch him probably a little bit better.” 

Speaking of multi-sport athletes, freshman outfielder Duce Robinson will have a major spotlight on him in his first season of baseball with the Trojans. The 30th-ranked outfielder out of high school from Perfect Game is also a star on the gridiron for football Head Coach Lincoln Riley. 

Robinson surpassed 351 receiving yards as a wide receiver for the football team and hauled in two touchdowns on the season. Back on the baseball field, he will need to adapt to the playing conditions. Robinson joined the team in January and didn’t play baseball during his senior year of high school, so this will be his first year playing baseball in one-and-a-half calendar years. 

“He’s got some challenges in front of him and he knows it,” Stankiewicz said. “He’s raw. In intersquads, he’s seeing a lot more off-speed pitches … and these are a little bit more difficult to hit than what he hit in high school.”

As for the pitching side of things, the Trojans are returning two of their three weekend starters from last season. Junior right-handed pitcher Caden Aoki and Stromsborg are looking to carry the Trojans’ pitching staff to repeat their feat of leading the Pac-12 in ERA. 

“We have a good group of returners, and we have a great group of young guys and new guys that have really adapted to our pitching coach Seth Etherton’s ways,” Stromsborg said. “We’ve really worked hard through the fall and this early spring to do all that he’s communicated to us, and I think we’re a really tight-knit unit and that’s going to be key for us.”

Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Channing Austin missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery, and he will be a force to reckon with in this upcoming season for the Trojans. Austin transferred from Virginia his freshman year and his mid-90s fastball will take some burden off of Stromsborg and the preseason Pac-12 All-Conference member in Aoki.

“His ability to throw strikes will really dictate how much we use him, but it’s good to see him healthy,” Stankiewicz said. “I’m encouraged by what we see.“ 

The Trojans will be returning five of their eight most-started players last season to give them a boost to be competitive in Pac-12 play. 

USC will play seven of its first 13 games on the road, with opening day being this weekend. 

“There’s definitely some jitters and excitement to get going because obviously, opening day is a special feeling,” Stromsborg said. “But at the same time, we have to take it game by game and realize that every game is huge.”

The Trojans start the season off at the MLB Desert Invitational in Mesa, Arizona Friday against Brigham Young University.

Valen Lu contributed to this report.

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