USC: baseball

Ryan Garvey won't play baseball for Trojans

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
3:48
PM PT
Ryan Garvey, son of former Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey, is leaving USC three months into his freshman year to continue his baseball career at Riverside City College, according to the Palm Springs Desert Sun.

Garvey played outfield for Palm Desert High School last season and was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 15th round, though he was projected as a top-five round pick.

He chose to sign with USC, but according to the Desert Sun has been overwhelmed by the academic demands.

“I was studying from 9:30 to 6 every day,” he said. “I was more worried about school than baseball, and my thing was to go there and play baseball.”

By leaving USC to play at the junior college level, Garvey will be eligible for the MLB draft again this June. If he had remained at USC, he would have had to play three seasons before becoming eligible for the draft again.

Baseball: USC at UCLA preview

May, 14, 2010
5/14/10
6:08
PM PT
USC baseball, winners of six of its last eight games, travels to UCLA's famed Jackie Robinson Stadium tonight to begin a crucial three-game series with the rival Bruins. The Trojans are a downtrodden 23-25 on the season; the Bruins, a very healthy 34-11. To preview the series, we bring in USC baseball alumnus Morgan Ensberg, who walked on to the baseball team and played third base for the 1998 national championship-winning squad. Ensberg went on to an eight-year major league career, retiring in 2009 and recently starting his own blog. Ensberg also does color commentary for collegiate baseball on ESPNU.

Take it away, Morgan:

What is my point?

It doesn’t matter what the rankings are in a rivalry ... it is about heart.

Why does it matter?

Playing against your rival is a gut check. Those teams that are able to rise to the challenge do so with pure desire.

Rivalry

For those of you who missed the last century, there is kind of a big rivalry between USC and UCLA. Some families are even split by this rivalry. My family happens to be one of them. While I was playing baseball at USC, my younger brother Larsen was playing soccer at UCLA. In fact, in 1998, both teams won national championships. My parents have all of those silly flags and banners that say, “Family divided.” But it is a good rivalry in the house.

Phone calls

“Hey Lars!”

“Just say it.”

“What?”

“About the football game.”

“Oh, I almost forgot. Do you mean that embarrassing beat down that we gave you last Saturday in football? Thanks for reminding me. That has to be embarrassing. If I were you I would transfer so that you can feel what it is like to go to a school that makes champions.”

“Yeah sure Morgan. Did you have a chance to ride that horse? What’s his name? Trigger? Isn’t that the horse from the Lone Ranger? Sort of lame that SC has to use a used horse from some old black and white movie ... how old is that thing? Has to be ready for the glue factory.”

This is an example of what it is like in my family. The “smack” is non-stop. No matter what it is, the winner will be calling the loser after the game. Lately it has been Lars calling me in baseball.

USC baseball

USC has the greatest tradition in college baseball. We have 12 national championships, which dwarfs any other college. Rod Dedeaux is considered a baseball God. He is the father of the international game that has lead to baseball becoming an Olympic sport. Before there were U.S. national baseball teams, Dedeaux took the Trojans overseas to Japan to tour the country and “barnstorm” like major league teams used to do. If apple pie is to America, then baseball is to USC. It might not be the most popular sport on campus, but we are a baseball school. Students should know that. This leads me to the series this weekend against UCLA.

Letter to the USC baseball team:

Dear SC Baseball:
You are the Yankees of college baseball. Do you understand what that means? It means that you belong to the best college baseball school in the history of the game. It means that every time you step on that field you are prepared to crush the opposition. I don’t care who we are playing. We win. We don’t complain, we don’t point fingers, we work! We outplay, out-execute, out-compete!
Men when you are putting on that uniform before the game I hope you take an extra moment to remember who you are. As you are tying your shoelaces I want you to think about whom you represent. We are the USC Trojans and we never quit! We never give up!
Maybe you haven’t heard the secret to USC baseball. We are the best because we want it more than they do. Now put on that uniform and get your minds right. It is about desire to be great. We are great. The school is watching. Former SC players are watching. Crush them! This is about heart! Fight on!

Morgan Ensberg

Recapping Tuesday

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
12:22
AM PT
The NFL combine ends in Indianapolis, a baseball win in Long Beach and previewing Thursday's matchup with Arizona State. All in Tuesday's links and notes:
  • Controversy over the 40-yard dash time of USC safety Taylor Mays highlighted the final day of the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Mays' unofficial time was first reported by NFL Network to be a 4.24 — which would tie Chris Johnson's 2008 time as the best of the past 10 years. But Mays' official time came back a 4.43, making for an almost unheard-of discrepancy between unofficial and official times. Either way, Mays' time was tops among all defensive backs. Other stats for Mays: 24 reps of 225 pounds and a 41-inch vertical. Defensive end Everson Griffen also recorded an impressive 4.66 time in the 40.
  • More football news: Chris Kiffin has been hired as a defensive administrative assistant for his brother at USC, sophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones is not yet cleared for spring practice, and the new USC coaching staff worked with its players for the first time today. The workout was one of six allowed by the NCAA before spring practice, which begins for the Trojans on March 30.
  • The Arizona Republic's Doug Haller reports Arizona State, USC's opponent Thursday night, struggled against California on Saturday — and struggled so much that it reminded the Sun Devils of their 47-37 loss to the Trojans in January. From Haller's weekend rewind: "U is for USC, which Derek Glasser said is the only previous game he could remember when ASU's big guns -- Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks and himself -- couldn't hit an outside shot. 'When that happens, we got no shot at winning,' he said."
  • In baseball, USC beat the Dirtbags of Long Beach State 10-5 in Long Beach late Tuesday. In a practice only seen in college baseball, coach Chad Kreuter switched around his order to put his power hitter — sophomore Ricky Oropesa — leading off and his contact hitters batting second and third. Kreuter told me before the season he was considering batting Oropesa first everyday, because of the chance to get him an extra at-bat. Tuesday's lineup change didn't net Oropesa that at-bat, but the first baseman did go one for four with a walk and a home run. Alex Sherrod and Ashton Kent also homered as part of a seven-run third inning for the Trojans.
  • And lastly, former Trojans Matt Leinart and Ryan Kalil will appear at a presentation Wednesday just off campus at the USC Catholic Center. The 5:30 p.m. program, titled "Giving It All On and Off the Field," is free to those who e-mail their reservation to beverly@catholictrojan.org or by calling (213) 749-5341.

Baseball final: UCLA 6, USC 1

March, 1, 2010
3/01/10
2:50
PM PT
A while after Sunday's 6-1 loss to UCLA in the finale of the inaugural Dodgertown Classic, USC coach Chad Kreuter stood with his team, huddled in the middle of right field at Dodger Stadium.

He didn't look happy.

A few minutes after the talk began, Kreuter let his pitchers go. But the position players stayed, a product of what Kreuter called "disappointing" clutch hitting in each of their three games over the weekend.

"It's two, three nights in a row where we had opportunities to score early runs, and we haven't — and that can't happen," Kreuter said. "We're preaching it, and that's why we're eyeballing the hitters and trying to put the onus on them."

The Trojans (3-4) had plenty of opportunities to score. In three of the first four innings, they had a runner at third with one out. Each time, they failed to drive the runner in successfully.

It resulted in a less than pleasant affair.

"It was fun — for the first six innings," second baseman Joe De Pinto said. "But we gotta hit, and we gotta finish the game, and we're not doing that.

"It's on us."

The Bruins (6-0) used a variety of pitchers to stymie USC. Rob Rasmussen started the game and lasted 4 2/3 innings, giving up one run. Erik Goeddel provided 2 1/3 innings of no-hit relief, and lefthander Matt Grace and closer Dan Klein finished off the game.

USC starter Kevin Couture wasn't charged with any runs, but he recorded just five outs before exiting midway through the second after being hit by a comebacker. He will get X-rays on his right thumb — on Monday morning, Kreuter said. Reliever Ben Mount (0-1) picked up for Couture and pitched the third and fourth innings with ease but ran into trouble beginning in the fifth.

The Trojans' only one run came on back-to-back doubles by Cade Kreuter and Mike O'Neill in the fifth, but the Bruins put together a single, balk, error and double to score a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Then UCLA's Justin Uribe opened the floodgates with a two-out, two-run single in the seventh, and Niko Gallego added a homer as part of the Bruins' three-run eighth inning.

Notes: The announced attendance at the stadium was 14,588. The Trojans played before fewer than 400 fans on Friday and Saturday nights. Fans nearly filled the field level of the stadium and much of the left field pavilion. ... Also appearing in relief for the Trojans were righthanders Shuhei Fujiya and Ryan Cabral and lefthander Adam Dedeaux. ... Said De Pinto: "During the pregame, it looked like everybody was nervous. But after the first inning, that should really wear off."

Baseball: USC vs. UCLA preview

February, 28, 2010
2/28/10
2:05
PM PT
UCLA might be in great shape heading into the final game of the Dodgertown Classic today at Dodger Stadium, but USC sure isn't.

The Trojans have had a rough week. They beat Loyola Marymount on Tuesday but have fallen in three consecutive games since — including a 10-1 laughter at the hands of Vanderbilt last night.

But today's 2 p.m. start should be different, they say. It's been a focus of this USC team for a long time.

"We’re all looking forward to it," junior second baseman Joe De Pinto said. "I think we’ll be real pumped up.

"Hopefully, we’re not rattled or anything.”

De Pinto, from St. Francis High in La Canada, has a connection to UCLA's slated starter today. Bruin left-hander Rob Rasmussen went to nearby Pasadena Poly High. The two schools are natural rivals, and De Pinto said both he and Rasmussen had made up their minds on schools early on — creating a sense of competition between the two.

Said De Pinto: "I have a little beef with that guy."

Well, USC has a little beef with UCLA. The last time the two schools matched up, last March, the Bruins beat the Trojans 17-2.

On the mound for the Trojans today is senior right-hander Kevin Couture, who gave up three runs in seven innings in his first start of the season against Cal Poly.

Baseball: USC falls in extras to Oklahoma State

February, 27, 2010
2/27/10
12:10
AM PT
In the first game of this weekend's inaugural Dodgertown Classic, the Trojans battled — and battled hard, until what would've been their last at-bat — to stay close with visiting Oklahoma State.

But in the end, their efforts weren't enough. The Cowboys put together a methodical rally in their half of the 11th inning and beat USC, 6-4, in 11 innings.

“They weren’t anything we hadn’t seen before,” said USC right-hander Andrew Triggs, who started the game and lasted 5 1/3 innings. “They didn’t wow us, but they got the job done.”

Down 4-2 in the ninth, USC first had to rally to push the game into extra innings. With two outs and two runners in scoring position, second baseman Joe De Pinto (two for six, two RBIs) hit a two-run double to tie the score. The Trojans would strand him at second, though, and their offense grew stagnant for the duration of the game.

“Oh, I thought it was over from there,” Triggs said. “I thought there was no chance we wouldn’t win that game. It’s disappointing, especially with how close we got and how much it drug out in the 11th."

USC coach Chad Kreuter said his team's offense wasn't the same after the ninth.

“What happens when you get into extra innings is guys start trying to take real big swings — trying to be the hero,” Kreuter said. “All of the sudden, the guys’ approaches changed.”

But the collective mood after the game, when each of the players came out to lay down a tarp on the field, was still positive. Triggs said he was impressed with how the Trojans continued to battle despite being down for much of the game.

“Over the course of the year, we’re going to have a few more games like that," he said. "But I think if we keep that same mentality, we’re gonna come out on top more times than we’re gonna lose."

A bit of a stat roll from the game: USC's Matt Foat and Matt Hartcontinued their torrid start, combining to go three for 10 with a triple and a homer. Oklahoma State's starter — left-hander Tyler Lyons— went a crafty seven innings, mixing up a mid-80s fastball and solid breaking pitch to confuse the USC hitters.

Said Triggs: "That’s senior savvy right there. He’s not gonna do anything that’s gonna blow up the radar guns or overpower you, but he worked well with what we had."

A highlight in Friday's game came early on when Oklahoma State's Dusty Harvard made a spectacular diving play on a deep drive by Foat to center field. At the time he caught the ball, Harvard appeared to be almost completely horizontal.

The Trojans were more than complimentary of the catch afterward.

"That was the best play I've ever seen in my life," De Pinto said. "He was flying."

Next up for USC is a Saturday 6:30 p.m. game against Vanderbilt. The Commodores have been a noted college baseball powerhouse in past years, but Kreuter said his team wouldn't be making any adjustments.

“There’s no need to change anything,” Kreuter said. “We just have to get better at the little things.”

Triggs, a native of Nashville, Tenn., said he often attended Vanderbilt games growing up and was looking forward to seeing his hometown school.

Baseball: Oklahoma State on top through six

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
11:42
PM PT
It was a certifiable pitcher's duel through five innings here at Dedeaux Field, but visiting Oklahoma State managed to break through off of USC's Andrew Triggs and score three runs in the top half of the sixth inning.

The Cowboys lead 3-0 after six innings.

It's Oklahoma State's season opener, and ace lefthander Tyler Lyons has started off the season with flair. He has been dominant on the mound, giving up only three hits in six strong innings so far.

Triggs had been equally successful until the sixth, but the Cowboys chased him with a walk followed by three consecutive hits. Left-hander Brad Douthit replaced him.

Highlights so far include a remarkable catch by Oklahoma State center fielder Dusty Harvard off a Matt Foat drive. Harvard was in the air for a solid second and fully stretched out his body to make the catch roughly 320 feet from home plate. Foat, playing left field, followed it up with a sliding catch in foul territory later on.

USC's best opportunity to score came in the fifth inning, when third baseman Matt Hart led off with a triple. The next batter, shortstop Taylor Wrenn, proceeded to ground one to the right side of the infield , but OSU first baseman Dean Green threw home to get Hart at the plate.

Revisiting Oregon

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
4:12
PM PT
The mood in the USC locker room after Thursday's 54-44 loss to Oregon wasn't exactly happy. Before we head over to Dedeaux Field for tonight's 6:30 p.m. matchup with Oklahoma State, here are a few quotes that couldn't fit into the recap:

Senior guard Mike Gerrity, on hoping to finish well at the Galen Center on Saturday: "I'm just glad that's not our last game that we're leaving on."

More Gerrity, on offensive failures that contributed to the team's 12-point second half: "We settled a bit for the outside shot instead of trying to get it into the bigs. We were having some success, but I think we got away from that in the second half."

USC coach Kevin O'Neill, on an overall lack of energy exhibited by his team: "Even when we were up nine in the first half, we didn't play with energy. We just didn't have it tonight. I hope we can bounce back Saturday."

Sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic, asked if it was hard to get the ball inside when facing the 2-3 zone: "It is. Because those three guys inside, they really shrink. And as soon as we catch it it's like two or three guys on us. It's really hard to do something inside when a team plays zone because even if you catch it you can't make your move."

More Vucevic, on whether the team is capable of finishing strong and possibly capturing a share of the regular-season Pac-10 title: "It's going to be hard after a game like this tonight. But I think we can still bounce back."

And Oregon coach Ernie Kent, who was both extremely pleased with his team's performance and extremely complimentary of the Trojans: "USC is a big and physical basketball team. They play hard against the glass and the grit of this game was keeping them off the court. This team played very well and were tough competitors tonight."

Next up for the Trojans is a 4:30 game Saturday against Oregon State at the Galen Center, the last home game in the college careers of Gerrity, Dwight Lewis, and Marcus Johnson.

Recapping Tuesday

February, 23, 2010
2/23/10
11:27
PM PT
A baseball victory, more news on the Kevin O'Neill conference-call front, weekend happenings and recruiting speculation. All in Tuesday's links and notes:
  • The Los Angeles Times reports O'Neill's conference call with the NCAA Committee on Infractions that took place last Friday lasted nearly five hours. Said O'Neill of the correlation between a lack of a normal Friday schedule and Saturday's loss to Washington State, according to the Times: "It was a different situation. It threw us off our routine somewhat, but that's the way it is." O'Neill's team will host Oregon on Thursday and Oregon State on Saturday at the Galen Center. The Oregon State game will be senior night for USC's Dwight Lewis, Mike Gerrity, and Marcus Johnson.
  • Speaking of basketball, a documentary featuring USC guard Jio Fontan, titled "The Street Stops Here," is set for release next month. Fontan is featured as a high school senior at Jersey City St. Anthony High School. Says the press kit's biography of Fontan, who transferred to USC from Fordham after the fall semester: "A senior starting point guard, Jio Fontan is a co-captain of the team and is often seen as a soft voice of reason. Smart and strong-minded, Fontan is determined to learn from his father's transgressions and work hard in school to ensure that he is defined by more than just basketball." We'll soon have a review of the documentary, produced by Chicago-based Teamworks Media.
  • Meanwhile, the Orange County Register reports offensive line recruit Seantrel Henderson has no timetable on signing a letter of intent. Henderson committed to the Trojans on National Signing Day earlier this month but has not officially signed with USC. The Register quotes his father, Sean, as saying the Henderson family is still "just gathering info."
  • USC baseball managed to eek out a win in its home opener, 6-5 over Loyola Marymount. Sophomore right-hander Ben Mount made the start and lasted six innings, giving up only two hits and no walks. Reliever Brett Williams struck out the last batter of the game — and only one he faced — to earn the victory over his former team. The Trojans used some small ball in their half of the eighth inning, putting together two singles, a walk, a hit batter and an error to score three runs and take the lead. Tweeted freshman Cade Kreuter, coach Chad Kreuter's son, after the game: "another rbi under my belt, another win under our belt..i said we gonna have a rainy day tomorrow so 'brella up.' " The Trojans host Rikkyo University in an exhibition game Wednesday at Dedeaux Field.
  • On deck for this weekend is the NFL Combine, which actually begins Wednesday in Indianapolis. Workouts don't start until Saturday, however. The Daily News has the position-by-position workout schedule: offensive lineman, tight ends and specialists on Saturday; quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs on Sunday; defensive linemen and linebackers on Monday; and defensive backs on Tuesday.

Baseball: USC takes two out of three from Cal Poly

February, 21, 2010
2/21/10
10:33
PM PT
USC baseball's season-opening series in San Luis Obispo was "very successful," coach Chad Kreuter said Sunday.

The Trojans managed victories on both Friday and Sunday over Cal Poly, despite falling behind early in each game.

Friday, starting hurler Andrew Triggs gave up three quick runs in the first inning, putting USC in a deep hole. But the Trojans fought back slowly but surely, taking the lead on a bases-loaded walk by senior outfielder Mike O'Neill in the fifth inning and never relinquishing it.

And Sunday, sophomore infielder Ricky Oropesa broke a 4-4 tie with a solo home run to lead off the ninth inning, opening the floodgates in what would become a 9-4 victory for the Trojans.

'There are some big hits within this club,” Kreuter said by phone on the team's long, loud bus ride home from San Luis Obispo. “There are some guys with extraordinary talent that are capable of stepping up at any time.”

Asked if he expected the standout performances of newcomers Matt Foat and Matt Hart, who combined for a .462 average, 12 hits and 7 RBI over the weekend, Kreuter laughed.

“That’s good recruiting,” he said. “We recruited those guys to come in to be immediate contributors and replace some of the guys we lost in the draft.”

"We're really excited about both Matts."

USC did lose six players to the draft after last season, including shortstop Grant Green and catcher/pitcher Robert Stock. But while many analysts predicted the Trojans would experience a drop-off from their 28-28 record in 2009, Kreuter disagrees.

Kreuter, in his fourth season at USC, feels like he's assembled something this year he hadn't in years prior: a team with a collective identity.

Whether that identity results in anything remains to be seen — but in the meantime, "there’s a lot of character and a lot of fight in our ballclub," Kreuter said.

USC has a packed schedule in the coming week. A home game against Loyola Marymount comes Tuesday, an exhibition against the Japanese Rikkyo University is Wednesday, and big games against Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

And there's the all-important Sunday game against UCLA.

Kreuter said the plan is to approach the three weekend games as one series, and thus play accordingly.

"We want to get two of them," he said. "Or even three."

Notes: Two players with Trojan connections had memorable debuts over the weekend. Kreuter's son, the freshman Cade, hit a key two-run homer in the eighth inning of Sunday's game to give the Trojans a 4-3 lead, and catcher Richard Stock — also a freshman and the younger brother of Robert — hit the first pitch he saw in college "roughly 500 feet" for a home run in a pinch-hit appearance Saturday...Sunday's game against UCLA will be held at 2 p.m. at Dodger Stadium as part of the inaugural Dodgertown Classic.

Baseball season begins today

February, 19, 2010
2/19/10
3:07
PM PT
For USC, that is.

The Trojans open up their 2010 season with a three-game series with Cal Poly that begins today in San Luis Obispo.

On the mound for USC tonight is sophomore right-hander Andrew Triggs, who earned Pac-10 Honorable Mention honors a year ago after a recording a 3.95 ERA in 10 starts. Triggs had several dominating starts in 2009 before struggling a bit late in conference play. He'll be relied upon by head coach Chad Kreuter as the Friday starter week-in and week-out.

From the looks of things (read: from the mind of Kreuter) it appears there will be less lineup turnover on this year's team. Last season, he altered his starting nine on almost a daily basis. This season, he says more positions will be set in stone — or something a little closer to it.

And, he's got more leadership, he says.

"We have a conglomerate of leaders," said Kreuter, in his fourth-year as the program's head coach. "We have a variety of guys ready to lead us on and off the field."

One of those Kreuter spotlighted is senior Mike O'Neill, who will start everyday in center field and hit leadoff. Filling out the outfield, sophomore Alex Sherrod will play right, and Garret Houts, Alex Glenn, and Brandon Garcia will share left field after Kreuter's intended starter, transfer Mike Greco, broke his hand this week in intrasquads.

The infield will see marquee hitter Ricky Oropesa at first base, in all likelihood hitting third. Joe De Pintowill start regularly, primarily at second base, and could hit near the top of the order. The shortstop will be juco transfer Taylor Wrenn, the subject of a miraculous recovery from mononucleosis, bronchitis, and a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics used to treat those viruses.

The process cost him 17 pounds and "almost cost him his life," Kreuter said.

"He's gonna get the nod to go on Friday," Kreuter added. "'He's not at full strength right now, but he's getting up there, obviously,"

At catcher will be a combination of senior Keith Castilloand sophomore Kevin Roundtree. Think of Castilloas the hit-first, field-second player; Roundtree's the opposite.

Kreuter said he'll start Castillo this weekend.

"We feel he's gonna swing the bat and give us good defense behind the plate," Kreuter said. "The ability to catch the balls of a couple of our guys is the question mark."

A likely problem with the USC batting order, Kreuter admits, is the lack of protection for Oropesa. The coach was counting on Greco to hit cleanup and back up Oropesa, but he'll now resort to a sort of makeshift middle of the order.

"One of the things we can do with Ricky — if teams do start pitching around him — we'll move him up in the lineup, maybe even lead him off," Kreuter said. "And you don't want to pitch around the lead-off hitter."

Kreuter mentioned the case of former Trojan catcher Jeff Clement, who hit first in his junior season at USC to rave reviews. "Plus you get an extra at-bat every game," Kreuter noted.

Behind Triggs in the rotation are sophomore Chad Smith and senior Kevin Couture, both right handers. They combined to make 13 starts last season. Smith posted a 3.40 ERA; Couture's was a middling 5.66, but he bounced back to record a 3.86 in Cape Cod play last summer.

"The first three guys out of the chute are gonna be real strong starters," Kreuter said.

The bullpen will be a rag-tag mix of pitchers — typical for college baseball. But the anchors will be two transfers, Brett Williams and Shuhei Fujiya.

Williams posted a remarkable 1.97 ERA at an area junior college last season. Fujiya saved nine games for Northern Iowa with a 3.97

Kreuter expects Fujiya to be his closer but wouldn't confirm it Thursday.

"Right now I'd say the probability is really high that he would be," he said. "But we might just go with the hot hand."

First pitch comes at 6 p.m. tonight, assuming rain doesn't play a factor in the start time.

Notes: Cal Poly has had six winning seasons in the last seven years and made the NCAA Regionals in 2009, but USC leads the all-time series with the Mustangs by a 17-4 margin...Glenn, a freshman, posted on Twitter just before 1 p.m. "Game @ 6 vs Cal Poly. LETS GET IT!"...Greg Zebrack, an outfielder who started USC's season opener a year ago as a true freshman, was cut from the team during the fall. Also not returning from the 2009 season is third baseman Billy Pinkerton, among others.

Kreuter takes the cake at California Coaches Cookoff

January, 22, 2010
1/22/10
5:57
PM PT
Well, not exactly.

But USC baseball coach Chad Kreuter did take to the kitchen Friday morning in a cookoff between 12 Southern California baseball head coaches. It wasn't pretty — Kreuter took home the "Kitchen Nightmare" award after a disastrous attempt at a chicken pasta dish.

It was all part of Easton’s California College Baseball Media Day at ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney. Afterward, Kreuter answered some questions about his team's expectations this season.

In his fourth season with the Trojans, Kreuter says he feels his team has finally gotten over the hump.

“I have more confidence going into this season than any of the three previous seasons," said Kreuter, a veteran of 16 big-league seasons. "Each of the three previous years we’ve had huge question marks – the pitching staff, depth, quality of starting pitching. This year we have our best pitching staff as a whole."

Never mind that early predictions have USC as a bottom-feeder in the Pacific 10 Conference. Opposing coaches don't agree.

“All of the expert’s predictions don’t mean much," said UCLA coach John Savage of his crosstown rival. "Every year they’re going to have good players."

USC will be led by power hitter Ricky Oropesa and right-handed starter Andrew Triggs, but six of last season's key players have left after being drafted in June, including first-rounder Grant Green and second-round picks Brad Boxberger and Robert Stock.

In Green's spot, Kreuter says he plans to use shortstop Taylor Wrenn, a sophomore transfer from a Florida junior college. Wrenn will be penciled into the No. 2 spot in the batting order, just behind incumbent leadoff man Mike O'Neill.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder has been chosen in the MLB draft in each of the last two years but declined to sign. He earned all-state second-team honors at Manatee College last season, hitting .386 with seven home runs.

“Taylor Wrenn, he’s the captain of the infield," Kreuter said. "He will definitely be a good addition at shortstop and I think he’s going to hold his own as a starting Pac-10 hitter."

Other newcomers for the Trojans include outfielder Alex Glenn (McDonough, Ga.), infielderMatthew Foat (Rescue, Calif.) and infielderMatt Hart (Tacoma, Wash.), the latter two being junior college transfers.

Each could play sizable roles this season, but Kreuter spotlighted Glenn, who he said could start from day one in center field.

"He runs a 6.2 second 60-yard dash, he’s got a sweet powerful swing, he’s going to be real good," Kreuter said. "Alex is going to be like [former USC and MLB outfielder] Jacque Jonesat some point – he’ll be that type of center fielder for USC."

Of course, there's also outfielder Jawanza Starling (Tallahassee, Fla.), and righthander Nick Berhel (Benicia, Calif.) — both freshmen.

Each have an interesting story: Starling was a four-star safety recruit out of high school and plays for the USC football team as well; Berhel is New York Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia's cousin.

USC's season opener is four weeks from today, a weekend series with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Holes left for Kreuter to fill before then include the backstop spot, where Stock was a three-year starter, and the closer's role.

A surprise transfer, senior righthander Shuhei Fujiya (Irvine, Calif.) might be just the guy Kreuter is looking for at the end of his bullpen. Fujiya served as Northern Iowa's closer last season, recording a 3.97 ERA and nine saves in 21 appearances but left when the program was disbanded.

As for Kreuter's cooking-related winnings, well, let's just say the prize package included an easy-bake oven, a fire extinguisher, and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

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N. Agholor5691816.46
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense174.2218.1392.3
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring28.521.37.2