USC: Brandon Garcia

Baseball: Trojans take two in unusual way

February, 19, 2011
2/19/11
8:04
PM PT
Now that doesn't happen every day.

After beating Missouri 9-3 in the first game of a doubleheader at 10 a.m., the Trojans were leading Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 5-2 after five innings when the rain started to come down.

A delay ensued. The teams later resumed play in the top of the sixth, with USC switching pitchers and the Mustangs torching three Trojans relievers to the tune of six runs for an 8-5 lead after 5 1/2 innings. Then the rain started again, and another a delay ensued.

Only this time the field was too soaked to start up play again, and the umpires were forced to call the game. Under NCAA rules, a called game due to weather conditions must revert back to the last completed inning, so the game was officially called after five innings and the Trojans were awarded the 5-2 win.

Like we said, that doesn't happen every day. But interim head coach Frank Cruz and his USC squad will gladly take the pair of wins and return to Dedeaux Field on Sunday at 2 p.m. to face North Carolina in the concluding game of the USC Tournament.

The Trojans had originally been scheduled to play Missouri on Friday at 6 p.m., but that game was postponed until Saturday morning because of rain.

(Read full post)

Year in review: 2010 USC baseball

June, 1, 2010
6/01/10
1:13
PM PT
Well before the 2010 season started, USC baseball coach Chad Kreuter was very optimistic his team would find success his fourth year as the head coach of the Trojans.

So optimistic, in fact, he threw out a superlative of sorts to explain how he felt.

“I have more confidence going into this season than any of the three previous seasons," Kreuter said at a coaches' event in January, roughly a month before USC's season was set to start against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. "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."

But, as he says now, things didn't quite work out how he planned them.

To quickly recap the four months that would follow, the Trojans finished 28-32 on the season and 7-20 in Pac-10 conference play, suffering from a myriad of injuries that would highlight a lack of pitching and infield depth and leave them grasping for air at various points in the season.

They won only four weekend series — two in conference play — and never won more than four consecutive games. USC's worst in-season skid was a mid-April tumble that saw the Trojans lose six straight to Cal and Arizona State.

By then, and by mid-May when the Trojans were outscored 36-10 over a period of three games by rivals Long Beach State and UCLA, a clear lack of pitching meant that if the Trojans' starter was uneffective on a particular day, the game would almost certainly end in defeat.

Kreuter often counts out the injuries his pitching staff suffered over the year when talking to the media. The mound-related infirmary list included: freshman right-hander Nick Berhel, redshirt sophomore right-handers Jordan Hershiser and Andrew Triggs and junior right-hander Brett Williams — who all finished the season unable to play. Various other pitchers went down for portions of 2010, and Kreuter was also without the services of a key member of the projected infield: shortstop Taylor Wrenn, who suffered a severe allergic reaction from an antibiotic used to treat bronchitis.

Wrenn played in the season opener and was effective on defense for the 17 games he did play before going home to Florida to recover fully. Kreuter said last week that a healthy Wrenn would've meant "seven, eight or nine more wins" for USC because of the defensive switches he was forced to make on the infield without his anchor at shortstop.

"This group of guys, we were just short," Kreuter said Sunday. "We needed a healthy Hershisher, Taylor Wrenn to be here all year, Andrew Triggs not to go down early. We did OK for what our circumstances were, but I'm not excited about it, and by no means can you hang your hat on anything that's been done here."

But Kreuter took solace in the comradeship he's seen develop among his team. As he talked following the Trojans' 11-5 win in Sunday's season finale, his players could be heard celebrating in the dugout, commemorating the team's five seniors.

"Hey, we started with very good team camaraderie, and we finished that way," said Kreuter, who spent 15 seasons in the big leagues. "We had some bumps in the road and it showed when we lost a couple players, but towards the end here it really picked up."

In many facets, USC was just short of finding the formula for success. Sophomore slugging first baseman Ricky Oropesa developed into a bona fide No. 3 hitter (.353 average, 20 homers, 67 RBI) over the course of the season, and the Trojans received surprisingly solid performances from a couple of sophomore right-handers, in Ben Mount (5-6, 4.32 ERA) and Brandon Garcia (2-3, 4.17). But, in the end, Kreuter conceded, he might have been a little off on his original projection of the best team in his four years as the USC coach. But he said he wasn't off on what he expected to see from his players.

"I said going into this season — this might not be the most talented group of players that we've had," Kreuter said, "but it's certainly going to be the best team, as far as playing together, getting along as a group, that type of stuff."

Baseball: Trojans get big victory on Senior Day

May, 30, 2010
5/30/10
11:00
PM PT
USC center fielder Mike O'Neill stood, smiling, at the top of the Dedeaux Field dugout steps after Sunday's game, an 11-5 win over Washington that capped off the Trojans' disappointing 2010 season.

O'Neill, a senior, had just had perhaps his best game in his collegiate career, a 4-for-5, one home run, four RBI performance that sparked the Trojans. He was right in the middle of explaining how much the Senior Day victory meant to him — right in the middle of finishing up the second syllable in the word "speechless."

Then he got a faceful of shaving cream to the face from teammate Joe De Pinto as a host of Trojans watched from the dugout steps, piling up to see O'Neill's shining moment. O'Neill had no idea it was coming, but he would later say it was a good example of the team's camaraderie even in the face of failure.

The Trojans oozed camaraderie Sunday. On a day in which four of the team's five graduating seniors shined, the Trojans (28-32, 7-20 in the Pac-10) did both the little and big things right, holding a potent Washington attack to five runs and putting together a seven-run eighth inning to take control of the game.

But it was a bittersweet victory for fourth-year USC coach Chad Kreuter, who finished the season out of an NCAA Regional for the fourth consecutive year and sporting a 111-117 overall record and 39-63 conference record as a collegiate coach.

To the 15-year big leaguer, Sunday's win represented what could've been for the Trojans.

"It's a good feeling to get the win," Kreuter said after the game. "Especially with all the seniors doing so well. But, again, we could've been here all year."

With the win and Saturday's 10-5 win, USC took two out of three from Washington, only the Trojans' second conference series win of the year.

As for Sunday's game, O'Neill and fellow senior outfielder Keith Castillo each had four hits to kickstart USC's 16-hit attack. Freshman designated hitter Cade Kreuter had the sharp single that started the Trojans' seven-run eighth inning and added a sacrifice fly later in the inning. Sophomore first baseman Ricky Oropesa was pitched around all game along and went just 1-for-2 with three walks — but the one hit was a 400+ foot homer to right field to lead off the fourth inning.

On the mound, sophomore Brandon Garcia started and was reasonably effective, throwing five innings of four-run ball. But USC got key relief from a variety of sources to stymie the Huskies as Chris Mezger pitched two innings and Adam Dedeaux, Shuhei Fujiya, Logan Odom and Brad Douthit shut out Washington for another two innings to finish out the game.

Fujiya and Dedeaux are both seniors. The team's other senior, right-hander Kevin Couture, pitched Saturday and helped the team to a win in his final game.

Notes: Oropesa powered his way into the USC record books this season. On the year, he led the Trojans in each of the triple-crown categories with a .353 battering average, 20 homers and 67 RBI, but the sophomore slugger also finished tied for sixth for homers in a single season in USC history, seventh in total bases and tied for fifth in doubles...O'Neill batted a team-high .391 in Pac-10 conference play, a big contrast from his .303 non-conference average...On the year, the younger Kreuter tied the USCsingle-season record for strikeouts, with 64 in 153 at-bats.

Baseball: USC upsets visiting UC Irvine

May, 26, 2010
5/26/10
12:09
AM PT
Had USC coach Chad Kreuter known he could pitch this way, Trojans sophomore right-hander Brandon Garcia probably would have started more games this season for pitching-starved USC.

Garcia started only his second game of the season Tuesday against UC Irvine and pitched marvelously, going 7 2/3 innings and giving up just three hits and one run to the Anteaters — a start that propelled USC to a 8-1 upset of Irvine before 188 fans at Dedeaux Field.

Kreuter said he has seen Garcia mature into a likely weekend starter for next season over the last month, including a six-inning, three-run start against New Mexico State a week ago. He has progressed from a thrower to a pitcher, Kreuter said.

"He pitched in this start," the fourth-year coach said. "He didn't just go out there and throw. He was adding and subtracting with his fastball and changeup, just getting a real feel out there."

Garcia walked the first batter he faced to start off the game and three others on the night but succeeded multiple times in limiting the damage incurred. USC also played nearly-spotless defense for the first time in recent memory, playing the first eight innings error-free until shortstop Joe De Pinto's throwing error in the ninth.

On offense, the Trojans (26-31) managed to post the "crooked numbers" that Kreuter has emphasized so frequently, scoring three runs in fourth inning, one in the seventh and four in the eighth. First baseman Ricky Oropesa went three for five with an RBI to raise his average to .342 on the season, and right fielder Garret Houts went two for three with a double and a walk hitting out of the ninth spot in the order.

USC's first runs came after Irvine starter Nick Hoover and reliever Andy Lines combined to walk the bases loaded in the fourth inning and freshman center fielder Alex Glenn drove two runners in with a single up the middle and Houts grounded an RBI infield single down the third-base line. In the seventh, Houts scored on an RBI single from De Pinto.

The Anteaters (34-19) issued eight walks on the mound on the night, five of which came around to score. Hoover allowed just one run but lasted only 3 2/3 innings, and UCI coach Mike Gillespie had to turn to his bullpen five times on the night.

"That's the old adage of baseball — you don't walk guys," Kreuter said. "The walks do kill you. Walks just prolong innings.

"Those things happen; that's how we've gotten beat all year and it's nice to see our guys turn it around."

Combined with an 8-6 victory at Irvine earlier this month, USC swept the Anteaters in a season series for the first time since 2003. The Trojans now turn to face Washington for a weekend series at Dedeaux Field to close out the 2010 season.

Notes: Kreuter said pregame that five of his pitchers are finished for the season due to injuries, including redshirt sophomore righthander Andrew Triggs, who has a tired shoulder. ... The USC pitching staff hit a season-high four batters on the night, two by Garcia and two by reliever Logan Odom.

Recapping Wednesday

May, 19, 2010
5/19/10
11:57
PM PT
Links and notes from a busy day in the land of Troy:
  • USC baseball swept its two-game series against New Mexico State with a 5-3 win Wednesday. The Trojans needed just two pitchers — right-hander Brandon Garcia and left-hander Brad Douthit — to limit the visiting Aggies to just three runs, while outfielder Matt Foat had a key RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to give USC the lead. The Trojans are now 25-28 on the season but still 5-16 in the Pac-10 conference, four games behind the ninth-place team, Washington. USC is already on its way to Pullman, Wash. for a three-game state with Washington State that begins Wednesday.
  • Running back/defensive back De'Anthony Thomas (Los Angeles, Calif./Crenshaw) has orally committed to USC, according to USCFootball.com and Thomas' Facebook page. Thomas, still a junior in high school, led Crenshaw to the CIF Open Division Championship Game in 2009 while totaling 81 carries for 902 yards and 12 touchdowns on offense and 52 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions on defense. Out of Crenshaw, his commitment follows that of fellow Cougars linebacker Hayes Pullard, who is set to enroll at USC in June in the class of 2010. Thomas joins recent commit Victor Blackwell (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) in the class of 2011, giving five commits from the ESPNU 150.
  • In more football news, two USC players earned Phil Steele Preseason All-American honors Wednesday. Senior center Kristofer O'Dowd was named to the first team and junior defensive tackle Jurrell Casey was named to the second team. At the conference level, right guard Butch Lewis and receiver Ronald Johnson joined O'Dowd and Casey on the first team. Linebackers Chris Galippo and Michael Morgan earned second-team conference honors, as did right tackle Tyron Smith. Third-team award-winners were quarterback Matt Barkley, running back Allen Bradford, defensive end Nick Perry, linebacker Malcolm Smith and cornerback T.J. Bryant, and linebacker Devon Kennard and fullback Stanley Havili made the fourth team, along with Johnson as a kick returner. Curiously, Bryant, currently in a competition with Torin Harris and Brian Baucham to start alongside senior cornerback Shareece Wright, earned honors from Steele while Wright did not. USC also had four linebackers honored while only three can play at one time in the fall.
  • The salary confusion regarding USC football coach Lane Kiffin continues. HBO's Real Sports reported Tuesday that Kiffin makes just under $4 million, but our Bruce Feldman reports that figure to be erroneous and characterizes Kiffin's salary as "nowhere near" $4 million.
  • Switching gears to golf, the USC women currently lead the nation at the NCAA Championships being held in Wilmington, N.C. Led by sophomore wunderkind Jennifer Song, the Women of Troy sit seven strokes ahead of second-place Alabama. Song's just one stroke behind Arizona State freshman Jennifer Johnson in the individual competition. ""We are very focused," Song told USC's official site. "We are basically thinking about the present, what is in front of us. There is no doubt that each one of us is giving 150% out there."
  • And, lastly, here's an informative piece from our Andy Katz on USC basketball coach Kevin O'Neill's expectations for the 2010 season.

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