USC: Taylor Wrenn

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."

Two losses for USC baseball

April, 10, 2010
4/10/10
7:15
PM PT
Pac-10 play isn't exactly going well for coach Chad Kreuter and the Trojans. USC is 2-6 through eight conference games, including blowout losses Friday and Saturday to California at Dedeaux Field.

Saturday, the Trojans fell 7-1 after the Bears scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie. Friday, USC committed a season-high six errors and gave up 18 hits as Cal (18-10, 4-3) earned a 16-9 victory.

Defense has been the team's undoing. Sophomore righthander Ben Mount, who started Saturday, was solid through four innings, scattering three hits, but unraveled after the errors in the fifth and exited after recording one out in the seventh. His final line was 6 1/3 innings and seven runs — but only four earned.

USC's only run of Saturday's game came in the seventh inning, when junior infielder Joe De Pinto's RBI fielder's choice scored shortstop Adam Landecker from third.

Friday starter Kevin Couture had a nightmarish day on the mound, giving up nine runs (seven earned) in 2 1/3 innings. Kreuter was forced to turn to six relievers to eat up innings, but none found sustained success. Junior Chris Mezger, who had been USC's most effective reliever this season, gave up two runs while finishing out the third inning and pitching the fourth.

The Trojans had 14 hits Friday, with eight of nine starters recording at least one hit. Junior third baseman Matt Hart had three hits and an RBI, and sophomore first baseman Ricky Oropesa had a three-run homer in the first inning that helped stake USC out to a 4-1 lead. The Trojans did have one more big inning — a five-run seventh, sparked by a three-run homer from shortstop Taylor Wrenn — but it wasn't enough to unseat the Bears, who scored 13 unanswered runs between the first and seventh innings.

USC has one more shot at Cal — Sunday at 1 p.m. — before a big three-game series at No. 1 Arizona State next weekend.

Baseball tops No. 19 Stanford in series opener

March, 27, 2010
3/27/10
5:15
PM PT
The Trojans are in Palo Alto, Calif. for the weekend, with a key three-game series against No. 19 Stanford on the schedule. In the opener of conference play Friday, USC managed to dispatch the Cardinal with relative ease, earning a 13-8 victory on the strength of a big day from shortstop Taylor Wrenn.

Wrenn, a sophomore transfer from Manatee College (Fla.), had the eventual game-winning two-run single in the sixth inning that gave the Trojans the lead and recorded three hits, two RBI and four runs scored on the night.

The top four hitters in the Trojans' lineup — Wrenn, Joe De Pinto, Ricky Oropesa and Matt Foat — went a combined 10-for-16 at the plate with four walks and five RBI. Kevin Couture started on the mound for USC and was chased in the fifth inning after allowing seven runs (five earned). Reliever Shuhei Fujiya picked up for him and pitched three innings to earn his third victory.

USC (12-10, 1-0 Pac-10) plays Stanford again Saturday and Sunday.

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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