USC Preview

The top ranked Cardinal baseball squad is back in action this weekend as they travel south to battle the USC Trojans. Stanford will be looking to win their seventh consecutive series to begin the year and ninth straight dating back to last season. Meanwhile, USC has struggled at times in 2002 and will look to get back on track this weekend. Read on for a preview of the series plus a look at JJ's "Super Sixteen" national rankings.

Stanford (14-5) at USC (12-10)

Saturday - 1:00pm (doubleheader)
Sunday - 1:00pm

** These games do not count in the conference standings **

The top ranked Stanford Cardinal return to the field this weekend after a 13-day break when they travel south to take on the USC Trojans in a three-game non-conference series.  This won't be a traditional Friday-Saturday-Sunday series as instead the teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday and then wrap-up the series on Sunday with a single contest.  The Cardinal, who have now been ranked #1 for six consecutive weeks to begin the season, took 2-of-3 games from the California Golden Bears in their last series two weeks ago.  They crushed the Bears 15-4 in the opener behind a 5-for-5, 2 homer game from Jason Cooper while Jeremy Guthrie improved to 5-0 with another solid outing on the mound.  Cal evened the series with a 2-1 victory in the middle contest as Brian Montalbo and Matt Brown combined to limit the Cardinal to season-lows in runs (1) and hits (6).  Stanford though would get the series victory in the finale with a 4-2 win.  John Hudgins, in his second start of the season, had another outstanding outing going six innings while giving up only one run.

Consistency has been the key for the Cardinal so far this season as they've won all six of their series' to begin the year.  This weekend will be Stanford's second-to-last non-conference series of the season as they'll host the 18th ranked Texas Longhorns next Thursday-Saturday.  Despite scoring only five runs in the final two games of the Cal series, Stanford is still hitting .339 as a team while scoring 8.6 runs per game.  The power numbers have started to pick-up as of late as the Cardinal have clubbed nine homers in their last five games.  One of the reasons for the home run increase has been the play of Jason Cooper.  Cooper, who has a 11-game hitting streak, hit three home runs in the Cal series after hitting only one bomb in Stanford's first 16 games.  Cooper leads the team and the Pac-10 conference with a .455 batting average.  Carlos Quentin also continues to put up solid numbers as the sophomore right fielder is hitting .375 with four homers and 23 RBI.  The pitching rotation also seems to be set with Hudgins emerging as a solid third starter behind Guthrie and Tim Cunningham.  The trio has combined to go 12-1 this season with a 3.21 ERA.

Probable Starting Lineup :
C - Ryan Garko (.342, 5 HR, 19 RBI)
    * Has gone 0-for-8 in his last two games ... had a 10-game hitting streak before this recent cold spell.

1B - Donny Lucy (.300, 3 HR, 22 RBI)
    * Co-leads the team with five stolen bases.

2B - Chris O'Riordan (.312, 1 HR, 12 RBI)
    * 5th all-time at Stanford in career batting average (.355).

3B - Arik VanZandt (.406, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
    * 9-for-15 (.600) since stepping in at third for the injured Andy Topham five games ago.

SS - Scott Dragicevich (.356, 0 HR, 10 RBI)
    * Very consistent hitter ... 9 multi-hit games already this season.

LF - Chris Carter (.258, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
    * Struggled in Cal series recording just one hit in 11 at-bats.

CF - Sam Fuld (.341, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
    * Now has enough at-bats (minimum 300) to qualify for the career batting average list at Stanford ... 6th all-time at .353.

RF - Carlos Quentin (.375, 4 HR, 19 RBI)
    * Crushed USC pitching last year going 12-for-24 with a home run and five RBI.

DH - Jason Cooper (.455, 4 HR, 23 RBI)
    * Hitting .500 (21-for-42) during current 11-game hitting streak.

Probable Starting Pitching Rotation :
Saturday (Game 1) - Jeremy Guthrie (RHP; 5-0, 3.07 ERA, 41 IP, 10 BB, 42 SO)
    * Has won ten consecutive decisions dating back to May of last season.

Saturday (Game 2) - Tim Cunningham (LHP; 4-1, 3.03 ERA, 38 2/3 IP, 13 BB, 23 SO)
    * Has yet to give up a home run in seven starts this season.

Sunday - John Hudgins (RHP; 3-0, 3.75 ERA, 24 IP, 12 BB, 22 SO)
    * 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA in his two starts this season.

Primary Relief Pitchers :
* Ryan McCally (0-0, 4.91 ERA, 3 SV), Drew Ehrlich (0-1, 4.32 ERA, 1 SV), J.D. Willcox (1-0, 5.62 ERA), Dan Rich (0-0, 2.84 ERA).


Ranked as high as #3 in the preseason polls the Trojans stumbled out of the gate this season to a 7-9 record.  They certainly had some excuses considering three of their top pitchers have been out of action with various injuries the majority of the time while their home ballpark, Dedeaux Field, was being renovated forcing USC to play their first 22 games on the road or in neutral sites.  But, with all the talent on this team it's still tough to figure that this team was 7-9 after 16 contests.  But suddenly showing signs of life, the Trojans rattled off five consecutive wins to get their record up to 12-9 and two of those three injured pitchers had returned (though in limited roles).  But the roller coaster ride that is 2002 USC baseball took another turn on Tuesday, as the Trojans were handed their worst loss in school history when they were crushed 31-7 (no, they weren't playing football) by Loyola Marymount.  So that brings us to this weekend as the #1 Cardinal come to town.

Whenever Stanford and USC get together it's always a big series, but this one is especially significant for the Trojans.  They've been playing better as a whole lately winning five of six, but that one loss in their last game could certainly have a lasting effect.  With a series win, USC could get back on track and gain a lot of momentum heading into the conference season.  The Cardinal would like to keep the Trojans down as these teams will meet again in just three weeks at Sunken Diamond in a much more meaningful series.  Statistically, this Trojans team is a good hitting club as they hit .318 as a team while scoring 7.4 runs per game.  Two staples of typical USC teams though have been solid pitching and defense.  Those two things have been inconsistent this year, to say the least.  The pitching staff enters this weekend with an ERA of 5.97 (that's 2.5 runs higher than the 2001 Trojans) while the defense has committed 35 errors for a less than spectacular .959 fielding percentage.  Certainly USC fans have been spoiled with their starting pitchers over the past few years (Flores, Etherton, Zito, Currier, Prior), but an ERA approaching six is uncharted territory for this team.  Injuries have been a problem with #1 starter Anthony Reyes missing the first 1 1/2 months with a bad elbow.  Reyes returned to action last weekend and threw a scoreless inning in his debut.  Fraser Dizard, another top returning pitcher for USC, missed the first month of the season and is just starting to get going again.  With all the injuries, the Trojans at one point were throwing three freshman in their starting rotation.

Individually, USC is led at the plate by Alberto Concepcion (.373-4-11), Joey Metropoulos (.345-3-13), and Brian Barre (.341-6-22).  Barre is the top returning hitter from last year's club when he hit .345 with a team-leading 13 homers.  A pair of freshman hurlers in Brett Bannister (1-1, 3.10 ERA) and Matt Chico (3-1, 3.56 ERA) have both impressed on the mound in place of the injured Reyes and Dizard.

Probable Starting Lineup :
C - Alberto Concepcion (.373, 4 HR, 11 RBI)
    * 2nd-team Preseason All-American according to Baseball America.

1B - Bill Peavey (.308, 3 HR, 17 RBI)
    * Will hit toward the middle of the order and is expected to be one of USC's top run producers.

2B - Anthony Lunetta (.267, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
    * Injury-riddled second baseman has gotten off to a slow start.

3B - Michael Moon (.289, 0 HR, 14 RBI)
    * Hit .313 as everyday starter at third last season in his freshman campaign.

SS - Jon Brewster (.235, 1 HR, 1 RBI) or Rafael Torres (.259, 0 HR, 5 RBI)
    * Trojans looking for someone to emerge here in place of graduated Seth Davidson.

LF - Kris Cox (.296, 2 HR, 9 RBI)
    * Transferred from Mississippi where he .280 last season as a junior.

CF - Brian Barre (.341, 6 HR, 22 RBI)
    * Leadoff hitter and the catalyst in this offense.

RF - Travis McAndrews (.288, 2 HR, 13 RBI)
    * Hit .413 last season at Los Angeles Harbor College.

DH - Joey Metropoulos (.345, 3 HR, 13 RBI)
    * Baseball America rated him as the second best freshman hitting prospect in the Pac-10 before the season (behind Donny Lucy).

Probable Starting Pitching Rotation :
* The Trojans have not announced a starting pitching rotation as of Wednesday afternoon.  Expect Reyes and Dizard to both get starts, but in limited roles.  A trio of freshmen in Bannister, Chico, and J.P. Howell (3-3, 4.78) have started the bulk of the games this season and should see considerable time out of the bullpen (if they don't start).

Primary Relief Pitchers :
* Jon Williams (3-1, 3.55 ERA, 1 SV), Bret Butler (2-1, 8.78 ERA), Jordan Olson (0-1, 5.21 ERA), Josh Rummonds (0-1, 6.08 ERA).

Stanford-USC History
Everybody knows about the Trojans' record 12 national championships, but since Mark Marquess took over at Stanford in 1977, the tides have turned at least somewhat between these two Pac-10 powers ...

                                Stanford        USC

National Championships            2 ('87, '88)   2 ('78, '98)
Conference Championships          9              5
CWS Appearances                   11             5

Head-to-Head Wins                 82             70

More recently, the teams have combined for the last eight conference championships (Stanford 5, USC 3).  The Card have also won eight of the last 11 series' played between the teams dating back to 1997 (includes Super-Regional win over the Trojans in '99).

Last Season
In 2001 the teams met six times with the Cardinal taking four of the six contests.

March 9th : at Stanford 2, USC 0 - Jeremy Guthrie outduels Mark Prior in Prior's only loss of the season ... Guthrie throws complete game shutout giving up only six hits ... O'Riordan with two hits and both RBI ... Prior with 13 K's in a losing effort.

March 10th : at Stanford 15, USC 3 - Cardinal jump on Rik Currier for six runs in the first three innings and coast to the victory ... Jeff Bruskch tosses eight quality innings yielding only one run ... Scott Dragicevich leads the offense with a 3-for-4 performance.

March 11th : at Stanford 9, USC 5 (ten innings) - Andy Topham wins it for Stanford with a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the tenth inning ... Card were down 5-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth, but score three in that inning to send it to extras.

April 20th : at USC 2, Stanford 1 - This time it's Prior outdueling Guthrie ... Both pitchers go the distance as Alberto Concepcion's solo homer in the eighth was the difference.

April 21st : at USC 7, Stanford 0 - Rik Currier and Fraser Dizard combine to shut out the Cardinal holding Stanford to five hits (all singles) ... Bruskch roughed up for six runs in four innings in the loss.

April 22nd : Stanford 9, USC 5 - Carlos Quentin and Jason Cooper each homer and Mike Gosling throws a complete-game six-hitter as Stanford salvages a game in the series ... Card were down 5-2 after three, but battle back to win.

JJ's "Super Sixteen"
** Records are through Monday 3-18 **
Team (Record, previous ranking)

1. Stanford (14-5, 1)
    * Idle Cardinal have won six straight series' to begin the year.

2. Clemson (14-1, 2)
    * Tigers go 4-1 last week with two wins over Charleston and a 2-1 mark versus South Alabama.

3. Florida State (24-5, 3)
    * Seminoles win 4-of-5 last week including series win at Virginia in ACC opener.

4. Rice (18-4, 4)
    * Owls take a break from difficult non-conference schedule with a three-game sweep of visiting Harvard.

5. Wake Forest (16-2, 5)
    * Demon Deacons show they're for real with a two-game sweep of Georgia Tech.

6. Houston (15-5, 6)
    * Cougars take mid-week game from McNeese State and then win two-of-three games at UAB.

7. Baylor (17-6, 8)
    * Bears on fire as they go 5-0 last week including weekend sweep of Kansas.

8. Nebraska (11-5, 9)
    * Cornhuskers back on track with a three-game sweep of a tough Texas A&M team.

9. Florida (18-3, 12)
    * Gators go 5-0 last week scoring 91 runs in the process.  Had a weekend sweep of a good Mississippi team.

10. South Carolina (18-3, 13)
    * Gamecocks with a 4-1 week as they take 2-of-3 at Mississippi State over the weekend.

11. Wichita State (10-2, 11)
    * Shockers with consecutive impressive series wins ... Fullerton two weeks ago, UL-Lafayette last weekend.

12. Texas (20-6, 15)
    * Longhorns go a perfect 4-0 with a mid-week win over TCU and a weekend sweep at Missouri.

13. Alabama (19-2, NA)
    * Crimson Tide make first appearance in poll after a 5-0 week including a sweep of visiting Tennessee.

14. Cal State Fullerton (13-9, 14)
    * Titans go 2-1 as they take mid-week affair from Loyola Marymount and spilt two games at Nevada.

15. Georgia Tech (14-3, 16)
    * Yellow Jackets go 1-2 last week as they drop two in a row at Wake Forest.

16. Tulane (13-8, 10)
    * Green Wave open week with a win over SE Louisiana, but then drop 2-of-3 at home to Charlotte.

Dropped Out : LSU (14-8, 1-3 last week)

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