2012 USC Baseball Preview

Take a break from all the pigskins and pads talk and break out that torn seat cushion. We're here to preview the 2012 USC men's baseball team.

Aren't you sick of pigskins and pads?

We're going to throw a curveball your way and take a look at a different USC sport, that of the Trojans' mens baseball team in 2012.

In case you haven't attended a game at Dedeaux Field in a while, this season might be a good one to buck the trend.

While the men of Troy lost key players from last season in skilled infielders Ricky Oropesa and Joe De Pinto, there are a handful of "super seniors" that will bring experience and knowledge to a relatively young team full on talent but light on years.

Pitchers Andrew Triggs, Brett Williams and Martin Viramontes are all working on their graduate degrees, along with outfielder Garret Houts. Triggs and Houts are the team captains and vocal leaders, along with senior Brandon Garcia.

Triggs (3.67 ERA in 2011) is expected to be the Trojans' marquee pitcher but Viramontes could easily emerge on the radar as the season progresses. Viramontes, a one-year transfer from Loyola Marymount University, was drafted in 2010 by the New York Yankees but opted to remain in college and up his stock.

The Trojans are under the guidance of a new pitching coach this year, one brought over from conference foe California. Dan Hubbs spent 12 seasons with the Golden Bears but played college baseball at USC.

"He's really helped our pitchers be game competitive. He's a big time competitor and I think it rubs off on a lot of our guys," Williams said of Hubbs.

That competitive nature will be tested in the Trojans' tough road tests. Troy faces a three-game series at the always-tough North Carolina, at Stanford and at ASU. All three schools are ranked in Baseball America's preseason Top 25.

A few Trojans to keep your eye on this season include outfielder Alex Sherrod from Marietta, Ga. and California-born infielders James Roberts and Adam Landecker.

Roberts, a sophomore from Cupertino, Calif., comes from baseball powerhouse Archbishop Mitty High School. In his freshman year the shortstop batted .274 (49-for-179) and started all 56 games for the Trojans in 2011.

As for the rookies? Eleven freshmen fill out the Trojans' roster and a handful of them could become major playmakers. Pitchers like Stephen Tarpley, Wyatt Strahan and Nigel Nootbaar are names to remember.

Tarpley will likely make the most immediate impact. The 6-0, 175-pound southpaw from Gilbert (Ariz.) Gilbert High School had a 3.5 ERA in 2011 and struck out 47 batters in 30 innings.

So break out that dusty baseball cap and whip out that torn stadium seat cushion, because the Trojans could surprise in 2012.

Troy throws its first pitch of the season against Jacksonville on Feb. 17 at home.

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