USC is 12-0 and has equaled its fine start of 1973, when it went on to win the College World Series. The Trojans could be following tradition--they won the national title in 1948, ’58, ’68, ’78 . . .
The Trojans, picked to finish last in the Pacific 10, have beaten highly regarded teams such as Pepperdine (twice), Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine. Their numbers look good--a team batting average of .301 and a team earned-run average of 2.30. USC is averaging 7.7 runs per game while allowing just 3. And the pitching staff has already combined for three shutouts.
But the pitching staff is thin, with just two reliable starters and one outstanding reliever. Coach Mike Gillespie needs a solid third starter and must develop depth in the bullpen, or the Trojans will have problems when the conference season starts. Sophomore Randy Powers is 4-0 and has combined for two team shutouts--but he and junior Darrin Beer have also started 8 of 11 games. Reliever Brian Nichols already has four saves in seven appearances--last season he led the nation with 17 saves--but what good is a stopper if you can’t get to him?
Like father, like son: USC’s home opener had something of a Laker game atmosphere--lots of celebrities. Bob Boone of the Angels brought along a couple of teammates--Willie Fraser, Kirk McCaskill and Stewart Cliburn--to see his son, Bret Boone, in his home debut as the Trojan second baseman. Bret, the all-everything freshman from El Dorado high in Placentia, leads the Trojans in home runs with 3, and has hit safely in 7 of 10 games.
Arizona State (16-1) had the best record after USC among Pac-10 teams heading into conference play, its best start since 1978. The Sun Devils are hitting .325, with 40 doubles and 16 home runs. Opponents, meanwhile, are hitting only .228. The team’s ERA is 2.55.
All this helped the Sun Devils give Coach Jim Brock his 800th career victory Feb. 13, the first game of a three-game series against Texas at Austin, bringing his record to 800-304 and placing him eighth on the list among active Division I coaches. The 15-2 win was sweet for Brock and sour for the Longhorns--it was their worst loss ever. The Sun Devils went on to sweep the series, marking the first time Texas has been swept in 16 years.
Names to remember: Linty Ingram--the Sun Devils’ ace right-hander. Ingram has recorded five complete games this season, (6-0, 1.00 ERA) and has won 13 consecutive games dating back to last season. Arizona’s Todd Devereaux, (unrelated to the Dodgers’ Mike Devereaux), is off to a big start. In 59 at-bats, the left fielder is hitting .508 with 10 doubles, 6 home runs and 25 RBIs, including four game-winners. He has struck out just three times.
Who is that guy?: UCLA’s Dave Keating was 0 for 12 this season before last Friday’s game against UC Irvine. Since then, he is 8 for 13 in three games, including a home run, estimated at 450 feet, against San Diego State. Keating, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5, is also 8 for 8 in stolen base attempts.
This is Keating’s first year playing baseball for the Bruins, and his first time playing baseball in three years. The outfielder was drafted by the Minnesota Twins his senior year at North High in Salinas, but chose to attend UCLA on a football scholarship. Keating, who redshirted his first year and played the past two years as a reserve wide receiver, is the first football player to play both sports since Mike Young in 1983. Young is now a receiver for the Rams.
Football Coach Terry Donahue has generally frowned upon football players playing two sports.
Add Keating: USC Coach Gillespie to UCLA Coach Gary Adams: “When I saw Keating play the first time, I said, ‘Where did that guy come from--who is that guy’?”
Adams to Gillespie: “That’s exactly what I said and he’s playing on my team.”
Loyola Marymount has won six in a row, with impressive wins over UCLA, Arizona State, UC Santa Barbara and a three-game sweep of Texas Tech. Loyola’s top hitter is third baseman Don Sparks, who is batting .556 with 2 home runs and a slugging percentage of 1.111. Loyola’s nonconference record is 9-2. West Coast Athletic Conference play begins in mid-March.
New prospect? A few postgame quotes from Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda, who hurled one hitless inning to pick up the win for the all-pro University of Arizona Alumni in its annual game against the Arizona varsity:
How did the left-hander feel out there? “I felt real good. It’s the first time I had even picked up a ball since last summer. “
What did he throw? “I used a curve and fastball, but mostly the curve--that was my pitch. It beat (Arizona) Coach Jerry Kindall.”
Was it one of his most memorable wins? “Yes, it was. In fact, I think it’s pretty unusual for a man 60 years old to win his first intercollegiate game.”
Lasorda, who never attended college, was the honorary manager for the alumni.
College Baseball Notes Pac-10 nonconference standings: USC (12-0), Arizona State (17-1), UCLA (8-4), Arizona (13-3), California (9-4), Stanford (5-5). USC plays host to Stanford in its conference-opening series Feb. 26-28. . . . After a slow start, UC Santa Barbara has won eight of its last 10 games, including two over California. UCLA is off to a running start with 33 stolen bases in 38 attempts in its first ten games. Leading the Bruins are Robbie Katzaroff, Charlie Fiacco and Dave Keating, the one, two and ninth hitters respectively, who each have stolen eight. Katzaroff has a 10-game hitting streak, and Fiacco has walked 16 times in 10 games. . . . Stanford, defending national champion, is off to a slow start this season--the team’s batting average is just .249--but freshman right-hander Mike Mussina pitched a two-hit shutout against Hawaii last Saturday.