Baseball ‘U’? USC, UCF Roll In Early Season

March 10, 2015

Four weekends into the season, we are getting a big enough sample size to get an idea of what teams are legit and which still have work to do. Two college baseball teams that are separating themselves from the pack in 2015 are Southern California (USC)and Central Florida (UCF). The teams on opposite coasts are a combined 29-3 heading into midweek games Tuesday night.


USC celebrates after a 3-0 weekend at the Dodgertown Classic in L.A.

USC celebrates after a 3-0 weekend at the Dodgertown Classic in L.A.

Imagine a weekend where you beat the last two National Champions – one of which is your biggest rival – and another team coming off a College World Series season. That’s the weekend USC (15-1) had after taking down TCU (2014 CWS), Vanderbilt (2014 National Champion) and UCLA (2013 National Champion) in succession.

“I think (the weekend) says that we don’t fear anybody and that we’re capable of beating anybody,” USC head coach Dan Hubbs said after Sunday’s 8-4 win over arch-rival UCLA at Dodger Stadium.

With an offense batting .311 and a pitching staff with a 2.26 ERA after facing the three heavyweights, there’s not much reason for the Trojans to feel fear.

Starter Brent Wheatley (1-0) pitched 6 1/3 strong innings in Friday’s 12-inning win over the Horned Frogs (TCU’s only loss of the weekend). Wheatley has fanned 30 batters in 23 1/3 innings this year. Kyle Davis brought the win home with 4 1/3 innings for his first win of the year. He already has five saves as well for a staff that has 158 Ks in 147 2/3 IP.

Offensively, seven different Trojans have at least 10 RBIs through 16 games. Garrett Stubbs leads the lineup with a .443 average. Timmy Robinson and A.J. Ramirez have each driven in 14 runs. Ramirez is hitting just .263, but he also has a team-best three home runs and five doubles.

“A lot of people were looking this weekend, trying to see who this team really is,” said Hubbs. “Well, I think we made the statement that we’re pretty good. We have a lot left to do.”

USC faces another 2014 CWS team, UC Irvine, Tuesday night before opening Pac-12 play this weekend when it hosts Washington State.


UCF has three wins over SEC teams, including a series win over Ole Miss this season.

UCF has three wins over SEC teams, including a series win over Ole Miss this season.

Terry Rooney’s Knights have come out of the gates with all guns blazing in 2015. His current group of seniors were freshmen on a 2012 team that won 45 games and had every reason to expect they could make a run to Omaha. They were upset at home though by the Cinderella Stony Brook team that knocked-off LSU in Super Regional play en-route to its own CWS run.

The current edition of UCF (14-2) rattled-off 10 straight wins before falling to Ole Miss, a 2014 CWS team, in the finale of a three-game series in Orlando. UCF’s only other loss is to Florida, a team with a No. 1 ranking this week (the Knights beat the Gators as well the night before that loss).

“We talk about it all the time that it takes 35 guys,” Rooney said after UCF’s 4-3 win over Florida. “Tonight it took every single player on the bench (and) on the field to get it done.”

Shortstop Dylan Moore leads the Knights with three home runs, 21 RBIs and a .621 slugging percentage after a grand slam in Sunday’s win over Columbia. Tommy Williams, one of the seniors who was on the 2012 team, leads the team with a .397 average.

UCF’s weekend rotation of Cre Finfrock, Zach Rodgers and Robby Howell have combined to go 9-0 with a 2.31 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 66 innings, while closer Harrison Hukari is 3-0 with a pair of saves, a 2.25 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 16 innings and seven appearances out of the pen.

The Knights face another stiff midweek test this week with two games against Florida State. Both games are in Tallahassee. They don’t open conference play until March 27 against Houston.

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