According to the groundhog, we still have six more weeks of winter. Maybe it’s the Southern California sunshine and the lack of a traditional winter, but I have already moved past winter and am focused on the spring. And for me, spring means the return of America’s favorite pastime. Luckily, baseball fans don’t have to wait until the spring for college baseball, as USC kicks off its season this weekend at home with a three game series against Towson.The Trojans enter the 2015 season coming off a 29-24 overall record in 2014. They went 16-14 in the Pac-12 and had a winning record at home, 20-13. On the road, the Trojans finished two games under .500, with a 9-11 record.The 2014 team started the season with a seven game homestead and got off to a 7-0 start. The winning streak included two dominant wins, including a 13-6 romp of Northwestern and a 9-0 against North Dakota State.Later in the season, however, the team suffered some steep losses to Pac-12 opponents Oregon and Washington, 7-2 and 19-4, respectively.Head coach Dan Hubbs, who is entering his third season as head coach, describes his 2015 team as a team that never quits and will play hard from the first pitch to the last. In an interview with NCAA.com, Hubbs said his team is unselfish and has confidence that anyone on the team has the ability to get the job done.Statistically, the team’s best assets are its pitching and fielding. USC has a trio of returning pitchers in juniors Kyle Davis, Kyle Twomey and Brent Wheatley.As a sophomore, Davis took the mound 25 times as a relief pitcher and started one game. His start came in a win over Oregon State, pitching a complete game and only allowing one run. The game also saw him throw a career-best 14 strikeouts. He finished the season with 57 total strikeouts and a 1.12 ERA and a 3-4 record.Twomey went 2-2 in his sophomore season, making 19 appearances as a pitcher. He started four games and pitched a total of 55 innings and had an ERA of 3.11. He had a career-high six strikeouts in two games in 2014.Wheatley served the Trojans mainly as a starting pitcher in 2014. He played in 18 games for USC and started 14. He pitched a total of 73 innings while averaging a 3.58 ERA. In his 4-3 record he struck out 33 batters.The Trojans have added a left-handed pitcher to the roster in junior college transfer Tyler Gilbert. Gilbert will be USC’s only lefty. The Santa Barbara City College transfer was named the 2013 Western State-North Division Pitcher of the Year. He was also selected to the 2013 All-Southern California team by the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association. Gilbert only lost two games in 2013 compared to his nine wins as a starter. In his 85.1 innings pitched in 2013, Gilbert threw 73 strikeouts with a 2.43 ERA. Adding a left-hander to the rotation should help the Trojans add depth to the bullpen.On offense for the Trojans, Hubbs cites sophomore designated hitter/catcher Jeremy Martinez as the batter he wants to see at the plate in at bats that could decide the game. Martinez started 50 of 52 games for USC and hit .297. Martinez’s average leads all returning players. Martinez struck out only 14 times in 185 at bats as a freshman and logged 55 hits and 23 runs.Martinez is joined by USC’s other top hitters, senior catcher Garrett Stubbs and junior outfielder Timmy Robinson. Stubbs lead the team in on base percentage with .382. He was not far behind Martinez, hitting .287 with 24 runs on the season. Robinson and second baseman Dante Flores also return to the starting lineup. Robinson led the team last season with 30 RBIs and 24 runs. Robinson also led the team in stolen bases with seven. Robinson and Flores each hit .236 in 2014.Hubbs lists fielding as one of the Trojans’ biggest strengths, and a lot of young and promising talent is expected to man the bases this season. A trio of sophomores will compete for playing time in the infield with Flores after each earned playing time last year as freshmen. Blake Lacey is the most experienced and will likely be the shortstop in 2015. Lacey started 38 games last season and hit .281 with 19 RBI’s. Reggie Southall and Frankie Rios started 22 and 19 games, respectively. They each have what the other lacks, as Southall was better at the plate with a .250 average, and Rios was better in the field, averaging a .963 fielding percentage. The returners will not only be competing against each other for playing time, but will also have competition from incoming freshman Angelo Armenta and Duke transfer Angelo La Bruna.Freshman Cole Young has shown enough potential that he is expected to command first base, while the right and left field will see competition from AJ Ramirez, Bobby Stahel and David Oppenheim. Young was a Perfect Game top 500 player as a senior in high school. Ramirez played both outfield and infield last year, but could possible be stationed in outfield full time this season. Stahel hit .235 in 2014, while Oppenheim hit .377 at College of the Canyons last season.Though last season’s young team showed promise, it failed to qualify for the postseason. Though it was a powerhouse in the 1990s, winning a championship in 1998, USC has not won a regional since 2005.This season, USC has 18 players who are either juniors or seniors on the roster. The upperclassmen welcome a recruiting class that was ranked at No. 25 by Baseball America. USC’s schedule lends itself to developing young talent, as the Trojans don’t face tougher opponents until later into the season.So long as the young talent pans out, the Trojans should be able to match the early season success of last year and carry it deep into the season. If the team plays as unselfishly as Hubbs describes them, USC should end the year in the postseason.Regan Estes is a sophomore majoring in Public Relations and Spanish. She is also the Sports Editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, Wild Wild Westes, runs on Tuesdays.
USC baseball will see playoffs