Baseball begins new era of winning

first_imgLet it be known that the Daily Trojan sports section officially jumped on the 2015 USC baseball team bandwagon before last week.Regan Estes predicted over a month ago that the team would make the playoffs for the first time since 2005. I joined in a week later, waiting until after the Trojans had won their first three games before making the same prediction. Last week, just before the Trojans embarked on their season-defining home stand, Darian Nourian said that winning two out three games that week would validate that the Trojans are a playoff-caliber team.The Trojans did even better than that. After receiving those three big endorsements, the Trojans went on to win three very big games. They passed each test against national powerhouses, a title that now sounds apt again for USC baseball.The Trojans got off to their hottest start since 1988 by winning their first 12 games of the season. They narrowly dropped a 3-2 ballgame at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, March 3 for their first loss of the season but had a great opportunity to rebound that weekend. On Friday, the Trojans would host TCU, followed by Vanderbilt the following day then capped off by UCLA on Sunday. TCU came into the matchup as the No. 7 team in the country according to the USA Today national coaches poll, with Vanderbilt — the defending national champions — at No. 4 and UCLA No. 6.The Trojans battled the Horned Frogs for 12 innings before claiming a 7-6 victory. A squeeze bunt from junior third baseman Blake Lacey plated junior center fielder Timmy Robinson for the winning run.After walking off the night before, the Trojans also went on to beat Vanderbilt in walk-off fashion, with freshman pinch hitter Adalberto Carrillo’s home run ending the game.To cap it all off, in front of an announced crowd of 14,688 fans at Dodger Stadium, the Trojans took down crosstown rival UCLA by a score of 8-4.There’s a wide variety of national polls listed on the NCAA website, and the Trojans ranked pretty consistently on all of them after last week. The Trojans are up to No. 14 in the National College Baseball Writers Association poll, No. 13 in the poll and No. 9 in the Baseball America poll  and No. 12 in the USA Today national poll.I wouldn’t say that this weekend proves that USC is the best team in the country. If the football team had just beat UCLA, TCU and the SEC’s best team in three consecutive games, that would be a different story. Not only would that scenario likely involve winning at least two of the NCAA football’s playoff games, but baseball requires a uniquely large sample size when making judgments compared to other sports.It’s not unheard of for a college football team to go undefeated in a season. In fact it’s even happened before in the NFL. In basketball we’ve seen plenty of teams go undefeated in the regular season including this year’s Kentucky squad. While it hasn’t happened in the NBA, it’s not uncommon for teams to go on winning streaks of 20 or more games.Baseball, on the other hand, is much more fluctuating. In the MLB, even the best teams will only win about 60 percent of their games in a season, and the worst teams will still win at least 40 percent of their games most years.If a star slugger has a batting average of .400 and he goes four for five in one game, that means on average he will go over five the following game.So that’s why I’m not putting too much stock into last weekend’s performance for this year’s baseball team. There is still a lot of baseball left to be played for the Trojans the season.The road won’t exactly get easier for the Trojans, either. Four of the  Pac-12 schools sit in the USA Today Top 25, with another four receiving votes. Based off of those numbers, eight teams from the conference should be amongst the 64 teams invited to play in the postseason.But on a grander scheme, the start to this years Trojan baseball season is indicative of tremendous progress for the program. It’s shocking to think that this program, which has won more national championships than any other team, has not even made the playoffs in 10 seasons. You’d have to go all the way back to 2005 to find the last time the Trojans appeared in the NCAA baseball postseason. Not even men’s basketball, a team that has nowhere near the history as baseball and is known for really struggling recently, has had that long of a dry spell. The men’s basketball team last made an appearance in the March Madness basketball tournament in 2011. And yes, I’m still confident that our team this year could hypothetically make the NCAA tournament if the Trojans can put it together in the Pac-12 tournament this week.But back to baseball. We are pretty close to positive that this years team will make the postseason.Barring any major wrath of injuries, this team should finish in the top 25, let alone the top 64. Much the same way that basketball programs like Duke or Kentucky can guarantee invitations to the NCAA tournament before each season, the USC baseball team can now start to count on that almost every season.In his three years as head coach of the baseball team, Dan Hobbs has brought in three recruiting classes ranked as top 25 classes by baseball America. That effort on the recruiting trail is finally bearing out as results on the diamond. And it doesn’t sound like that meteoric road and improvement is going to stop anytime soon.Again, that doesn’t mean that USC will become a dominating national powerhouse that wins national championships year in and year out like it did in the past. There is much more parity in college baseball as well as all of college sports, meaning there is much more competition amongst perennial powerhouses every season. But the Trojans will certainly be in competition for the national championship year in and year out. The 10-year playoff drought will be over. In fact, it will probably be another 10 seasons until the Trojans don’t make the playoffs. And eventually, all these trips to the College World Series will eventually result in another national championship in Heritage Hall.So if you’re a little late to the show — we get it, plenty of Dodger fans don’t make it out until about the third inning — now would be the time to  jump on that bandwagon. Because if you haven’t heard by now, let it be known that USC baseball is back.last_img