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Unbeaten USC out to end streak of losing seasons

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 24, 2014 at 2:09 pm •  Published: February 24, 2014

Southern California has reason to hope its unprecedented down cycle might be nearing an end.

The Trojans this season are 7-0, with four victories coming on their final at-bat and a 6-1 win over powerful Cal State Fullerton to start last week.

"I think college baseball is better when USC is relevant and making trips to Omaha like they did for so many years," second-year coach Dan Hubbs said Monday. "Our job is to really get that back, and it may take a little bit of time. But I like the direction we're heading."

USC has had four straight losing seasons — most in a row for a program that dates to 1889 — and hasn't been over .500 since 2005. The Trojans' streak of eight years with no NCAA appearances is their longest since the tournament started in 1948.

The last of USC's record 12 national championships was won in 1998, and the Trojans haven't made it to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series since 2001.

The Trojans had 17 freshmen on last year's 35-man roster, and Hubbs said he was willing to take his lumps while keeping an eye on the future. So far, so good.

Junior Wyatt Strahan and senior Bob Wheatley are the top starting pitchers. Strahan touches 97 mph, and the left-handed Wheatley has allowed one earned run in 12 innings. Senior Jake Hernandez (.429), sophomore AJ Ramirez (.409) and freshman Jeremy Martinez (.367) are the top batters.

USC opened with 11- and 15-inning wins over Northwestern. Over the weekend, the Trojans had two walk-off wins over North Dakota State, with Omar Cotto Lozada hitting a three-run homer in the bottom of the 12th on Sunday.

"I'm getting a few more gray hairs," Hubbs said. "I'll play as long as we have to if we come out with a win. They never feel like they're out of anything. I know for a fact that we couldn't have done this last year."

The 43-year-old Hubbs, who pitched for the Trojans in the early 1990s, took over last year after Frank Cruz was fired for violating NCAA rules governing the amount of time players can spend in coach-supervised activities. USC is in the final year of a self-imposed two-year penalty reducing practice time.

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