We picked USC baseball's all-time starting nine
This is the latest in our series of all time starting nines for some of college baseball’s most successful programs. Players' professional careers were not considered, just their college careers — along with consideration given to their positional fits as well as a batting order that could provide a combination of a high batting average, speed and power.
1. Gabe Alvarez (1993-95) – Shortstop
Picking USC's all-time starting shortstop was difficult because so many different players from different eras had strong, but varying, cases.
Cal Meier and Roy Smalley were both two-time national champions when the Trojans were rattling off titles in the 1960s and '70s. Dan Davidsmeier only played two seasons for USC but in 1981 he was a First Team All-American after leading the Trojans with a .371 average, 16 home runs, 58 RBI and 52 runs. Seth Davidson finished his college career ranked first in USC history in hits (312), runs scored (201), steals (66), tied for second in triples (31), and third in total bases (420), after helping the Trojans win the national championship in 1998, followed by two more College World Series appearances. Bret Boone spent two seasons at shortshop and he had 160 RBI for the Trojans.
But it's extremely hard to look past Gabe Alvarez's three All-American selections, including two First Team seasons, as he hit .338 in college with 258 hits (sxith all-time in program history), 58 doubles (second), 28 home runs, 163 RBI (third) and 410 total bases (fourth). He helped USC reach the College World Series national championship games in 1995, so while he lacks the national title(s) of other former Trojan shortstops, he kept the team in national title contention while hitting at least .326 with more than 50 RBI in each of his three seasons in L.A.
2. Jacque Jones (1994-96) – Left field
Jones played right field as a freshman, left field as a sophomore and center field as a junior, so we figured we could put him at any of the three outfield positions. He was a Baseball America Freshman All-American after batting .335 with six home runs and 45 RBI in his debut season with USC. He followed that up with a Third Team All-American campaign as a sophomore, when the Trojans made the College World Series, as his numbers climbed to .353, seven home runs and 53 RBI. His 106 hits that season rank as the second-most in USC history.
Jones saved his best college season for last, when he was named a First Team All-American after hitting .375 with 10 home runs and 56 RBI, putting him in the top 10 in program history for batting average, hits, doubles, triples, RBI, and total bases.
3. Geoff Jenkins (1993-95) – Right field
Jenkins played the corner outfield positions for USC in the mid-'90s, when he collected Baseball America Freshman All-American, Second Team All-American and First Team All-American honors in consecutive seasons. As a junior, he was named the Pac-12 Southern Division Player of the Year, a member of the All-College World Series team, and later, part of the College World Series All-Decade Team.
In 1995, Jenkins batted a team-high .399 with 23 home runs and 78 RBI. For his career, he ranks in the top five in program history in RBI (first, 175), total bases (first, 444), home runs (third, 45), doubles (third, 57), average (fourth, .369), slugging percentage (tied for fourth, .652). He has top-10 individual seasons for average, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, total bases, and slugging.
4. Mark McGwire (1982-84) – First base
This was the biggest no-brainer of any position. McGwire, who was named the 1984 National Player of the Year by The Sporting News, rewrote USC's record book. He left Los Angeles as the Trojans' career leader in home runs (54) and career slugging percentage (.718) after leading the team in most major hitting categories in 1983 and 1984.
As a junior, he hit .387 with 32 home runs, a single-season school record, 80 RBI, and 75 runs (tied for the most in a single season by a USC player), while slugging a ridiculous .871. His 216 total bases that season were 23 more than the second-highest single-season total in program history.
Get this: McGwire also pitched for USC and by the program's media guide's own admission, he put up better numbers as a pitcher than Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, who attended USC from 1983-85. In 28 career appearances as a pitcher in college, McGwire had a 2.93 ERA and his 2.78 ERA as a sophomore was the lowest on the team.
5. Eric Munson (1997-99) – Catcher
There were several deserving candidates for USC's all-time starting catcher but Munson had the best combination of single-season success, impressive career numbers, and both individual and team accomplishments. He was named the 1997 Sporting News National Freshman of the Year, as well as a Third Team All-American, after hitting .336 with a team-high 13 home runs and 50 RBI.
Each season he improved which All-American team he was on, moving up to the Second Team as a sophomore and First Team as a junior. His 1998 season was one to remember as he hit .392 (tied for the 11th-best single-season mark in USC history), with 16 home runs and 56 RBI while slugging .760 (the seventh-best mark in Trojans history). USC won the national championship that season and Munson was named to the All-College World Series Team.
He ranks fourth in career home runs (43), sixth in career slugging (.650) and eighth in career average (.354), providing a dangerous hitter in USC's all-time starting nine's batting order who's capable of hitting for both average and power.
6. Rich Dauer (1973-74) – Third base
Dauer made the most of his two-year career at USC. The Trojans won the national championship both years – Dauer's 1974 College World Series performance earned him a spot on the CWS All-Tournament Team – and he led the team in batting average, hits, home runs, RBI, and runs in each season. In 1973, Dauer hit .361 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI, then he set NCAA records for hits (108), total bases (181) and RBI (92) in a season in 1974, while hitting .387 with 15 homers, which earned him First Team All-American honors. His '74 season still ranks in the top three in USC single-season history for hits, RBI, doubles and total bases.
Dauer is tied for second in career average among Trojans players (.376) and he's seventh in career slugging percentage (.617).
Morgan Ensberg, a central figure on USC's 1998 national championship team who ranks in the top 10 in program history in numerous hitting categories, has a very strong case for the spot as well.
7. Pat Harrison (1966-68) – Second base
Harrison was a power-hitting second baseman before that phrase hit mainstream baseball vernacular. The two-time First Team All-American led USC in home runs and RBI in all three of his seasons with the Trojans and he's tied for 10th in both career home runs (32) and RBI (149).
While Harrison was never a particularly high-average hitter (his .291 average as a freshman was his best in college), he averaged more than 10 home runs per season and knocked in no fewer than 42 runs in any season, including 60 RBI as a freshman. He was the starting second baseman on USC's 1968 national championship team.
8. Fred Lynn (1971-73) – Center field
Lynn, a two-time national champion, was a College World Series All-Decade Selection for the 1970s who hit .467 in the 1971 CWS. He batted a team-high .345 with seven home runs and 30 RBI as a freshman, then became a First Team All-American as a sophomore after leading USC with 14 homers and 46 RBI. In his three years with the Trojans, Lenn batted .320 with 28 home runs and 111 RBI.
9. Mark Prior (2000-01) – Pitcher
As alluded to earlier, when Mark McGwire, one of the greatest hitters ever, was a better pitcher in college than Randy Johnson, one of the greatest pitchers ever, that means USC has had some incredibly talented arms come through Los Angeles in the last century.
Mark Prior played for USC for two seasons and the Trojans advanced to the College World Series in both years. He won every national player of the year award in 2001, when he compiled a 15-1 record with a Pac-12 record 202 strikeouts, a 1.69 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and six complete games in 20 starts. His strikeouts per nine innings average of 13.11 is half a strikeout more than the next best single-season mark in USC history and his 1.17 walks per nine innings mark ranks as the third-best single-season average.
Despite only playing for the Trojans for two seasons, he ranks fifth in program history in strikeouts (352) and seventh in innings pitched (357.1).
Rod Dedeaux (1942-86) – Coach
The late Rod Dedeaux won 11 national championships, 28 conference championships and 1,332 games at USC, making him the winningest coach in college baseball at the time of his retirement. He led the Trojans to five consecutive national titles in the '70s – no school has won more than two in a row since.
Dedeaux was honored by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball as "Coach of the Century" and in 1996, he was named the coach of the All-Time College World Series team. He was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1970 and USC's home field is named Dedeaux Field in his honor.