Twelve National Championships, twice as many as any other program in the country. Seventy-Four College World Series wins, more than all but one school in NCAA baseball history. And the third most overall wins of all time.
To say USC Baseball’s recent run hasn’t measured up to its past success would be the understatement of the century.
Now to be fair, the Trojans’ downfall on the diamond started well before Dan Hubbs was promoted to manager in 2013.
But in his six seasons at the helm, his team has a sub-.500 cumulative record and has made zero College World Series and exactly one NCAA Tournament, in 2015 when USC lost in the first round regionals.
Furthermore, the team’s Achilles heel the last two seasons, pitching, is Hubbs’ responsibility.
He is the lone former pitcher and pitching coach on the coaching staff, having pitched for USC in the early 1990s under Mike Gillespie. After his professional stints, he then went on to preside over the Cal Berkeley arms, capped by the Bears tying for fifth place in the nation in 2011, his final year in the Bay Area before returning to his alma mater.
The Trojans have surrendered the most walks in the Pac-12 two years running. They repeatedly shot themselves in the foot. At this level of baseball, that just cannot happen.
Hubbs can’t throw it in the strike zone for them, but nevertheless he still deserves the blame. Frankly, Hubbs needs to add another pitching specialist, at the very least to the dual assistant coach and recruiting coordinator or undergraduate assistant roles.
On some fronts, it’s surprising Hubbs has lasted this long.
Yet despite last season’s disappointing results, Hubbs also showed why he deserves another crack at restoring a once-national powerhouse.
Though the pitching staff struggled mightily, Hubbs made strong midseason moves to the rotation. Solomon Bates, John Beller and Brian Gursky, who all started the year in the bullpen, were moved into the rotation and delivered.
Bates in particular in his nine starts was the most dominant Trojan arm at the end of the year. He finished with a 6-3 overall record, a 3.14 ERA, and the lowest batting average against—.218—of any Trojan who made a start in 2018. He earned an eighth round selection in the MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants.
While Beller and Gursky only made five combined starts, they showed plenty of promise and as rising sophomores will both get substantial opportunities over the next few years. Beller’s 2.72 ERA on the season led all Trojan starters.
Hubbs also figured out how to get his best bats on the field, no matter how unorthodox his approach had to be. At times, the Trojans’ lineup featured four natural shortstops: Ben Ramirez, Chase Bushor, Jamal O’Guinn and Stephen Dubb, along with two catchers in Kaleb Murphy and Blake Sabol.
O’Guinn and Sabol had to play a lot of outfield, but their defense was never an issue and their offense made it worthwhile, Sabol’s in particular. He was second on the team with a .276 average and led the way on the base paths with a team-high eight stolen bases in as many attempts.
And from 2017, there was minor yet clear year-to-year improvement, with five more wins.
The team also graduated just one player, spot starter Mason Perryman. A lot of young guys played a lot of innings.
That said, youth will be nowhere near an acceptable excuse in 2019.
This may be Hubbs’ final shot. He needs to make the most of it.