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USC Baseball: Trojans are ready for a bounce back season and a return to the NCAA Tournament

After a sub .500 season, USC has its eyes on turning play around and returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.

NCAA Long Beach Baseball Regionals Photo By Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The USC Trojans come into the 2019 season with a goal to turn things around and make the NCAA Tournament. Last season the Trojans had a disappointing season going 26-28 with a 12-18 record in conference, finishing eighth in the Pac-12. That’s often the result for a team replacing key players and had a lot of freshmen and sophomores.

Much like the football program, USC baseball carries a lot of history and tradition with 12 national championships, 38 conference championships, and a plethora of MLB talent that has come through the program. However the Trojans have only had one winning record since 2015. The team is projected to finish ninth in the Pac-12 and for USC baseball, that is unacceptable.

Trojans manager Dan Hubbs will look to right the ship in 2019. He returns 25 players to his roster along with a recruiting class that was ranked No. 14 by Baseball America. USC will have to find the right mix between experience and youth. They will need their pitching staff to come through for them. Last season the Trojans finished with a 4.99 ERA which was the third highest in the Pac-12. Key players that return to the team are sophomore Kyle Hurt and junior closer Connor Lunn. Lunn was named to the NCBWA Stopper of the year watch list, an award that’s given to the top relief pitcher in the nation. He will get the call in closing situations for the Trojans much like he did last season. Hurt will look to pick up where he left off after ending the 2018 season strong. Hurt had issues with his command where he walked 40 batters last season. He did have 45 strikes and threw a team high 59 innings.

They also add the No. 120 prospect in the 2018 MLB draft class and Under Armor All-American Chandler Champlain. The 6-4 freshman pitcher was drafted in the 38th round by the Los Angeles Angels, however Champlain elected not to sign with the team.

USC will also need productive bats if they want to turn it around. Last season the team was ranked on the bottom half of every batting statistic in the Pac-12. The Trojans return their leading batters in shortstop Chase Bushor, who batted .301 in 2018 and outfielder Blake Sabol, who led the team in hits at 58. USC will need others to step up and produce productive at bats this season.

The schedule will be in the Trojans favor as they start off the season with a 13 game homestand before their clash with crosstown rival UCLA at Dodger Stadium on March 10th. USC will be tested through out those stretch of games as they face four ranked teams. They welcome No. 16 Arkansas, No. 17 Michigan, and No. 18 Oklahoma State to Dedeaux Field and face No. 5 UCLA at Dodger Stadium. USC will look for early success heading into conference play and put itself in a good position for the NCAA Tournament. A place where they haven’t been since 2015.