As Stanford put USC’s 2022 season to a close by routing the Trojans 12-5, it also marked the end of an era.
During the offseason, USC and then-Head Coach Jason Gill mutually agreed to part ways. A month later, the athletic department hired Andy Stankiewicz, the man who guided Grand Canyon to its first-ever NCAA Division I postseason appearance in 2021.
With Stankiewicz, the team hopes to reclaim its reputation of being one of the most prestigious programs in the country.
“We have to build a ball club that’s competitive, not just against the opponent but … also inside the program,” Stankiewicz said. “I want to see guys fighting for jobs. If we can do that really well, we feel like we can be competitive against the opponent.”
Stankiewicz will be inheriting a squad that is searching for its first winning record in a full season since 2015. Last season, the Trojans went 25-28 and were last in the conference with a Pac-12 record of 8-22. USC was one of just four schools in the Pac-12 with an overall losing record.
“It’s nice being the underdogs coming into the season,” said sophomore infielder Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek. “So as a group, we’re coming in ready to go, ready to play and ready to prove people wrong.”
Martin-Grudzielanek and other transfers have been brought in to assist USC’s offense. In their conference last season, the Trojans were 10th in batting average, last in on-base percentage and last in runs batted in. One thing the Trojans did well was put the ball in play, as they had the fewest strikeouts in the conference.
On the pitching side, the team posted an ERA of 5.47 last season, which was ninth in the Pac-12. After the 2022 season, USC replaced Pitching Coach Ted Silva with former Trojan Seth Etherton.
“Having Coach Etherton on staff means a three-time All-American,” said senior catcher Connor Clift. “He knows what a national title looks like.”
Along with the new editions, the Trojans have reliable veterans returning for another season. Junior pitchers Tyler Stromsborg and Jaden Agassi will lead the starting rotation after pitching over 60 innings each last year.
“Over the offseason, I gained weight just to add some strength,” Stromsborg said. “And I’ve been focusing on a slider because I need to do a better job of putting hitters away.”
USC will be without six of the nine starters in the lineup from last season. However, the Trojans retain senior Adrian Colon-Rosario in the outfield. The Puerto Rico native batted .298 with eight home runs last year.
After smashing six home runs with a .363 on-base percentage last season, senior Nick Lopez will be the infield captain.
The Trojans will face a Pac-12 conference that has four ranked teams in Baseball America’s Top 25 preseason list: No. 4 Stanford, No. 12 UCLA, No. 18 Oregon State and No. 20 Oregon.
“It’s a tough conference, we know that,” Stankiewicz said. “We can’t try to be somebody we’re not. We have to play really, really good as a team. If we can do that, we’ve got a chance to have success.”
The Trojans will open their season against Marist this Friday at Dedeaux Field at 6:30 p.m.