No. 12 USC baseball opens its season against North Dakota at Dedeaux Field on Friday where the Trojans look to forget their disappointing loss in extra-innings to Virginia in last year’s NCAA Regional Final. Although the team’s trip to Lake Elsinore in 2015 didn’t end the way head coach Dan Hubbs had planned, he hoped his players would take confidence from their postseason experience and bring it into the new year.“Virginia were the eventual national champions,” Hubbs said. “And the team that they beat [in the College World Series Finals], Vanderbilt, we beat earlier in the year. Another team, TCU, went [to the World Series], and we beat them, too.”Hubbs also said the key to having a good season, starting this weekend against the Fighting Hawks, was to “maintain that edge” that the squad’s returning members earned through their experience last season.“The makeup on the team is strong. I think the makeup of the team is great,” Hubbs said. “We have a ton of guys back from last year’s team who know what it takes, and the leadership is strong.”Senior pitcher Kyle Davis is one of 20 returners to the Trojan roster this year, and he is scheduled to toe the rubber as the starter for Friday’s opener. The veteran hurler, who was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 29th round of last summer’s MLB draft, was itching to get back on the mound in a non-intrasquad game.“It’ll be nice to finally face another team other than ourselves,” Davis said. “Getting out there again and pitching on opening day will be cool for me.”Junior Jeremy Martinez, who will be called on to fill the backstop void left by graduated Johnny Bench Award winner Garrett Stubbs this year, agreed.“It’s going to be nice to put on a uniform again, to see fans in the stadium and all that good stuff we like playing baseball for,” Martinez said. “If we play our type of baseball, we’re going to come out on top with a three-game sweep.”After spending most of 2015 at first base, Martinez will catch and call the games for Davis and the rest of the pitching staff against an unfamiliar foe in North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks compete in the Western Athletic Conference against the likes of Cal State Bakersfield and Seattle University.The last time the Trojans played anyone from the conference was in 2014, when they beat Grand Canyon, 6-3, at home. North Dakota finished last season with a 24-27 overall record. The Fighting Hawks entered the WAC Tournament as the No. 3 seed and managed to beat Northern Colorado, but successive losses to Bakersfield and Sacramento State denied them a conference championship.Regardless of opponent, Martinez said the team is looking forward to starting the season.“[We want] to just go out there and have fun, not put too much pressure on ourselves and enjoy the moment,” Martinez said.But when asked about their ambitions for the season as a whole, both Martinez and Davis have very clear goals in mind.“It’s national championship or bust,” Martinez said.Davis agreed with Martinez.“Especially coming off of last year,” Davis said. “Being so experienced this year, it’ll be Omaha, the World Series.”First pitch on opening day is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday at Dedeaux Field. Saturday’s game begins at 2 p.m., and the Trojans will wrap up their three-game set against North Dakota on Sunday at 1 p.m.
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