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August 8, 2007

Rising programs: No. 3 San Diego

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    With fall workouts in the not too distant future, we continue our inside look at many programs around the country.

    In our latest series, we breakdown the nation's Top 10 Rising Programs.

    Though the top spot won't be unveiled until later this week, we continue the countdown with a team that took a huge step forward in 2007 - San Diego.

    After making a 2006 appearance in the Fullerton Regional, the Toreros entered 2007 with high hopes. Not only did USD welcome back a talented weekend rotation, they also had one of the nation's most veteran lineups.

    With the combination of great pitching and ample offensive production, the Toreros had a season to remember. Now they must build on that success.

    Rising Programs: No. 3 San Diego
    Why are they rising?
    The Toreros have made significant strides during the past few seasons, but what they accomplished in 2007 was special. In 2005, the Toreros failed to reach the NCAA Tournament with a less than stellar 30-27 overall record. However, their luck took a turn for the better with a 33-25 finish in 2006. Not only did the Toreros finish third in the West Coast Conference, they also competed in the Fullerton Regional. In 2007, the Toreros tallied impressive non-conference series wins over Texas and Wake Forest. They also finished the year with a dominant 18-3 conference record. After making steady progress during the past two seasons, the Toreros now hope to make an even bigger statement in 2008 and beyond. They certainly have the personnel to do so.

    2007 Year in Review
    With a veteran lineup and an experienced weekend rotation returning to action in 2007, it's easy to see why the Toreros were successful. San Diego began the year with an interesting trend in non-conference play. Though the Toreros won series against Texas and Wake Forest, they also lost series to Southern California and Fresno State. After some tense moments during non-conference action, the Toreros flexed their muscles in WCC play. USD finished the regular season with an 18-3 mark in league play. They ended the year with an impressive 43-18 overall record. With a loaded resume, the Toreros also earned their first national seed. However, their dream of winning the national title came to an abrupt halt in the San Diego Regional. While Brian Matusz, Josh Romanski and Matt Couch led the way on the mound, veterans Justin Snyder, Shane Buschini and Jordan Abruzzo did the honors at the plate. For the Toreros, the 2007 season could be viewed as the one that turned the tide.

    What the future holds
    When San Diego takes the field for the first time in 2008, they will be without several key offensive contributors from last year's team. With the departure of several veterans, the Toreros will rely heavily on the arms of Brian Matusz, Matt Couch and Josh Romanski to get the job done on the weekends. They also welcome back reliever AJ Griffin, who recorded 11 saves in 63 1/3 innings of work last season. In the field, the Toreros welcome back shortstop Sean Nicol, third baseman Kevin Hansen and outfielder Logan Gelbrich. Like many teams, USD expects to rely on several newcomers during the upcoming season. Right-handed pitcher Kyle Blair should provide a boost for the pitching staff, while Victor Sanchez and Vanderbilt transfer Ryan Davis could do the same offensively. The Toreros should still be in good shape for '08. With more talented recruiting classes starting to stream in, the future is bright.

    Kendall's analysis
    With Pepperdine and San Francisco each taking a step back in '07, the Toreros had a golden opportunity to make a splash. They did just that. Sure, they failed to reach the Super Regional round, but does the name Vanderbilt ring a bell? Though USD's Regional performance was nothing short of dismal, the Toreros picked the wrong weekend to play their worst baseball. Despite the season-ending setbacks, USD had a season to remember. Not only did coach Rich Hill improve his stock, but left-hander Brian Matusz blossomed into one of the nation's premier pitchers. With Matusz back next season, the Toreros have a good place to start. Much like Vanderbilt, we believe the Toreros learned their lesson in the San Diego Regional. Watch out in 2008.



    Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at kendall@rivals.com.




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