Photo by Eric Drotter
The USD baseball team enjoyed a 2007 season that felt like a million dollars. And if some members aren ’t sure how to relate to such lofty financial heights, they can always ask Toreros All-American pitcher Brian Matusz how it feels.The last offer Matusz turned down from the Los Angeles Angels before enrolling as a freshman here was a package that totaled $1 million. “It was the best, and hardest, decision of my life to come here,” Matusz said. The Toreros won the West Coast Conference regular-season title and captured the WCC tournament title. They set program records for wins with a 43-18 overall record and the team’s highest national ranking ever, at No. 4 entering the NCAA tournament.
USD also earned the right to host an NCAA sub-regional at San Diego State University, but even though the Toreros suffered an early exit with two upset losses, they established enough credibility to remain in the national Top 25.
“We had a great year — the best year in school history,” USD head coach Rich Hill said. “ To be ranked No. 4 at the end of the regular season is exceptional. To be in the final Top 20 poll is extremely special.” As icing on the cake, Hill was named the WCC Coach of the Year, eight of his players were first-team All-WCC picks and two more garnered honorable mentions.
Since he arrived in 1999, Hill’s goals for the program have been to win conference titles, be a contender for the College World Series and recruit student-athletes that want to play in college while developing skills that turn them into pro prospects.
All of that was accomplished in 2007, including the latter: senior first baseman Shane Buschini was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 11th round, senior catcher Jordan Abruzzo by the New York Mets in the 13th round and junior second baseman Justin Snyder got tapped by the New York Yankees in the 21st round.
To the rest of the college baseball world, USD seemed to emerge as a national power overnight. But in truth, the Toreros’ 2007 NCAA tournament was their second straight trip and fourth in the last six years.
The 2007 team established itself early by winning two out of three games in March at the University of Texas. Pitcher Josh Romanski — who formed a devastating 1-2 punch with Matusz as sophomore left-handers — said the 2007 Texas road wins meant more than the Toreros’ 2006 three-game sweep of Texas at USD’s Cunningham Stadium.
“That let us know we could travel and win in a yard like that,” Romanski said. “It all started there, and it snowballed for the rest of the season.”