Nick Burton is a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. His column, “Any Given Saturday,” runs Thursdays, ironically. To comment on this story, visit dailytrojan.com or email Nick at email@example.com. Tomorrow, USC baseball begins its 125th season of play. Under the lights at Dedeaux Field, junior Wyatt Strahan will throw the first pitch of the season against the Northwestern Wildcats at 6 p.m., and few at this school will care.For roughly the last decade, baseball season has not meant much in the grand scheme of USC athletics — the program has had just one winning season since 2002, and that was way back in 2005. It’s a far cry from the glory days of USC baseball, which lasted for, oh, just 60 years or so. From the 1940s through the turn of the century, USC was the unquestioned king of college baseball, amassing an unmatched 12 National Championships.But of the nearly 1,700 losses USC baseball has suffered in its 124 years of play, close to a fifth have come in the last decade. Last year the Trojans lost more games (36) than any USC team since the 1985 squad went 22-44.This year, however, there is renewed optimism around the program. Two unnamed Pac-12 coaches told Perfect Game USA’s Kendall Rogers that USC would be the “surprise of the league.” Aaron Fitt of Baseball America said he spoke with several scouts who believe USC baseball will make a regional this year.“I think [the new optimism] is absolutely warranted,” Fitt said. “Scouts I spoke with this fall said they haven’t seen a USC team play with this much energy in a long time.”Fitt himself also sees USC as a regional team this year, and actually gives them a chance to win a regional next year.“The future is bright,” Fitt said. “[Second-year head coach Dan Hubbs] was the right hire, and I think he’s got a great vision for how to restore this program to glory.”One of the key reasons for USC’s heightened expectations is experience. Despite last season’s struggles, the raw talent on the roster was evident. As Hubbs often points out, despite their disappointing record, the Trojans rarely got blown out in 2013. Instead, they were more often just out-executed. And their youth certainly played into that.“We were younger last year than anyone I’ve ever seen in our league,” Hubbs said. “I would compare it [to] when Oregon started [its program in 2009].”Hubbs expects that experience to pay off, especially when it comes to late-game execution. The Trojans were woefully inept last year at doing the “little things” — like moving a runner over with a productive out or not giving up free bases on defense — all critical for a team that does not have the pure talent of some of the Pac-12’s elite.USC has built a solid foundation. But the key to that foundation is not just in experience; it’s in roster depth.“We should be deeper [on the mound, specifically] than we’ve ever been since I’ve been here,” said Hubbs, who joined the Trojans as a pitching coach in 2011. “Arm strength-wise, competitive-wise, pitchability-wise, we’re deeper. Which can only mean better. I don’t think we’ll be having a heart attack every game in the 7th inning.”Hubbs had a number of terms to describe the Trojans’ comically unpredictable bullpen last season, my personal favorite being that picking relievers was “like flipping a coin.” But in my preseason meeting with him, he gave me a new favorite.“There was a couple of weeks where I’d basically pick whoever pitched worse the day before, because it meant he’d pitch good today,” Hubbs said. “And if you pitch the guy who struck out the side the day before, he was gonna give up five runs.”Pitching is without question where USC looks most improved this season. For example, the Trojans are expecting to have a set midweek starter, something they never came close to achieving in my three previous seasons covering the team. In fact, former head coach Frank Cruz actually let me pick the Tuesday starter a few times — that’s how much of a crapshoot it was.“USC should be better in every phase of the game,” Rogers said. “But even if they improve a lot, the Pac-12 is strong enough that they could still finish 7th or 8th in the league.”Despite the new confidence, in this year’s preseason poll Pac-12 coaches picked USC to repeat its 9th-place finish from 2013. And though I didn’t get the chance to ask Hubbs about that specifically, I am willing to speculate he would not find that unfair.“The guys are believing that [they’re a regional team] right now, and that’s a great place to start,” Hubbs said. “But we have to go do it … You say you wanna be that, then we need to go make that happen.”I have covered almost every USC home game over the last three years. As a consequence, I have been subjected to some very, very bad baseball. I’m not saying USC has no chance this year, but I want to see some results before I believe the hype.“It’s nice that people are saying nice things about us,” Hubbs said. “But we haven’t don’t anything yet. I’m excited about the possibility of it, but we haven’t done anything yet.”The chance to do that starts tomorrow.