Oregon Baseball

Recap: Oregon Baseball

March 20, 2017

Special contribution by Doug Sloan

The Oregon Duck baseball team began Pac-12 play Friday night as they hit the road for a 3 game series with Cal Berkeley boasting an 11-4 record and riding high on the tails of a 6 game win streak.

But in spite of their recent success, the Ducks took the field with cautious optimism after what can only be described as a disappointing 2016 campaign. As many may recall, at last year’s annual media day, then staff ace Cole Irvin infamously predicted a trip to Omaha was in order for the Ducks.

"We are going to Omaha this year, I want to make that statement clear. We are going to Omaha."

Well, as it turned out, Cole Irvin is no Joe Namath and not only did they fail to make it to Omaha and the College Baseball World Series, but they failed to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 5 years. Instead, Oregon limped across the finish line with a 29-26 overall record and tied for an 8th place finish in the Pac-12 with a 14-16 record.

Fast forward to Friday night and the Ducks were looking to carry their momentum into conference play with a new team, tempered expectations and the red hot David Peterson taking the mound for Oregon.

Peterson, a Junior, is an imposing 6-foot-6 southpaw and played for the US Collegiate National team last summer so there was not much of a debate as to who would be named the Friday Night starter once conference play began. Coming off back to back Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week awards, Peterson’s confidence was running high. In his last 2 starts, he had been absolutely dominant going 2-0 while racking up 31 strikeouts in 15.1 innings without yielding a single earned run.

Unfortunately for the Bears, it was business as usual for Mr Peterson Friday night as he threw 6 shutout innings and punched out 8 Cal batters in route to a 7-1 Oregon win. 

But it was not just a one man show in Berkeley as the historically light hitting Oregon Ducks managed to pound out 12 hits which included two doubles by Spencer Steer and home runs by Jake Bennett and AJ Balta.

To close things out, Manager George Horton turned to his Freshman closer, Kenyon Yovan (Beaverton, OR) for the final 4 outs which he retired in order to pick up his 6th save of the season.

With the win, Oregon moved to 12-4 overall (1-0 in the Pac 12) and own a 7 game win streak.
Game 2 (3/17)

The Oregon bats were hot again at Evans Diamond on Saturday night in Berkeley as they hammered the Bears 13-2 to move to 13-4 overall and 2-0 in Pac-12 play.

The Bears jumped out to an early 2-0 after a 1st inning, 2 run home run by Andrew Vaughan off Sophomore pitcher Matt Mercer, but that lead would not last long. The Ducks exploded for 9 runs in the top of the 3rd on 7 hits, 2 walks and 2 costly Cal errors.
That was more than enough for Mercer who would not allow another Cal hit until a leadoff single in the 6th inning before giving way to the bullpen in the 7th with a commanding 10-2 lead.

From there, Coach Horton would rely on 6-foot-6 Freshman Zack Noll and 6-foot-5 Sophomore Isaiah Carranza to close out the Bears as they pitched the final 3 innings in scoreless relief. 

In all, Mercer pitched 6 solid innings, allowed only 3 hits and 2 earned runs while picking up the win to improve to 3-1 on the year with a paltry 1.84 ERA.

The final offensive line for Oregon would read 13 runs on 15 hits, all of which were singles save for a 3rd inning triple by Freshman third baseman Spencer Steer.

The victory increased Oregon’s win streak to 8 consecutive games.

Game 3 (3/19)

The Ducks dropped the final game of the series to Cal by a final score of 4-1 on a day where the bats never came to life. 

Cal would take an early 2-0 lead in the 2nd inning with back to back doubles and a sacrifice fly off Oregon starter Cole Stringer. 

The Ducks would cut the lead in half with a sacrifice fly by Spencer Steer in the 7th but Cal added 2 additional runs in the bottom of the 8th on a solo home run by Denis Karas and an RBI single by Jonah Davis to go up 4-1 heading into the 9th.

But Oregon refused to go quietly as Freshman Gabe Matthews began a late rally with a lead-off  double.  AJ Balta was then hit by a pitch which brought the tying run to the plate with no outs in Freshman Matthew Dyer. Dyer was unable to advance the runners as he was punched out and Cal would get out number 2 when Tim Susnara grounded out to second base. But hope was restored when Spencer Steer drew a base on balls to load the bases for Redshirt Freshman Braden Stutzman.  But the sweep was not meant to be as Stutzman struck out for the final out of the inning and the game and the Ducks fell to Cal 4-1.

In spite of the disappointing loss on Sunday, the Ducks have a lot to be encouraged about coming off their first conference series of 2017.

The Ducks went on the road and won the series 2 games to 1. Offensively, they showed they can swing the sticks a little. Oregon pounded out 33 hits and scored 21 runs over the weekend, something they rarely did last year. Additionally, they leave Berkeley with a team batting average of .268 through 18 games. Contrast that to last year’s team batting average of .232 and you can see the source of the optimism. Averaging 7 runs per contest will win you a lot of games in the Pac-12, especially if you can pitch, and the Ducks certainly can pitch as evidenced by their team ERA of 2.53.

Yes, it’s early and we probably won’t really know what type of team we have until several  weeks into conference play but so far, you have to like what you see. We’ll know a little more about them after next weekend as the 12-6 Huskies come to PK Park fresh off a 3 game sweep of the defending Pac-12 champion Utah Utes.
Tags: Baseball, Oregon
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