Sporting an 11-4 overall mark and winners of seven of their last eight ball games, the Oregon Ducks will open the Pac-12 conference baseball race with a three game set against the California Bears beginning Friday in Berkeley.
Left-handed ace David Peterson lost his opening outing against Fresno State but has since won three straight games, the last two in dominating fashion. Named Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week after striking out a career high 17 batters on March 3rd against Mississippi State, Peterson fanned 14 in his next outing against Santa Clara and claimed the weekly honor for the second straight week.
In 25.1 innings of work he has allowed only three walks while giving up an average of 3.2 earned runs per outing.
Matt Mercer and Cole Stringer have filled in admirably behind Peterson through the early stages of the season with ERA’s of 1.54 and 2.45 respectively with a combined 39 strike-outs and 10 walks.
Head coach George Horton is known for assembling a team that features pitching and defense and although Horton has surrendered his duties as pitching coach to first-year assistant Jason Dietrich, the first half of that formula so far remains to be intact.
With a fielding percentage of .973 with 25 errors and 9 unearned runs allowed in their 15 games, there is still some shoring up to do for the Ducks in catching and throwing the ball though to be far, much of that damage was done early on.
Offensively the Ducks are hitting .259 as a team with Gabe Matthews (.361) and Kyle Kasser (.345) leading the team in batting average. Daniel Patzlaff’s nine RBI are tops on the squad.
The conference race can only be considered wide open as evidenced a year ago when cellar dwellar Utah surprised everyone to finish at the top of the heap with a record of 19-11 in conference and 26-29 overall. The Ducks finished the year at 14-16 in Pac-12 play and 29-26 overall to finish tied with the Bears for 10th place in the standings.
Through the non-conference schedule to date Oregon State, Arizona, Stanford and Washington State along with the Ducks have bunched themselves within 3.5 games of each other at the top of the standings with the rest of the conference only a game or two behind.
Oregon will host Washington for a three-game set beginning March 25th to open the home portion of the Pac-12 schedule. First pitch is set for 7:00 pm for both Friday and Saturday with Sunday’s finale scheduled to begin at 2:00 pm. All three games will be carried by the Pac-12 Networks.
~ Rick Morgan