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Pac-12 Baseball Team Preview: Can the Ducks Compete?

After several poor years of being in the bottom 3rd of the Pac-12, the Ducks are eager for the clean slate of a new season...

Oregon v Pepperdine Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images

Oregon Ducks

  • Last Season: 30-25 (12-18 Conference)
  • Head Coach: George Horton
  • Best Returning Batter: Kyle Kasser (.352 Avg)
  • Best Returning Fielder: Kyle Kasser (210 Putouts)
  • Best Returning Pitcher: Matt Mercer (3.16 ERA)

The Skinny

The Oregon Ducks. I know, I know. I’m not thrilled that I have to talk about these guys neither but just bear with me, and we can get through this.

Still here? Great!

Because now it’s time to talk about one of our favorite things, the Ducks losing. And, ironically, the Oregon Ducks baseball team was no stranger to this phenomenon in conference play. The Ducks finished with an overall record of 30-25, which is a respectable finish. However, conference play told a much different story as the Ducks finished with a 12-18 record in the Pac-12. This placed the Ducks in the bottom 3rd of the conference at the end of last season. So while the Ducks weren’t a bad team last year, once they started playing some of the more elite squads in the Pac-12, the Ducks faltered.

One of the things that held the Ducks back most in the latter part of their season was their hitting. The Ducks were the worst team in the Pac-12 in team batting. The Ducks placed last in just about every major offensive stat, including team batting average, runs scored, and total hits. Last. Place. In a conference such as the Pac-12, it is essential to be able to put up runs even against some of the middle tier teams such as Cal or Utah. Yet, the Ducks proved ineffective on offense against most of these teams. The good news? 4 of their top 6 hitters are returning to the lineup, and 3 of those 4 are only sophomores. Youth is on the Ducks side with young quality players such as Gabe Matthews and Spencer Steer. Fortunately, the young Ducks lineup is led by 1st-Team All Pac-12 Conference infielder Kyle Kasser. The senior hit a solid .352 average for the team and will look to be an anchor for the Ducks lineup.

Pitching was their biggest strength last season and should be again this year. Oregon came in 4th in the conference in team pitching with a solid ERA of 3.86 to go with allowing just over 200 earned runs on the season. The Duck’s pitching kept them in a lot of their games last season. Now, things aren’t all great in the bullpen. The Ducks lost their best pitcher, David Peterson, to the MLB Draft. This lefty was first-team All-Everything in almost every major baseball poll; he was the rock in this rotation. Outside of Peterson, the Ducks are returning 2 of the top 3 pitchers from last season, including Matt Mercer and another lefty in Cole Stringer. The Ducks also had plentiful help from the bullpen last season with a rotation of quality relievers, one of which will be making a push for that final spot in the starting rotation. While pitching is still the strength of the Ducks team, they took a serious hit losing Peterson and are still in the process of looking for answers to replace him.

Emerald
Kiara Green

The last major component of the Ducks’ team is their fielding, which was average at best. They finished 6th in the conference with a .972 fielding percentage; fielding neither helped nor hindered them. The strength of the defense this year is their infield, which returns 3 of their 4 starters from a year ago, including all-around baller Kyle Kasser. The main worry for the Ducks is their outfield, where they could be starting 2 freshmen in Jonny Deluca and Evan Williams in their outfield. In addition, the Ducks are also looking to replace catcher Tim Susnara. This creates an unenviable position for Oregon, as an already average defense is looking to replace multiple spots with true freshmen. The Ducks are going to have to prove they can be a quality defense before any team in Pac-12 respects them.

Overall, the Ducks are a team that is an enigma to the rest of the conference. They are relying more heavily on young players than possibly any other team in the Pac-12, both on defense and on offense. The pitching could be the lone bright spot for the Ducks, and even that could be up in the air due to David Peterson’s departure. With a poor hitting team combined with an average defense, and the Ducks are a team that will have to answer a lot of questions before they can be taken seriously. Overall, it’s hard to imagine this team being any better than the middle of the Pac (see what I did there???) in this ultra-competitive conference, which is great news to all beaver fans.


Number to Know: 6

6 underclassmen (freshmen or sophomores) are projected to start in the Ducks’ lineup. As mentioned before, there is a heavy focus on youth for this team.


Games Against OSU:

April 19th, 20th, & 21st in Corvallis

May 1st & 8th in Eugene


Pac-12 Baseball Team Previews:

Utah

Arizona

California

UCLA

Stanford

ASU

USC

Washington

Washington State