There’s no place like … Nashville? When the Oregon Ducks baseball team learned they would not be hosting a regional and instead travelling to the Vanderbilt Regional in Nashville, perhaps there was a sigh of relief from Coach George Horton. PK Park’s ‘friendly confines’ have not been exactly kind to the Ducks the last three years of regional and super regional play.
Recall the 2013 season’s conclusion at PK Park with the Ducks hosting the Eugene Regional, yet losing to the Rice Owls 11-4 in the finale. It pains me to remind you, dear reader, of the conclusion of the 2012 season at PK Park, a 3-2 Eugene Super Regional loss to Kent State – with the game winning blooper to left field lost in the sun by shortstop JJ Altobelli and left fielder Brett Thomas. I’m still not sure if the official scorer called that a hit or an error.
So maybe it’s a good thing the Ducks are on the road. Or maybe that’s just Pollyanna talk. Regardless, it’s post season time for Oregon baseball, as the Ducks take on the Clemson Tigers on Friday at 1:00 PM Pacific in Nashville, Tennessee. The winner plays the winner of the Vanderbilt (41-18) vs. Xavier (29-27) game on Saturday.
Clemson (36-23) finished third in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 15-14 league record. There have been no common opponents for Clemson and Oregon. Ohio State was the easternmost team Oregon played this season but that game was at PK Park. Clemson hosted UNLV in early May. Clemson is one of seven teams from the ACC that made the playoffs.
The Pac-12 has five teams represented. SEC haters and East Coast-bias conspiracy theorists are probably not surprised, nor pleased to hear, that the SEC led all conferences with a total of 10 teams represented. Yep, you read that correctly, 10! Keep in mind though, the SEC had seven teams in the NCAA Rating Percentage Index (RPI), while the Pac-12 had Oregon State (No. 6), Oregon (No. 23) and Washington (No. 24).
Both teams have listed left handed pitchers for Friday’s game: Oregon going with junior Tommy Thorpe (10-4, 2.20 ERA) and the Tigers starting with sophomore Matthew Crownover (8-5, 2.26 ERA).
Clemson is batting .276 as a team, slightly better than Oregon’s .259. DH Tyler Krieger (.330), second baseman Steve Wilkerson (.318) and left fielder Garrett Bouleware (.303) lead the Tigers in hitting.
Clemson has winning seasons for 50 consecutive years, dating back to 1964 and trails only Miami (57 years) and Florida State (67 years) for the most consecutive winning seasons.
A good start from pitcher Tommy Thorpe will be one of the keys to this game, as Clemson has been productive in the opening inning, scoring 48 runs and batting .329 as a team in the first inning this season.
Finally, a look at the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI): Oregon is No. 23 and Clemson No. 49. Strength-of-Schedule comparisons are a bit more challenging with more than one formula out there for fans to chew on. Boydsworld.com uses their “Interative Rating” and has Oregon a solid No. 23, while Clemson falls to No. 81. Obviously, I agree with that.
Warrenolan.com has another SoS formula with Clemson at No. 44 and Oregon at No. 81. There are no West Coast teams in the Top Ten in this formula and multiple SEC teams, so take that for what it’s worth.
Oregon has played at Vanderbilt’s Hawkins Field — two years ago in a three-game set and swept the series from the Commodores. Let us hope that some familiarity with the field and a strong Pac-12 and non-league schedule have prepared the Ducks well.
(Top Photo by Kevin Cline)