My friends…it is that time of year when groundhogs and daffodils poke up out of the ground and the “Ol’ Baseball Guy,” Gar Pearson, emerges to share his thoughts about our Diamond Ducks. Gar knows baseball, but was on a work assignment in Michigan for quite some time and away from his beloved Ducks too long. Look for his articles every two weeks, and I’ll see him where we hope to see all of you….at PK Park! Charles Fischer
Our head resting on the seatback, eyes closed, getting comfortable as our aircraft trundles to the active runway of Detroit International with clearance to depart for home. Back to the Pacific Northwest, God’s country. This Detroit thing has been a 3-month grind! With great respect and warmth for the folks we’ve met and worked with, biweekly trips in and out of Detroit just aren’t a warm and fuzzy experience.
While waiting to board our final flight for home, we checked online for the NFL Combine performance of Duck’s QB Marcus Mariota. His outstanding performance was streaming online and if your chest doesn’t swell with pride due to his representation of the U of O, then you just aren’t breathing.
Has anyone noticed how well the Ducks’ other athletic teams are performing? The men’s basketball team is playing well and Dana Altman’s name should be engraved on the roundballs with which they play. The team is playing way above expectations and the man is an absolute genius. We are concerned but expecting a win against the Cardinal on Sunday. Go Ducks!!
Let’s move our focus to baseball, which we love. We are at about 37,000 feet, flying west out of Chicago and, for this old farm boy, watching the stream of the Ducks’ baseball game with New Mexico State is beyond comprehension. The Duck hardball group’s overall won/loss record looks good. They have been doing some hitting but we can’t get really excited until the competition level steps up. The Hawaii pitching (Saturday and Monday starters) somewhat limited Duck hitting success until the bullpen guys took the mound. Against NMS, the Thursday and Friday Aggie pitching was effective again, until the bullpen was called upon. However good hitting is as much mental as it is ability and technique. The Ducks look confident at the plate and will probably get sharper as the weather warms and experience builds a positive mental state amongst the young hitters.
It is a concern that the Duck pitching is not at the place it needs to be. Trent Paddon appears to be having some real control issues, although he came in yesterday and closed out the final three innings and gave up only one hit and no runs against UCSB. Garrett Cleavinger just doesn’t seem to have the command he showed as a freshman, but he is the Duck’s closer and will get better. Don’t worry about Jack Karraker. He throws strikes and stays around the plate. However, he does not have overwhelming heat and pitchers with his characteristics are often inconsistent, unhittable one day, struggling the next.
Some pitching bright spots are there. Cole Irvin is effective but limited by recovery from Tommy John surgery. Newcomer Conor Harber looks impressive, and Stephen Nogosek is showing the promise we always felt he had. Freshman David Peterson is throwing well and got his first win yesterday against Santa Barbara. (UCSB)
Josh Graham is a real find. He was recruited as a pitcher/catcher and he brings the heat with his fastball (up to 94-95 MPH) while his “out tool” is a sinking off -speed pitch which can only be described as nasty. We should not be surprised as he was an excellent high school pitcher at Roseburg (Ore.) High School and his out then was that same nasty pitch. He is an excellent catcher, as well, and can really swing a bat. However, we feel his future is with pitching.
Please keep in mind, we love our Ducks and we are only offering these thoughts as early season observations. Things can change and young players develop quickly under excellent coaching.
The Ducks are 10-1 overall and baseball is not a diving contest. It matters not how you look on a pitch or defensive play, the numbers on the scoreboard are the truth of the contest and “Howdy,” have they been fun to watch. Let’s get ourselves to the ballpark to support them.
Until we see you at the ballpark, take 2 and hit to right!
Top photo credit: Dave Peaks