Cole Irvin didn’t waste any time letting reporters know his thoughts about the 2016 season on Wednesday.
“We are going to Omaha this year,” he said. “I want to make that statement clear; we are going to Omaha.”
Oregon’s athletic programs have a tradition of winning, and the baseball team has lived up to that standard — making postseason appearances in five of the last seven years. The challenge, however, has been to go deep in the College World Series, as the Ducks have failed to escape the regional round every year since 2012.
The attitude in the clubhouse coming into the season, which officially began on Friday, is a confident one. Head coach George Horton was positive about the chemistry the team has shown to this point, noting that road trips and a smaller roster have not tested the team yet. He explained, ”chemistry is always a critical piece.”
Horton came out swinging in September, when he said the Ducks have the best pitching staff in the country. Without shying away from that claim, he wanted to remind his players that talking the talk and walking the walk is what makes all the difference.
“It’s something we’ve talked about in the previous seven years that I’ve been here,” he said. “Saying you’re going to Omaha is one thing, but it’s a lot of work. That’s what makes it so special.”
One issue tempering concern for the Ducks is the defense, where they committed 76 errors last year while posting a .970 fielding percentage, 92nd in the country. Horton wants to see improvement on what he said was the poorest defensive team he has coached at the D-1 level.
As a surprise, the Ducks’ strength (pitching) could be one of their biggest obstacles, as they trot out three lefties every weekend. When asked if that would be an issue, however, Irvin brushed off the concerns.
“They have to hit us,” he said. “Three different left-handers in a weekend is really hard to prepare for.”
Highlighting the “electric” stuff of Matt Krook and the control of sophomore David Peterson (who led the team in Ks last year), the change in pitching style from night to night will keep Oregon in the race for the ever-elusive Pac-12 title.
With a full season ahead of us, we need to remember that the season is a long one. Nothing has been established and plenty can happen between now and June, but the swagger the Ducks are carrying gives an air of hope. We will continue to talk about Pac-12 titles and CWS appearances because, as the wise coach Horton once said, “If you don’t talk about going to Omaha, I don’t think you have any chance.”
Top Photo by Dave Peaks