It’s Saturday, March 12, 2016. We are sitting here with a pain in the back of our neck after watching our Ducks drop their 2nd game to the Mississippi State University Bulldogs. The Duck hitting seemed anemic and their stellar starting pitching, much praised with cause, appeared to lose presence.
A text from a friend, he aware of my strong interest in the program and not being a Duck alum – his school is in the Seattle area – asking of the Ducks baseball outcome. We replied lightly, that they had dropped a couple, quickly changing the subject to the Pac-12 basketball tournament and the Ducks’ victory over his Huskies.
It seems he had heard on a radio sports news broadcast that the Ducks had lost 10-4 on Friday and 9-3 on Saturday and his purpose in sending his message was to rub salt in what he knew would be an open wound to my soul. His reply to my lightly presented message was to be expected. “What happened to that great pitching you’re always crowing about?” “Did they finally meet some real hitters?” I replied, “That we were surprised he had such a large vocabulary,” and “Thank God for a spell-check program that could help him with the spelling.”
His message, as it always does, put our mind in gear. What did happen in Starkville?
For Saturday’s game, if we eliminate the anomaly of Krook’s first inning pitching performance, we have a 4-3 ballgame with the first of the Bulldog’s four runs being the result of a throwing error by the Duck’s freshman shortstop – his second charged error in the series.
Also on Saturday, the Duck’s had nine hits versus the Bulldogs 11. Timely hitting, however, was the issue. Our Duck bats did not come through with men on base or in scoring position. However, they exceeded the team batting average of .206 in Saturday’s game, hitting at a .250 clip. Most Duck hits took place in the late innings – too little, too late. The Duck hitters struck-out 15 times on Saturday.
It seems the Ducks had some academic finals scheduled early in the week of March 14th. They are student athletes, thus an early flight out of Starkville was necessary for Sunday’s trip back to Eugene.
For the third game of the series, a Sunday morning breakfast affair – 8:30 AM PT, the story was much the same. There were five Ducks hitting safely only six times (two hits for Susnara) for a team game average of .188 compared to 9 hits for the Bulldogs and a .300 team game average. For the Ducks, hitting has become a problem both in average and timeliness.
What happened in Starkville? The Ducks were swept 10-4, 9-3 and 5-2.
How should we feel about the 2016 “Duck Boys of Summer”? In the eyes of this old timer, we should remember that the Ducks are a very young ball club, which generally has at least 6 sophomores and freshman in their starting lineup. We fans have to temper our expectations and allow the team to grow. The MSU Bulldogs are one of the best teams in the SEC-West and it is true the Ducks were not playing at their level. Let’s give them time.
Top Photo by Dave Peaks