What Ducks Learned From First Glimpse of Conference Baseball Play
The Ducks couldn’t bounce back from a rough weekend against Mississippi State as they dropped two games to Utah (6-11, 2-1). What was supposed to be a fresh start for the freshly-trimmed Oregon squad turned into a quagmire of inconsistency. An explosive nine-run performance in Game 2 was sandwiched between two three-hit nights.
Now is when fans start to doubt, and critics remind us that potential does not equal success. Oregon didn’t perform at the level we were expecting, but there is plenty to note from the first weekend of Pac-12 play.
- Pitching is not the issue
Cole Irvin bounced back from his shortest outing of the season last week to throw 7-1/3 while striking out six.
Matt Krook went only four innings on Saturday afternoon, and he continued his wild ways, walking four batters. Krook’s stuff is still there and the control issues will improve has he continues his comeback season.
David Peterson didn’t overwhelm the Utes, but six innings and six strikeouts is nothing to scoff at.
- The offense is present but inconsistent
George Horton‘s offense clicked when it played to the style required by PK Park. Matt Kroon snagged two bags this weekend and is a perfect 4-4 on the year. The Ducks were aggressive on the base paths as Travis Moniot and Nick Catalano each swept a bag apiece.
Kyle Kasser got his first start of the year and had an immediate impact. The sophomore had been solid off the bench and continued to rake as he went 3-4, scoring once and driving in two. His presence in the lineup was missed on Sunday when the Ducks were shut-out and recorded just three hits.
In the hit parade on Saturday, the Ducks had everything working for them as they recorded a season high 14 hits. Only two hits went for extra bases, but a stand-up triple by Austin Grebeck provided the spark to rally Oregon.
Outside of the fireworks on Saturday, the Ducks offense was a combined 6-58 (.103) and struck out 18 times (.281 K%).
- The defense still has questions
While the offense continues to find itself, the defense needs to provide support for the starters. The fielding struggles of 2015 continue to manifest themselves as five different Ducks committed errors this weekend.
The defense has shown flashes of greatness, including Matt Eureste‘s bare-handed grab on Friday night. But they rank at the bottom of the conference in team fielding percentage (.967).
If the the defense can’t get outs, added pressure on the pitchers and offense will be sorely felt.
- They have been here before
Last year Oregon raced out of the gates in the first month before stumbling through the middle of the season. That team was not as healthy as the 2016 group, and their ceiling was not as high. The leaders in this clubhouse were there to experience the highs and lows and are sharing that experience with the younger players.
The Ducks have a quick turnaround as they head to Washington to play Seattle U. on Thursday evening before returning to conference play at Washington.
The season has only begun and Oregon has plenty of time to get back to the championship form with which they started. The mindset of this team has been that they are headed to Omaha.
The Fighting Ducks are down but not out.
Top Photo by Dave Peaks