The Ducks got the job done this weekend. Well, most of it. The Ducks picked up three wins against USC, giving them a boost in the conference standings to fifth, one spot ahead of Oregon State. Sadly, Oregon wasn’t able to finish the weekend perfect as they dropped the first of two out-of-conference games with their in-state rivals.
The Ducks capitalized on the struggles USC has been having on the mound. The offense got rolling against Cal and the floodgates burst on the way to the first series sweep of the year for Oregon. While the future is bright, the team will have to be on the same page at the same time moving forward.
Here’s what we saw this weekend:
Head coach George Horton said that he would be playing less small ball moving forward. That appears to be the right decison as the Ducks scored 24 runs against the Trojans. Their best three-game run all year.
A team effort got Oregon its first sweep, but some performances were more equal than others. The key players showing up were especially important considering the expectations placed on them entering the season.
A.J. Balta has had his share of peaks and valleys in 2016. Right now, he’s on top of the world. The de facto offensive leader had the Trojan’s number, going 5-9 while tallying 5 RBIs. According to Horton, Balta turned his game around in Michigan and hasn’t looked back.
Travis Moniot looks settled in and as if he is ready to step into the shoes Horton laid out for him. He continued to show the defensive skills that he has been touted for but more importantly, he is growing into his bat. The freshman smacked three homers over the four games, launching two over the right field fence and one to deep left center.
“The most important thing for Travis is his leadership and playing good defense for us, we’ll take whatever he can give us offensively,” Horton said after the game on Friday night. Even if his glove is keeping him in the lineup, his bat will be just as important down the stretch.
Pitching wasn’t supposed to be a problem. We had assurances that the offense needed to put 2-3 runs on the board and there wouldn’t be any problems. We have forgiven bumps in the road, short outings and free bases to this point, but the situation at PK is beginning to look serious.
When asked about what sparked the offense in the last month, Horton commended the mental toughness of his team but believes that, the offensive struggles are “starting to matriculate to [the] pitching a little bit.”
The moderately observant fan can see what he is talking about.
Cole Irvin had his second worrisome start in three games. He managed to hit the seven inning mark but he gave up 5 runs on 6 hits on the road getting there. Irvin’s saving grace was a 7-spot by his offense in the second inning after he put himself in a hole early.
All eyes are on the leader of this team, the one who boldly claimed that we would see Oregon in Omaha this summer.
Matt Krook and David Peterson had their share of troubles, as well. Both failed to post positive K:BB ratios in their wins. Friday was Krook’s second consecutive 6-walk game, giving him a team high 33 free passes on the year.
Maybe there isn’t too much cause for concern with Krook’s wildness as Horton joked after the game that “he met his quota with six walks.”
Oregon had their chances to kick the Beavers while they were down. Entering the game, Oregon St. had fallen to 6-6 in the Pac-12, a spot below the Ducks who entered at 7-5. Of course, this was more of a mental match-up than anything.
While the offense managed to keep pace with the No. 12 team in the country, a deep whole dug by Kyle Robeniol proved to be too great a challenge to overcome.
A soft double down the left field line to open the game for Oregon St. bode poorly for a bullpen that is questionable up until the back-end.
Robeniol, in true Duck fashion has been streaky all year. He faced 12 Beavers and failed to get out of the third inning when the wheels fell off. In his defense, the defense didn’t help his cause as an error allowed two runs to cross the plate. Regardless, the 6-run third was not where the Ducks hoped to find themselves.
A scorecard-ruining, hair-raising, crowd-stamping inning of their own was enough to close the gap – briefly. Moniot’s three-run homer and an outstanding show of plate discipline – 4 walks in a span of 7 batters – helped the Ducks tie the game at 8-8.
The Ducks clung to that score until the top of the ninth. Billy King started the inning with an infield single and eventually scored on a Caleb Hamilton ground rule double. The Ducks teased us in the bottom of the inning, scoring 2 runs on a ball that dropped in the middle of three Beavers in shallow left to end Oregon’s scoring.
If short of optimal, Oregon showed that they are not to be written off, battling a top 15 team to the end as a capstone to their 6-game week.
Top Photo by Dave Peaks