Murky Pac-12 Gives Oregon a Sliver of Hope

Max Thornberry Editorials

It appears the Oregon baseball program won’t be making a return to the postseason for a sixth straight year. Despite spending the first month of the 2016 season in the Top 30, including a short stint in the Top 15, the Ducks (29-23, 14-13) have been eliminated from a chance at the Pac-12 title with one series left to play.

Unfortunately for the Ducks, their final opponent is the sub .500 Stanford Cardinal – not an ideal RPI booster to make a case for the streaky Ducks.

Oregon is sitting with an RPI of 74. The Top 64 teams in the country will make the College World Series tournament. Without a strong finish or a series against the current Pac-12 champions, making a case will be far more challenging than in 2015.

Even with all that can go wrong for Oregon, there is still an outside chance the baseball gods will look favorably upon the Duck faithful.

Stanford leads the all-time series vs Oregon 27-18.

Stanford leads the all-time series vs Oregon 27-18.

Both Stanford and Oregon have put together nondescript seasons, but some of Stanford’s peripheral numbers spell a tough series to close the season on. Despite sitting in ninth place in the conference, Cardinal pitchers have showed well, posting a second-best team ERA of 3.32. Only Oregon State has given up fewer hits – 394 compared to Stanford’s 400 – and no staff has allowed fewer runs than the 197 scored against the Cardinal.

Those are major hurdles to clear for the Ducks who haven’t hit well all year (a team .238 avg and 401 hits are the worst in the Pac-12), but some solid plate discipline evidenced by a conference high 238 walks, could create some interesting situations in Palo Alto this weekend.

Cole Irvin is looking for a strong finish to his career at Oregon.

Cole Irvin is looking for a strong finish to his career at Oregon.

Cole Irvin promised fans a trip to Omaha and although he might not be able to deliver on that commitment, it is no fault of his own. The junior will be taking the mound for possibly the last time in green and yellow on Friday evening. The start will be his career-high 17th appearance this year. Irvin has been dominant most of the year, giving up 5+ runs four times in his 14 starts. Barring a major meltdown, Irvin will crack the 100-inning mark and is 10 K short of 100 on the year.

The overall landscape for the Pac-12 is interesting, to say the least. Utah (23-26, 17-10) and Washington (31-19, 16-11) are the No. 1 and 2 teams, respectively, in the conference. They will face off in this final weekend, where the conference title will most likely be decided. If the Utes win the series but miss the sweep, the Pac-12 will be represented by a sub-.500 champion.

Arizona State (33-19, 15-12) has an outside chance to take the title if they sweep USC (26-27, 13-14) and Washington takes the series from Utah. It will require a sweep by the Ducks and some baseball magic to finish second in the conference and a sliver of hope for a postseason berth. Working in the Ducks’ favor are series wins against three of the five teams ahead of them in RPI. Utah doesn’t appear in the Top 100, but a conference win would still grant them a spot in the tournament.

We didn’t anticipate the season coming down to the wire after a hot start, but consistency has haunted Oregon all year. A slim chance and thirst to prove that they deserved the pre-season hype should produce an exciting close to the regular season.

Top Photo by Dave Peaks

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