#1 Seed – Oregon Ducks
Overall Record – 42-17
Conference Record – 19-11 (3rd place)
How they qualified for a regional – At-large
Last regional appearance – 2010 (2-2 at Norwich, CT regional)
RPI/ISR – 6/3
SOS – 23 (RPI)/4 (ISR)
Record vs. tournament field – 11-8
Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 15-8/28-16
It has been an interesting five year ride for George Horton since he left Fullerton after the 2007 season. His first year in Eugene was spent getting the program ready for their first season of baseball since 1981. The Ducks predictably struggled in 2009 and finished last in the Pac 10 and surprised the college baseball world in 2010 by winning forty games and making it into a regional. Oregon had high expectations of moving past a regional and into a super regional or Omaha in 2011 but they struggled out of the gate and by the time they started playing well it was too late to save their season and they finished in eighth in the Pac 10 and didn't qualify for a regional. The Ducks had a strong pitching staff with a 2.95 ERA that was in the top twenty nationally but their offense finished well into the bottom 100 nationally in hitting and scoring.
Unlike last season when Oregon had sky high expectations, they weren't predicted to do much this season with the Pac 11 coaches picking them to finish in 7th and the rest of the college baseball media picking them to finish anywhere from 7th to 9th. After the Ducks lost their opening game at Hawaii, they won their next three games on the Islands and swept their next two series at Vanderbilt and their home opener against Long Beach to start out 10-1. Oregon didn't handle prosperity too well and went 5-7 over the next twelve games, including a series loss to Washington. The Ducks responded in a big way and went 11-2 over the next thirteen games, including a sweep at home against ASU and series wins on the road at UCLA and Stanford. Oregon was pretty banged up when they lost their next series at home to WSU and started getting healthier as they went on a 15-1 run that wrapped up a national seed and put them in position to win the Pac 11 as they swept Cal, won a key series at Arizona, swept USC and swept a non-conference series against Seattle. The Ducks needed to only win one game in the Civil War series at OSU to clinch at least a share of the Pac 11 title but the Beavers got revenge for being swept at the end of the 2011 season and being knocked out of the Pac 10 title chase by sweeping Oregon in Corvallis to deny them of a chance to win the conference title.
· Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 85 (decreases offense by 15%).
· Batting Average – .266 (NCAA ranking – 216, conference ranking 10).
· Runs – 272 (185, 8), 4.6 per game.
· Home Runs – 28 (109, 6).
· Stolen Bases – 67-107 (103, 3).
· Slugging Percentage – .376 (160, 9).
· On Base Percentage – .357 (DNR, 9).
· Walks – 218 (148, 2), 3.7 per game.
· HBP's – 67 (83, 4).
· Sac Bunts – 76 (11, 2).
· Strikeouts – 373 (DNR, 2), 6.3 per game.
Oregon doesn't have a productive offense so they have to scratch out runs and rely on getting hits in key situations to manufacture runs. The Ducks are patient at the plate and will move runners over by bunting, hit and runs and stealing bases to get them in. Despite averaging only 4.6 runs per game, Oregon was efficient at putting a few runs a game up on the board because they were only held to two runs or less eight times and their strong pitching staff allowed them to go 20-4 when scoring three or four runs, the same record that they had when scoring five or more runs in a game.
2B – Soph #20 Aaron Payne (LH – .287/.407/.375, 1-26-15) is the engine that makes the offense go and led the Pac 11 in HBP's to help him lead the team in R and OBP. He has very good speed and finished in the top ten in the Pac 11 in triples and SB's. Payne is an excellent bunter and will use his speed to beat out bunts and was in the top ten in the conference with fifteen SAC bunts. He is an aggressive hitter and struck out 36 times.
DH/RF – Soph #9 Aaron Jones (RH – .294/.364/.469, 6-38-5) is a good athlete and is draft eligible and projected to possibly go in the first five rounds. He has split time between the 2nd and 3rd spots in the lineup and leads the team in HR and RBI, was second in SLG and R and was honorable mention All-Pac 11. Jones is another aggressive hitter and has struck out 38 times.
1B – Soph #25 Ryon Healy (RH – .303/.370/.420, 4-36-3) is a big, strong man with raw power potential. He led the team in hits and total bases, was second on the team in R and RBI and was honorable mention All-Pac 11. Healy has a big swing and led the team with 41 strikeouts.
LF – Soph #2 Brett Thomas (LH – .309/.371/.451, 1-20-8) led the team in AVG, 2B's and 3B's and helped to make the offense go as the only LH bat in the middle of the order and hit .330 in Pac 11 games. He injured his hamstring last Tuesday and didn't play against Oregon State and is questionable for this weekend. If Thomas is unable to play, it would be a big loss because the Ducks were only able to score five runs in three games without him in the lineup at OSU. Jones hit cleanup last weekend in Thomas' absence. JR #15 Andrew Mendenhall (RH – .226 in 53 AB's) started in LF twice at OSU against LHP's.
RF/DH – Soph #4 Kyle Garlick (RH – .307/.407/.497, 6-36-9) has the best power and speed combo and led the team in HR's and SLG and was second in SB, AVG and RBI. He is also the most patient hitter on the team and led them in walks with a solid 27/36 BB/K ratio for a power hitter and tied for the team lead in OBP.
3B – JR #21 Ryan Hambright (LH – .228/.291/.316, 1-9-0 in 79 AB's) only started six times in the first couple of months but has started in 13 of the last 15 games to stabilize things at 3B after starter Scott Heineman injured his foot and was lost for the season. He had trouble hitting against the solid pitching staffs in the Pac 11 and only hit .178 in conference games.
C – SR #33 Brett Hambright (RH – .237/.361/.281, 0-11-1) got off to a terrible start at the plate but rebounded and got hot during Pac 11 play and was second on the team with a .312 AVG in conference games. He had the best plate discipline on the team with a 23/22 BB/K ratio and it was even better in Pac 11 games (16/9). Hambright is also a good bunter and had ten SAC bunts.
CF – Soph #1 Connor Hoffman (LH – .254/.329/.354, 3-14-7) has good speed to patrol the big OF space at Oregon. He can hit a ball out when he gets ahold of one but he has to take a big swing to do it and has a poor 12/35 BB/K ratio. Hoffman is an excellent bunter and will try to beat out bunts for hits and has 11 SAC's. SR # 37 Vernell Warren (RH – .346 in 26 AB's) started all three games in CF at Oregon State and figures to play against any LHP's that Oregon might face if Thomas is out. He went to school on a track scholarship and has good speed and didn't play baseball until this season.
SS – JR #22 J.J. Altobelli (RH – .266/.337/.337, 0-12-6) is the toughest hitter on the team to strike out with only 12 K's and is one of the most likely players that a hit and run play will be put on with. He missed nearly a month with a shoulder injury and returned to the lineup three weeks ago. Altobelli was the leadoff hitter before getting hurt and has usually hit 9th since getting back although he hit second at OSU with Thomas out. He is projected to be drafted in the 8th-10th rounds.
Fielding .981 (6, 1) – 47 errors. Double Plays – 51 (56, 4). Oregon has one of the best defenses in the country and their infield is helped by playing on field turf. Healy is a good athlete for his size at 1B, Jones and Altobelli are outstanding up the middle and have made only eight errors, R. Hambright is solid at 3B. Thomas, Hoffmann, Garlick and Jones all have good range in the OF and Jones has the best arm.
Stolen Base Attempts – 24-51 (DNR, 1). Runners are 17-34 against B. Hambright and he is very effective at controlling the running game.
WP's/PB's Allowed – 40 (DNR, 6). B. Hambright is average at blocking pitches but the pitching staff throws lots of power sinking pitches, which doesn't make his job easy.
The strength of Oregon's team without question is their pitching staff and they lead the Pac 11 in ERA, AVG and K's. The Ducks lost two starting pitchers who were high draft picks and another one expected to be next week despite being injured but they haven't skipped a beat, getting about the same results from their pitching staff as they did in 2011 when they had a 2.95 ERA. Oregon has been very effective at holding teams off of the scoreboard and gone 34-2 when they have allowed three runs or less.
· ERA – 3.02 (NCAA ranking – 14, conference ranking – 1).
· AVG – .226 (DNR, 1). 7.2 H/9 IP is #2 nationally.
· Walks – 218 (DNR, 11). 3.7 BB/9 IP is #146 nationally.
· HBP – 79 (DNR, 1).
· WHIP – 1.21 (20, DNR)
· Strikeouts – 393 (DNR, 1). 6.7 K/9 IP is #131 nationally.
· SLG – .293
· HR – 17 (DNR, 2).
FRI – SR #47 Alex Keudell (RHP – 10-4, 2.12 ERA, 15 GS, 3 CG, 1 SHO, 110 IP, 90 H, 26 BB, 65 K, .228 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 5 WP, 2-6 SB) finished in the top ten in the Pac 11 in W, ERA, IP and AVG and was the conference pitcher of the year. He was the somewhat overlooked starting pitcher last season because he wasn't a prospect like the other three starters despite going 7-3, 2.89 ERA and was drafted in the 38th round and returned for his SR year. Keudell throws from a 3/4 arm slot with an upper 80's fastball that he commands very well and gets good sink on it and has a good slider and changeup and gets hitters to pound the ball into the ground. He has been excellent in almost every start, holding teams to two runs or less in eleven of them, before struggling last week at OSU and he allowed five runs in 5 1/3 IP. Keudell has an outstanding move to first and picked off six runners.
SAT – FR #5 Jake Reed (RHP – 6-4, 3.14 ERA, 15 GS, 1 CG, 100 IP, 84 H, 36 BB, 53 K, .241 AVG, 2 HR, 17 HBP, 4 WP, 4-9 SB) was projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds out of HS but due to his strong commitment to going to school he was only drafted in the 40th round. He has a fastball that sits in the low 90's and a good changeup with good command of his pitches and was 10th in the Pac 11 in AVG. Reed has been effective in almost every start and allowed three runs or less in twelve of his starts and his ERA was inflated in his one poor start when he allowed eight runs at Arizona. Reed has a bright future and projects to be Oregon'S Friday SP next season.
SUN – Soph #44 Jeff Gold (RHP – 8-4, 3.33 ERA, 17 apps, 11 GS, 1 CG, 70 IP, 62 H, 22 BB, 41 K, .241 AVG, 4 HR, 7 HBP, 5 WP, 2-6 SB) was a midweek starter and middle reliever until he was moved into the weekend rotation due to an injury in late April and has been effective for a Sunday SP with a 3.62 ERA in Pac 11 games. Gold allowed one earned run in four straight starts before allowing two runs in four innings last Sunday at OSU. He isn't a hard thrower and does a good job of getting sink on his fastball and letting his infielders do the work behind him.
Soph #3 Brando Tessar (RHP – 4-1, 3.58 ERA, 9 GS, 1 CG, 50 IP, 44 H, 40 BB, 47 K, .244 AVG, 0 HR, 6 HBP, 3 WP, 1-4 SB) was in the weekend rotation until straining a muscle in his forearm in the middle of April and only recently resumed throwing.
Oregon doesn't have a deep bullpen and relies primarily on three relievers but those three pitchers have been lights out and all three of them are capable of going 2-3 innings.
Soph #30 Jimmie Sherfy (RHP – 4-2, 2.29 ERA, 31 apps, 17 saves, 55 IP, 33 H, 31 BB, 84 K, .176 AVG, 2 HR, 13 HBP, 4 WP, 5-6 SB) barely pitched in 2011 because he had absolutely no command of his pitches but worked hard in the summer and the fall and has been one of the best relievers in the country and is fourth nationally in saves, an All-Pac 11 selection and likely All-American and will pitch for Team USA this summer. He is a power pitcher with a good fastball that sits in the 90's but his best pitch is an outstanding slider that he uses as his out pitch and he led the staff in strikeouts and finished sixth in the Pac 11 despite not making one start and had an amazing 13.7 K/9 IP rate. Oregon is not afraid to bring him in before the ninth inning and he threw over one inning in fourteen of his appearances.
FR #27 Thomas Thorpe (LHP – 2-0, 2.11 ERA, 31 apps, 1 save, 38 IP, 22 H, 18 BB, 42 K, .177 AVG, 1 HR, 7 HBP, 1 WP, 2-5 SB) will be the pitcher called upon to get out LH hitters and has good movement on his pitches but can sometimes have trouble with his command. He didn't allow a run in eighteen straight appearances before giving up two runs last Sunday at OSU.
JR #40 Joey Housey (RHP – 2-0, 2.08 ERA, 19 apps, 1 save, 30 IP, 27 H, 11 BB, 24 K, .241 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 2 WP, 4-6 SB) has been the other reliever that Oregon has leaned on to get the ball to Sherfy on the back end of games. He isn't a hard thrower but gets good sink on his fastball to get batters to pound the ball into the ground.
FR #23 Jordan Spencer (LHP – 4-2, 4.26 ERA, 12 apps, 6 GS, 1 CG, 38 IP, 31 H, 18 BB, 19 K, .230 AVG, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 3-5 SB) has been used more recently as a midweek starter with Gold moving into the weekend rotation.
FR #7 Billy Flamion (LHP – 1-0, 4.85 ERA, 11 apps, 13 IP, 4 H, 11 BB, 12 K, .091 AVG, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 5 WP, 0-1 SB)
JC transfer #32 David Wylie (RHP – 1-0, 5.30 ERA, 9 apps, 1 save, 19 IP, 19 H, 11 BB, 12 K, .279 AVG, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP, 1-2 SB)
Oregon has played outstanding baseball this season against one of the more difficult schedules in the country with only a few slip-ups along the way. When the Ducks pitching and defense are dictating things and keeping their opponents off of the scoreboard, they are very tough to beat at PK Park where they have gone 25-6.
Austin Peay is an experienced team that beat #1 seed Georgia Tech in the opening game of the Atlanta regional in 2011 so they will not be phased by playing in a post-season environment. Austin Peay easily has the best offense in this regional and could give Oregon trouble if Sunday starter Gold isn't effective. However, the Ducks should be able to win their opening game and that would set up the game that everybody wants to see if Fullerton can get by Indiana State earlier in the day.
Both Fullerton and Oregon are holding back their Friday starters, who were both the pitcher of the year in their conferences. The winner of that game should be able to move on and win the regional because the loser would have to win their next three games. Oregon is the favorite to advance out of the regional as a national seed playing at home and as long as they don't let their nerves get to them as a young team dealing with the pressure of playing at home, they have a good chance to win the regional.