Oregon Baseball: What we know and what to expect as Ducks visit No. 22 Cal

Kris Anderson, Addicted To Quack, Episode 4


When the Oregon Ducks begin their series against the No. 22 California Golden Bears on Friday, they will have exactly one month left in their 2011 regular season. That leaves one month to make something of this season. One month to do all the things they've failed to do this season. One month to learn how to win, and win consistently.

Regionals have to be a distant thought at this point, but are still a possibility. So, through 39 games, here is what we know about the Oregon baseball team:

 

  • They can be their own worst enemy. This is evident in a couple of different contexts. One would be in the field, as untimely errors in critical situations have been known to cost the Ducks ball games. Another area would be their mental approach to the game. This would be the worst team to bet on, because no matter the opponent-for the most part-it's impossible to determine which team will show up to the park that day. Will it be the team that's afraid to lose? Will it be the team with the "who gives a damn mentality?" Or maybe it will be the team that plays to their level of experience--with four or five freshmen regularly in the starting lineup, the experience is rather lacking. 
  • Their pitching is as good as their offense is bad. Led by starters Tyler Anderson and Madison Boer, the Ducks pitching ranks second in the Pac-10 in earned run average, strikeouts, saves, runs allowed and opposing batting average. Examine the offensive numbers, and they will explain the Ducks' just above .500 record. Oregon ranks last in the Pac-10 in batting average, and second to last in total bases, slugging percentage, on base percentage, runs batted in and hits. It's that lack of run support that, at times, has made the Oregon pitching feel like one mistake could cost them the game-and oftentimes it has.
  • Danny Pulfer has been "pulferizing" the baseball this year. As KC Serna continued to struggle at the plate, Pulfer was assigned to become the new leadoff hitter. He has started there the last eight games (not counting Wednesday vs. the Portland Pilots), and during that stretch, he's batting .469 (15-for-32) with three doubles, three walks, three stolen bases and a .541 on-base percentage. He has also reached base safely in 24 consecutive games. For the junior, he is the catalyst and leader of a lineup dominated by underclassmen.
  • Finally, the season is riding largely on the performance of the freshman. With any hopes of the postseason riding on the outcome of the final game of the series vs. the Arizona Wildcats, head coach George Horton started five freshmen in the field. At least four freshmen have been in the starting lineup 13 times this season-the Ducks are 8-5 in those games.
  • The Ducks will face Bears pitching that has done well in its own right. They rank in the upper half of many Pac-10 pitching categories. The Bears will be looking at this series as an opportunity to get their season back on track as they find themselves on a four game losing streak-they were swept last weekend by Arizona State.

    It seems like every week I say that the Ducks offense will be what decides the series-and I'm saying that again this week. Behind the arms of Tyler Anderson and Madison Boer-both among the conference leaders in earned run average-the Ducks bats will only need to produce a few runs. With each game expected to be close, the Ducks will have to rely on timely hitting. On Thursday against Arizona, a clutch base hit form Serna proved to be the difference. That clutch hit was not there the following night, as Boer was again on the losing end despite another great outing.

    One of the things that makes the Ducks an exciting team is their ability to have that clutch hit come from anywhere in the order. Despite what I called a predictable pitch, the struggling Serna did deliver, and in the final game of the series, it was the freshman, Ryon Healy, who Arizona didn't seem to have an answer for.

    So, where will that hit come from? We don't know. Will that hit come? The tale of the tape says, probably not. But don't count out a team that feels like they have nothing to lose. 

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