Ducks baseball hopes to make most of No. 6 preseason ranking

Jake Tabor

On Wednesday afternoon, the Oregon Ducks baseball team hosted their annual media day at PK Park. ATQ's Jake Tabor braved the cold and fog to gather some thoughts from the players and manager George Horton on their reflections of 2013 and their hopes of 2014.

The Ducks are coming off a disappointing end to last season where they went 48-16 overall, and 22-8 in Pac-12 play, but fell to the Rice Owls at home in the regional round of postseason play. This year, the Ducks come into 2014 with a No. 6 preseason ranking, which Jake Reed will tell you is nothing but a number. It's a long way to Omaha in June, and only time will tell if the Ducks are as good as their preseason ranking suggests. Horton spoke of Kyle Garlick and the importance of his return to the Ducks lineup. Last season, Garlick went down with a wrist injury early in the year, playing in just 10 games. In 2012, Garlick played in 61 games, starting 58 of those, and hit .287 with six home runs and 41 RBIs. Horton believes that Garlick possesses the same physical skill set to play a key role in Oregon's lineup, but it's just a matter of if he has the same mental strength as a guy like Healy, who wanted to be the guy in the batter's box when the game was on the line. When talking about his offseason, Reed says that he has gotten stronger physically, picking up a lot of velocity while seeing tremendous improvement on his breaking ball. He's been working during the fall at shifting to the bullpen into the role of Oregon's closer with the departure of Jimmie Sherfy. Reed also touched on the Civil War rivalry with Oregon State being ranked at No. 4 in the preseason, saying that it's exciting because he believes schools in the northwest don't get the respect they deserve, and that the Ducks will be able to use it as a chip on the shoulder, but at the end of the day, their preseason ranking is nothing but a number. says Oregon simply caught a bad break at the end of last season, and all they can really do is learn from it and grow from it. went on to say that they try not to worry too much about getting caught up in the rankings because it's tough to judge a team before the season has even begun.

Scott Heineman stated that while the end to last season left a bad taste in their mouths, the team is using it as a learning experience to bounce back from and grow from. In Heineman's eyes, the preseason ranking is a good way to kick things off for 2014, but it's ultimately that number one ranking and trip to Omaha that the Ducks are still in search of.

Ducks outfielder Tyler Baumgartner said that he felt like the Ducks have the talent to finally get over the hump this season to reach the College World series, saying that guys were just working harder during the offseason and that there was a different feeling going into this year than in year's past with other teams that were also ranked high to start the year, yet fell short in the end. Last year, UCLA won it all using a similar small ball style that Horton likes to use, and Baumgartner noted that the SEC teams learned that you can't always rely on home runs to win the game, and that you need to be able to do the little things too.

Oregon will kick off their 2014 season on February 14 with a four-game series at Hawaii. Oregon's home opener is set for February 25 against the Portland Pilots, with the Ducks' first full series at PK Park coming that weekend against Cal State Fullerton, ranked No. 1 in the nation heading into the season.

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