Oregon Ducks at St. Mary's Gaels (4 game series)
Louis Guisto Field, Moraga, California
Saturday, Feb. 22--2:30 PM Bennett Whitmore (LH) vs. TBA
So Dave announces his return almost a month ago, and doesn't follow that piece up until now? What gives with that? Well, my basketball season is up after today, which means more time for blogging. Usually, I'm pumped up this time of year as pitchers and catchers report for spring training, meaning my Mariners are only a few short weeks away from beginning the season. However, there is reason to start watching baseball in February now as, for the first time in 27 years, the Ducks will play a Division 1 baseball game today.
Following the Ducks will be sort of a work in progress as the season goes on. We don't know our players yet. I couldn't tell you what pitches Erik Stavert throws, or how patient a hitter Caleb Tomassini is. But part of the fun will be learning this team and watching it develop. We also don't know a whole lot about our opponents as, other than a few OSU games in the College World Series, not many of us have seen a whole lot of college baseball (its not on TV much, and the fact that we will get 13 games on CSN is a ton compared to what a lot of other teams have availiable). So, yes, it will be a learning process for us all but, hey, anything to take our minds off of what will soon be a 1-17 basketball season (God, we'd better beat the Beavers).
What I definitely don't have is any expectations. I know Coach Horton think we could get into the playoffs, and has assembled some real talent here in just the first season, but, to me, it is wholly unrealistic to think that a school that hasn't fielded a squad for three decades is going to come in and do great things in the toughest conference in America. It would be great if it happens, and I hope it does, but you chances are you won't have any fun this season if you have those kind of expectations (and, realistically, few do). The most likely scenario is that we finish dead last in the Pac-10. However, if we look competitve, win a few games, and beat the Beavers once or twice, that's great. Anything above that is icing on the cake.
Tyler Anderson will throw the first pitch for the Ducks today. He is a true freshman who throws four pitches, among them a fastball that tops out at 89, but with excellent control, and a 'wicked' slider that is very tough on lefties. He will go up against Brian Justice, who led the Gaels last year with a 5.12 ERA (which should tell you something about their pitching staff).
And after Justice, it gets even thinner for St. Mary's, as two of their weekend starters are guys who were infielder last year, and the fourth starter is TBA. I'm especially interested in Sunday starter Anthony Aliotti. With Aliotti, you know that his defense is going to let hm down sometime during the game </bad joke>.
Whatever, St. Mary's lacks in the pitching staff, though, they make up for it with their bats. Infielder Kyle Jensen was a second team All-American last season, hitting an impressive .421 with 13 homers and 52 RBIs. He's the best hitter in the WCC this season, and someone that could definitely hurt us. Aliotti (as an infielder) and outfielder Justin Lazio were also All-League players last season, hitting in the high .370.
However, with lack of production from the mound, the Gaels were a .500 team last season, and are expected to finish 7th in the WCC this year. Its a very winnable series to start the season, and doing that would give this team a lot of confidence moving forward.
For the first time in my lifetime, I will get to experience an Oregon baseball game. Its going to be a fun season.