Baseball

Ducks spread their wings in summer leagues around the U.S.



As if 56 regular season games weren’t enough the Oregon Ducks are all back at it this summer. With a 14-42 record fresh in their minds, the baseball team has split up for a few months so each player can go play on a sanctioned summer league team somewhere in America.

Some guys chose to go to Minnesota. Some are in California. And two players are even in Hawaii.

But in the end it’s all for the same reason: to play as many games as they can this summer so they come back next fall ready to compete in the Pacific-10 Conference.

“It’s necessary,” shortstop KC Serna said in a phone call from Minnesota. “The summer keeps you into baseball. You can’t just put the bat down for the summer and expect to improve. You have to come back prepared.”

Serna, who is one of eight Ducks playing in the Northwoods League, plays for the Mankato Moondogs (24-11). He’s currently batting .357 with six RBI and 11 runs scored.

Pitchers Bennett Whitmore and Chris Garrison also play for the Moondogs, and Serna says that the taste of winning is the sweetest.

“It feels good to win again,” he said. “I forgot how to.”

 

UO players in summer leagues

Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League Antony Kreitz, Kenny Bartz, Sean Potkay, Taylor Ausbun
Northwoods League: Madison Boer, Chris Garrison, KC Serna, Bennett Whitmore, Scott McGough, Mitch Karraker, Danny Pulfer, Riley Bevill
West Coast League: Josh Hogan, Tyler Anderson, Dylan Gavin
Alaska Collegiate Baseball League: Alex Keudell
New England Collegiate Baseball League: Geoff Nichols

That was a popular sentiment among the players, but it also further shows why the summer is so important. It’s a chance to win a few games after a tough season and get your mind set back on track.

 

“For me personally it was about realizing that this game is fun,” Serna said. “You have to have fun throughout the game.”

Scott McGough echoed Serna’s sentiment. He’s playing for the Rochester Honkers (22-13) of Minnesota with Oregon teammates Riley Bevill, Mitch Karraker and Danny Pulfer.

“Anytime you are playing baseball it’s a good thing,” McGough said. “The best thing that can happen when you’ve been losing is to get right back out there and forget it.”

The Ducks in Minnesota are looking at playing around 50 games through the middle of August. That effectively doubles their collegiate experience before they even step on campus next fall, and for any college baseball player it’s a necessary step in their development for the professional level.

“It’s great competition for the summer with a different group of guys,” McGough said. “Then you can take your experience back home and share it with the team.”

McGough is currently 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA. He’s struck out 16 batters in 20 innings of work and walked just seven.

“I love it here,” he said. “Our season was tough, but here there is less to focus on. It’s definitely a different experience, but it’s nice to have.”

Thousands miles to the west, two of McGough’s teammates are also having a different experience. Antony Kreitz and Kenny Bartz are both playing for the Kauai Menehunes (10-9) of the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League.

It’s a dream come true for the both of them, especially after spending the year playing in Eugene, where the rainy days this spring outnumbered the sunny ones.

“It’s pretty great,” Bartz said. “I’m having a blast. It’s baseball in paradise.”

And although Bartz admits it’s not like facing Arizona State or Oregon State, it’s good competition.

“It’s definitely not the Pac-10, but there’s some good players here,” he said.

Bartz, who is currently hitting .340 with nine RBI, has flourished away from Oregon where he hit just .257 in 35 at-bats as a sub last year.

“It’s good to be out here playing,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement, but I’m looking forward to the fall now.”

Bartz and Kreitz have played so well that they were both selected to the HCBL All-Star team. It’s a great honor for both players who are looking to make the best out of their time in Hawaii. Kreitz is currently the reigning player of the week after batting .563 with six runs scored, four RBI, two doubles and a seven game hit streak.

“I’m playing pretty well over here,” Kreitz said. “Working on my drag bunt game opened up a whole new area of hits for me and I’ve been utilizing that.”

And Kreitz says that the fact that he’s had to hit with a wood bat instead of metal has helped him work on making good contact.

“It’s a lot different hitting with wood because unless you make a good swing, the ball want go as far,” he said. “With the metal bats you had a lot more room for error.”

One thing both Kreitz and Bartz won’t be missing is how hard it is to get around. They have no car so the only way to go sightseeing is to ride the bus or bike. It’s also three miles to the gym, where both guys have been working out to try and bulk up for next year.

“I’ve turned into Lance Armstrong,” Kreitz joked. “It’s a long ways to the gym, but it’s good because I use that as part of my training.”

But in the end, the whole purpose of the summer is to erase the first year flop that every player felt after the season ended. The team is determined to rise from the ashes and show the country that last year was a fluke.

“This year was tough,” Bartz admits. “But we’ve been through defeat and we’re still alive. We’re at the bottom of the barrel looking up. We can’t go any lower.”

“This experience is going to be huge,” Kreitz said. “We have the feeling of winners back. The only thing I want to do is win.”

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