Preview: Oregon searches for a spark in Civil War series this weekend
The 2018 season has been a mixed bag for Oregon baseball so far.
Currently sitting at seventh in the Pac-12, the Ducks (19-15-0, 6-9) are in a worse position than they were at this point last season. That team held a 23-12-0 record, though they also were 6-8 in conference play.
The Ducks have looked superb at times, including a 10-1 domination of then No. 3-ranked Stanford on the road. Other games have seen them utterly outmatched, including an 18-4 defeat at the hands of unranked Arizona State in Tempe.
Oregon hopes it’ll be the former variation that shows up this weekend when the Ducks travel to Corvallis for this year’s installment of the Civil War against the No. 10 Oregon State Beavers.
The Beavers (26-6-0, 7-5 Pac-12) swept the Ducks last season and are having another strong year overall. However, they’ve struggled more against their conference foes, and as a result, sit at fourth in the standings despite holding the second-best overall record.
The driving factor in the Beavers’ success is their batting. They have seven players batting over .300 and the team’s average sits at .305, ranked 14th in the country. Combine that with 29 home runs on a .493 slugging percentage (also 14th nationally), and you have the makings of an offensive powerhouse.
By comparison, the Ducks’ hold a team average of .253, with just two players batting over .300. Their power hitting also lags behind Oregon State’s, to the tune of 17 home runs and .350 slugging.
While the Beavers clearly hold the edge in the batter’s box, pitching may prove to be an equalizer in this series. Despite the difference in records, the Ducks’ boast a better ERA than their counterparts, coming in at 3.61 to the Beavers’ 3.76.
Most notably, both team’s starting rotations have been less than stellar, with ERAs of 5.40 for the Ducks and 4.85 for the Beavers. Due to Oregon State’s dominance at the plate, however, they’ve been able to rely on their hitting to carry the day. As noted above, the Ducks don’t have that luxury.
That said, they’ve scored more than five runs on 15 occasions, so it wouldn’t come as a shock for Oregon to have a big night against an on-and-off group of pitchers.
If the Ducks hope to win, Kyle Kasser and Jakob Goldfarb will need to have big nights. The two account for the team’s most consistent hitting, and Goldfarb leads all batters with five home runs. More often than not, the team goes as they go.
By comparison, Oregon’s pitching staff has a dugout full of strong hitters to contend with. Matt Mercer and Kenyon Yovan have performed well in starting roles, though the rotation thins after them.
While the odds favor the Beavers this weekend, don’t count the Ducks out. With 21 games left in the season, Oregon still has ample time left to make a run. Ripping off a series against a rival could be the spark this team needs. That potential, combined with a desire to avenge last year’s sweep should lead to a fired-up performance from the Ducks.
The series runs Thursday to Saturday and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. Game one on Thursday is at 6 p.m. while the other two begin at 4 p.m.
Follow Aaron Alter on Twitter @aaronalter95
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