Oregon baseball breaks tendencies, wins 4-3 in series opener

Oregon pitcher Conor Harber (11) delivers a pitch to Shaun Chase (16). The Oregon Ducks played the St. John’s Red Storm at PK Park in Eugene, Oregon on Friday March 6. (Andrew Bantly/Emerald)

After nearly a year off, the Oregon baseball team was finally geared up to finally play some competitive baseball games.

But on Tuesday, the Ducks announced in a press release that the opening series against Omaha had been canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. The Omaha baseball Twitter account later specified that the cancellation was due to contact tracing within the Oregon program.

Oregon head coach Mark Wasikowski confirmed that it was an issue within the Oregon program, but did not disclose any specific names.

“It was strictly our program,” Wasikowski said. “The unavailability of players is the reason why the series this weekend was canceled.”

Four games were originally scheduled to be played from Feb. 19-21. Now, they’ll have to wait just a little while longer. However, Wasikowski said the team isn’t letting it affect their mindsets.

“Motivating these guys is definitely not a problem,” Wasikowski said. “These guys want to play...Low morale or any of those kinds of things are not on the table.”

The Ducks are still scheduled to play their home series against Seattle on Feb. 25-28, and, as of now, Wasikowski has full confidence that these games are going to be played.

“Of course there’s plenty of time between now and then, but as we stand right now, next weekend’s series versus Seattle does not look to be impacted at all,” he said. “We should be fine.”

While they likely won’t be able to reschedule the games against Omaha for this season, the Ducks are looking to add some more games to their schedule down the road.

“I don’t think it’s going to be realistic with Omaha for this year; for future years, possibly yes,” Wasikowski said. “We are looking to reschedule and add games as we go.”

Despite the delay, Wasikowski feels that the Ducks have assembled an impressive team and still have a lot to look forward to. Along with some returning names such as Cullen Kafka, Caleb Sloan and Hunter Breault showing live arms in camp, freshmen pitchers Isaac Ayon and Rio Britton have a chance to make an impact.

“There’s been development staff-wide in terms of being more consistent…,” he said. “That’s pretty exciting stuff.”

The Ducks are locked and loaded and ready to compete, which makes the delay to the season a tough pill to swallow.

“That adds to the disappointment of what’s occurred for this weekend,” Wasikowski said. “When you’ve seen so much progress and the guys know that there’s progress, nobody wants that progress to be halted, even if it is for a short amount of time. That’s the heartburn for us right now.”