Oregon baseball is looking for a comeback.
The team will look to redeem itself after missing the postseason for two consecutive seasons, ending last year with an overall 30-25 record and 12-18 in the Pac-12.
“We feel like we are the underdog this year,” senior Kyle Kasser said. “We’re not ranked or anything and, no one is really looking at us to do anything big … But we have really high goals of ourselves.”
According to head coach George Horton, who extended his helm position through the 2020 season back in August, one of the biggest steps in this process will be filling the void on the pitcher’s mound.
Last year’s Friday night starter David Peterson, left more than just school records at PK Park. His historic legacy earned him a first-round selection pick in the 2017 MLB Draft to the New York Mets (the 20th pick overall).
“[Peterson] went about his work in the right way,” junior Matt Mercer said. “All of us who played with him last year learned a lot from [Peterson] .”
With the first game of the season scheduled for Feb. 16, there are multiple players looking to fill Peterson’s role.
After an impressive summer season playing in the Cape Cod League, where he went 4-1 and posted a 2.64 ERA, Mercer worked his way towards the top of the candidate list.
Junior Cole Stringer, who is also in the running for the pitching position, believes that Mercer is the right guy for the job.
“He’s going to be our Friday guy,” Stringer said. “He’s going to be that guy that we need to get a win from and he’s gonna win a lot of games for us this year … He’s just that silent assassin that’s gonna go out and kill every single outing.”
In addition, the 10 new freshmen have already made positive first-impressions to veterans like Stringer, Mercer and sophomore Kenyon Yovan.
“They played summer ball and they’ve played some big-time travel ball,” Yovan said. “It’s a different beast but at the end of the day, they’ve played some high competition.”
Starting official practice on Friday, the only thing the team is hungry for is a successful season.
“We had something to prove last year and the year before as well,” Horton said. “Hopefully that taste in our mouth and that disappointment we’ll have a long memory about, but we will have a short memory as far as the loses are concerned and hopefully go into the season with some confidence and believe that we are a contender.”
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter: @maggie_vanoni