As the collegiate baseball season inches to a close, and with an NCAA Tournament appearance seeming unlikely, the Oregon Ducks are busy adjusting their lineup to ensure gradual improvements. After three innings of offensive dormancy at Friday night’s matchup versus the Utah Utes, the Ducks’ waited patiently for the proper spark that would ignite them life.
That spark was starting pitcher and sophomore dual threat, Kenyon Yovan.
In the bottom of the fourth, Yovan stepped up to bat, and on the first pitch thrown his way, Yovan hit a high-flying home run into left field for his third of the season, giving the ducks the 2-1 lead that brought the crowd to life.
“It felt good after giving up a run in the third inning to come back and answer.” Yovan said. “That’s the nice thing about hitting for yourself … It’s probably the best feeling ever.”
The Ducks offense continued to roll in the fourth inning after Ray Soderman, who took a frightening pitch to the head earlier in the game, walked it in to a 3-1 lead. The Ducks finished the night off with a 6-2 victory over Utah.
Yovan has lead the Ducks to an impressive array of defensive performances in these past weeks, including holding the high-powered offense of the now fourth ranked Oregon State Beavers to only two runs.
“Being a starter, you’re not just going out there and throwing as hard as you can.” Yovan said. “You have to get your pitches in the same spot, exactly where you want them to be.”
Since then he has pitched a seasonal 2.55 ERA and continues to balance his duties with a .240 batting average.
However, even though the gamble risks exhaustion and injury to arguably the most important position on the field, it seems to be working for the Ducks.
“The boy is a warrior and likes to be in big spots both at the plate and on the mound.” head coach Greg Horton said regarding Yovan. “You worry about the freebies and setting the table for him, but there’s nobody better to have at the mound in a crucial situation.”
Expectations for Yovan were high from the beginning of the season when he was named a Collegiate Baseball Preseason First Team All-American. After coming out of the bullpen for 22 games last season with a 1.97 ERA, 36 strikeouts and six walks in just 32 innings, Yovan has taken his starting job with confidence and poise.
“He’s a winner.” said Coach Horton, “Last year he won a lot of games at the back end of the bullpen and didn’t always have his A stuff. But like I said, he did what he had to do, got us in it late in the game, so we’re happy about that.”