This weekend marks the beginning of a three game Civil War between Oregon baseball (24-22, 8-13) and Oregon State (31-14-1, 17-4). One, a program in a downswing, which hasn’t finished better than eighth in the league in four years. The other; a powerhouse coming off a national title, hoping to regain their spot at the top. On Friday, both teams will enter PK Park as they begin a three game series with a chance to right the ship, or in the case of the Ducks, fight to stay over .500.
Both teams enter the series carrying recent struggles. Only weeks ago, the Ducks were coming off a 10-6 stretch and looked like postseason locks. Since April 18, they’ve lost nine of their last 11 games, many in heartbreaking fashion—including an abominable 25-7 loss to Arizona, which marked their second sweep of conference play. Now the Ducks sit in ninth place in the Pac-12 standings after being jumped by Arizona this past weekend.
Meanwhile, the Beavers have lost four straight, which includes being swept by Oklahoma State in Corvallis. Unlike the Ducks, however, they remain in favorable position, sitting at the top of the Pac-12, tied with Stanford at 17-4 in conference play. Despite their favorable record and positioning though, OSU has plenty of work to do if they hope to again compete for a national title.
OSU of late has struggled at the plate, scoring just 18 runs in their last 6 games, seven of those coming in their most recent 8-7 loss. Luckily for the Beavers, they shouldn’t struggle nearly as much in this series given Oregon’s defensive breakdowns. Over their last ten games the Ducks have been outscored 116 runs to just 56.
OSU’s Adley Rutschman, who has been one of the Pac-12’s biggest hitters all year—batting a .429 with 16 home runs and 53 RBIs—should feast this weekend. Rutschman, a catcher, is projected as a top-3 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft. Several draft sites list him as the top prospect in collegiate baseball.
On the mound, Brandon Eisert has asserted himself as one of the better pitchers in the league. Eisert holds a three way tie at the top of the conference with eight wins and ranks third in ERA at 2.03.
Robert Ahlstrom, Rhyne Nelson, and Cullen Kafka, who have been some of the Ducks’ better pitchers, will be key in subduing the Beavers hitters. On the other side, Spencer Steer and Gabe Matthews, who have not only improved their games at the plate this year, but have become leaders, will have their work cut out for them if they hope to stay in striking distance this series, let alone steal a game.
Steer and Matthews stand together at the top of Oregon’s lineup with .343 and .314 averages respectively, in addition, both have six home runs on the year. Steer also leads the Ducks in RBIs with 42, six more than teammate Jonny Deluca and nine more than Matthews.
In their win against Portland on Tuesday, the Ducks made a switch defensively, moving Steer from shortstop to third base, Sam Novitske to second base, and Kyle Froemke to shortstop.
The first game of the Civil War will be 7 p.m. on Friday, May 10 at PK Park.