Oregon baseball is in the midst of a 10-6 stretch heading into the last month of the season, and the Ducks are attempting to make their first postseason since 2015.
First baseman Gabe Matthews and shortstop Spencer Steer have been torching the baseball this spring, fueling the late-season push. Steer is first on the team in batting average at .357 and Matthews is second at .310. The two leaders have also been the Ducks’ clutch performers this season, with each having hit a walkoff at least once this season.
Steer and Matthews have been two of Oregon’s most consistent performers this season. The two juniors have not just been catalysts, they have also taken a leadership role within this team.
“We’ve always fed off each other’s energy since we were freshman” Matthews said. “We kinda took this role upon ourselves and thought at the beginning of the year we need to bring these freshman up… we have a lot of fun together on the field.”
The Ducks are coming off two very contrasting weekends where they put up 46 runs in four games against Washington State and Gonzaga, and then got swept by No. 2 Stanford. Nevertheless, Steer remains confident in his team.
“Our hitting has found its stride and we’ve got a really good lineup,” Steer said. “We are constantly putting the pressure on the defense.”
Steer shined brighter than any other Oregon player two weekends ago, hitting .435 with three home runs and 12 RBIs during the week. He also took home the Pac-12 player of the week award, as well as the NCBWA player of the week award.
While the junior does not model himself after any particular player, he tries to emulate the elite.
“It definitely helps watching those guys,” Steer said. “They’re the best of the best… [But] I try to keep it as simple as possible at the plate and try not to do too much.”
Not over complicating things has been his approach all season, and it has been an extremely successful junior campaign. But his batting average is not what he takes the most pride in. Steer and Matthews both believe strongly in leadership and have both demonstrated that over the course of the season.
With Matthews at first base and Steer at shortstop, Oregon’s infield is anchored by its two leaders.
“They’re the consummate professionals,” head coach George Horton said. “They serve as a good example because of their professionalism and the way they go about their work, and really with a soft hand have encouraged the youngsters.”
If the Ducks are to bounce back from a tough weekend against Stanford, Steer and Matthews will need to prove Horton right by leading their teammates and holding them accountable for the team’s poor performance. With Oregon trying to finish off the late season grind, another weekend like Stanford could have them on the outside looking in.