Arizona baseball looks to redeem itself against Oregon
Arizona (15-8, 0-3 Pac-12) dropped all three games to No. 4 Oregon State this past weekend in its opening Pac-12 conference series. It was the first time the Wildcats were swept in a weekend series in nearly three years.
The now-unranked Arizona baseball team will need to execute with runners in scoring position this weekend if it wants to climb back into the early standings as it travels for the first time in a month, to No. 12 Oregon (15-5, 2-1).
“We didn’t execute anything this weekend,” centerfielder Johnny Field said following the sweep to the Beavers. “We just got to put it behind us, because the season is in full swing now and the competition is going to be consistent.”
Statistically speaking, the Wildcats match up pretty well against their upcoming opponent. Manufacturing runs, though, has separated the No. 12 team in the country from the defending national champions.
Arizona ranks in the top 20 in many national offensive categories and is fifth in hits in the country. But all those hits haven’t always translated into runs when needed. Oregon, though only ranked in a couple top national categories, still manages to win games by moving runners around the bases through sacrifice bunts and flies and timely doubles.
Defensively, the Ducks limit runs by having a .987 fielding percentage, the third-highest in the country.
Oregon’s discipline and execution of the minor details have helped it compensate for many of the skills it lacks. However, there have been times this season when the Ducks struggled against an explosive offense and pitching staff.
Earlier this season, Oregon lost two out of three both to No. 2 Vanderbilt and on the road to then-No. 17 ranked Cal State Fullerton.
If the Wildcats want to follow in the path of the Commodores and Titans, they will need to see tough performances from their three weekend starters, something they’ve lacked for much of the season.
In both those series, Vanderbilt and CSF pitchers executed when pitching out of the stretch after giving up a hit. In the series against the Commodores, the Ducks left a total of 22 runners on base.
The Ducks’ biggest threat on offense is junior Ryon Healy. The first baseman is one of two Oregon hitters with a batting average over .300 (.341), and he has a slugging percentage of .576.
Due to inconsistency, head coach George Horton has played with Oregon’s weekend rotation. So far though, it has consisted of two sophomores and a freshman, Cole Irvin, who pitches in the back end of the rotation but has split starts with redshirt junior Jeff Gold.
The Wildcats can’t afford to try any late game comebacks this weekend, as the Ducks also have a shutdown closer in their bullpen, junior Jimmie Sherfy.
Friday’s matchup between Arizona’s Konnor Wade (2-1) and whomever Oregon decides to pitch will be the Wildcats’ first road series since splitting a two-game series with Long Beach State in mid-February.
“We have as much talent as any team,” Field said. “Execution is everything. If we don’t execute, then talent doesn’t matter.”