The Oregon Ducks come into the NCAA Tournament after receiving an at-large bid and Top 16 seed/Regional Host Site as the second place finishers in the PAC-12, finishing just one game behind #5 national seed Arizona, with a record of 20-10 in the conference, and 37-14 overall.
Despite beginning their season with a canceled series, Oregon enjoyed a four game series split with Seattle, and then proceeded to rattle off series sweeps against no. 15 UC Santa Barbara and no. 17 Oregon State in consecutive weekends. They took a series against Arizona State before dropping two of three to Arizona, the eventual conference champions.
Once April hit, the Ducks hit another gear, winning 15 of 18 games played, including a four game series sweep against New Mexico state, a sweep of no. 21 Oregon State, a series win at USC, and a series win against UCLA.
In the final five series of the season, Oregon dropped a series to Washington State, but swept Washington, Utah, dropped two of three to no. 17 Stanford, and beat Cal to close out their regular season.
Most people, myself included at times, can’t or won’t stay up to watch games that start at 10 PM, so how exactly does this west coast PAC 12 ball stack up to LSU and the SEC?
Oregon Nitty Gritty (LSU)
Overall: 37-14 (34-22)
Conference: 20-10 (13-17)
Home: 21-7 (24-14)
Away: 16-7 (10-7)
Neutral: 0-0 (0-1)
Strength of Schedule: 49 (4)
Non-Conference SOS: 207 (127)
RPI: 16 (28)
Oregon’s SOS doesn’t stack up to LSU’s, and that can directly be attributed to their very, very high non-conference strength of schedule, but they also have not played a bunch of nobody’s as evidenced by their 16 RPI and finishing just one game behind the conference champions and national seed, Arizona. Not to mention three ranked series wins. There is a reason they’re hosting the regional and are a top 16 seed.
Ducks at the Plate
RF Aaron Zavala- .398/.613/.538, 12 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 49 BB, 27 K, 11 SB
1B Gabe Matthews- .326/.561/.451, 19 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 24 BB, 21 HBP, 36 K
LF Tanner Smith- .324/.546/.420, 23 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 31 BB, 31 K
DH Kenyon Yovan- .319/.596/.419, 10 2B, 14 HR, 51 RBI, 26 BB, 50 K
TEAM TOTALS: .289/.449/.395
RF Aaron Zavala is in the running for National Player of the Year after trailing by just .001 behind the national leader in OBP and is absolutely the catalyst for this semi west coast offense that doesn’t hit many homers (just 48) but hits for a high average, .289, and gets on base at nearly a .400 clip.
The Ducks have stolen 47 bases, which is just as many as LSU has, so they will run when they get on base, which is, as mentioned, quite frequently. I say semi west coast because LF Tanner Smith has 23 doubles alone, greatly bolstering their season total and adding to their slugging pct, but this is not a strictly station to station ball club, so do not be fooled by the lack of balls that leave the park with this offense, as Zavala, Smith, and Matthews were all named second and third team All-Americans this week and they are extremely productive.
If LSU were to match up with Oregon once they get past Gonzaga on Friday night, there are not many easy at bats in the Ducks lineup, 1-9 which will be a test for the Tiger bullpen.
LHP Robert Ahlstrom: 8-3, 2.41 ERA, 82 IP, 86 K/14 BB (6.14), .230 BAA
RHP Cullen Kafka: 5-3, 2.66 ERA, 74.1 IP, 82 K/34 BB (2.41), .232 BAA
RHP Brett Walker: 6-2, 3.67 ERA, 76 IP, 55 K/25 BB (2.2), .247 BAA
LHP Kolby Somers: 2-1, 2.42 ERA, 10 SV, 22.1 IP, 30 K/11 BB (2.72), .139 BAA
TEAM TOTALS: 3.52 ERA, 37-14, 6 SHO, 12 SV
Oregon ace, southpaw Robert Ahlstrom is a dude. In fact, this Oregon staff as a whole can pitch. They’ve struck out 482 batters in just 460 innings pitched as a unit while allowing less than four runs per nine innings.
Ahlstrom garnered Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week Honors three times this season, twice for his performances over ranked conference foe, Oregon State. The starting guys behind him don’t come much easier, with righty Kafka following with his 82 SO and 2.66 ERA in just 74 innings. Once the Ducks starters are out of the game, they’ll turn to lefty closer Kolby Somers who is on the Stopper of the Year list with 30 strikeouts and ten saves in 22 innings pitched, while holding opponents to a .139 BAA.
It is very clear to see why Oregon has had the success they have had this year and how they ended up where they are at the end of the season. They hit, they pitch, and they field well. That being said, should the Tigers end up matched up with them on Saturday Night after the opening game, they are, on paper, no different than the better SEC teams that LSU has absolutely hung with this season, some final results aside. That plays in the Tiger’s favor, and with this being Paul Mainieri’s swan song, I wouldn’t count the Tigers out of this 39 hour away “regional.”