Showdown In The Pacific Northwest
In a region of the country that gets its share of moisture, Oregon and Oregon State never have to pray for rain on the baseball diamond.
The Ducks and Beavers, who square off this weekend in Eugene in a battle of top-10 teams that could decide the Pac-12 race, trot out what is akin to a major-league rotation. Both teams feature three top-notch starting pitchers that can fill out a weekend series with quality outings.
“They both actually have almost like a major-league starting staff,” Pac-12 Networks analyst Kevin Stocker said. “One through three, they’ve had guys you can count on the whole season, and you don’t see that very often in college baseball. It’s going to be low-scoring games. It’s going to be awesome as a fan to watch these staffs battle.”
The three-game series between the No. 4 Beavers (41-8, 20-4 Pac-12) and No. 6 Ducks (42-11, 19-5) begins Friday at 6 p.m., a game which will be available through live stream. Both Saturday’s game (2 p.m.) and Sunday (Noon) will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks, with Stocker joining J.B. Long for the call. Oregon State has a one-game lead over Oregon for the top spot in the conference standings.
The Ducks, who have never won a national championship, are aiming to win their second straight Pac-12 title. The Beavers, meanwhile, won College World Series titles in 2006 and 2007.
“It goes to show the recruiting talent both coaches have,” Stocker said. “It shows how brilliant they are in recruiting. It also puts to bed the old saying that the North teams can’t win in the rain.”
There’s no question both Pat Casey at Oregon State and George Horton at Oregon have recruited some top-level pitching talent in recent years. The Beavers enter the weekend ranked second in the nation with a 2.12 team ERA while the Ducks are 10th at 2.58. All three of Oregon State’s starting pitchers this weekend – Matt Boyd, Andrew Moore and Ben Wetzler – are among the top-6 in the Pac-12 in ERA. Oregon starter Tommy Thorpe is 10th in the conference with a 2.62 ERA with teammate Cole Irvin right behind at 2.64.
The Ducks may have a wild card in closer Jimmie Sherfy, who is tied for the national lead with 19 saves.
“George Horton likes to use him as a traditional closer, have him just pitch the ninth inning,” Stocker said. “If he has to go two innings on Friday night, it may be tougher to use him.”
So which team has the better offense to match up against the opponent’s stalwart pitching staff? The Beavers have the better numbers, with Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis anchoring the middle of the lineup. Oregon counters with Ryon Healy, the Pac-12 leader in both home runs and RBI who Stocker calls the best pure hitter in the conference.