Zavala named Pac-12 Player of the Year; Eight Ducks honored
EUGENE – After a stellar regular season that helped lead Oregon to the NCAA Tournament, Aaron Zavala has been named the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year in a vote of the league's coaches. Zavala is the first Ducks' player to claim the conference honor.
In addition to being the player of the year, Zavala is one of five Ducks on the Pac-12 All-Conference Team and one of eight to earn conference accolades. Two Ducks were also named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team.
Joining Zavala on the all-conference team are starting pitcher Robert Ahlstrom, closer Kolby Somers, designated hitter Kenyon Yovan and first baseman Gabe Matthews. Starting pitcher Cullen Kafka, shortstop Josh Kasevich and outfielder Tanner Smith received honorable mention all-league recognition, while Ahlstrom and Matthews were both named to the all-defensive team.
The five all-conference selections are the most in school history for the Ducks, while the eight total members to receive conference honors matched the most ever. The 2013 and 2014 teams placed four members on the all-conference team with two more earning honorable mention recognition both seasons. The 2010 team had eight total players recognized, but just one on the all-conference team.
Zavala, who was named a Collegiate Baseball second-team All-American earlier in the day, heads into this weekend's NCAA Regional Tournament batting .398 with seven home runs, 34 RBI and 58 runs scored, while boasting a .538 on-base percentage and a .613 slugging percentage. He leads the Ducks in batting average, runs, hits (72), slugging percentage, walks (49) and stolen bases (11). He set school records for both runs scored and walks during the regular season.
Nationally, the Keizer, Ore., native ranks second in the nation in OBP (.001 behind the national leader), seventh in base on balls, ninth in base on balls per game (0.96) and 18th in batting average. He leads the Pac-12 Conference in on-base percentage, walks and base on balls per game, while ranking second in batting average, sixth in hits per game and seventh in slugging percentage and hits. Zavala earned a spot on Collegiate Baseball's All-America Team for the second straight season. In the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, he was a third-team selection at third base.
Ahlstrom, a Eugene native, finished the regular season 8-3 with a 2.41 ERA while making 13 starts. He allowed just 22 earned runs on 70 hits in 82.0 innings while striking out 86 and walking just 15 with opposing batters hitting just .230 against him. He earned Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week honors three times, with two of those coming after dominating performances against rival Oregon State with the third coming against Washington. Oregon's Friday night starter for most of the season, Ahlstrom picked up wins in his last six starts while allowing two-or-fewer runs in four of the six. He leads the Pac-12 in ERA, while ranking second in wins, fourth in innings pitched, sixth in opposing batting average and sixth is strikeouts. He also became the first Ducks' pitcher to be named to the league's all-defensive team.
Matthews, who was named a Collegiate Baseball third-team All-American, finished the regular season batting .326 with seven home runs and 32 RBI, while reaching base at a .451 clip and slugging .561. Matthews led the Pac-12 in hit-by-pitches (21), while ranking third in doubles and eighth in slugging percentage. In league-only games, Matthews batted .349 with five home runs and 22 RBI, while finishing with a .482 OBP and a .606 slugging percentage. He was ninth in Pac-12 only games in batting average while finishing fourth in OBP and 10th in slugging percentage. Nationally, the Ducks' first baseman ranks 21st in doubles. Matthews heads into the postseason as Oregon's all-time leader in hits, RBI, doubles, multi-hit games and at-bats. His conference all-defensive honor was the second of his career. The Salem, Ore., native was a honorable mention defensive selection in 2019.
Somers, a junior from Hillsboro, Ore., has been dominant closing out games for the Ducks. The lefty finished the regular season with a 2-1 record and a 2.42 ERA with 10 saves. He fanned 30 in 22.1 innings pitched while holding opposing hitters to a .139 batting average. He ranks third in the Pac-12 in saves, as well as ranking sixth all-time in single-season saves at Oregon. His seven saves in conference games were the second most in the league, one behind the leader.
Yovan, a junior from Beaverton, Ore., claimed all-conference honors for the third time in his career but the first as a hitter. He earned first-team honors as a freshman in 2017 as the team's closer and as a sophomore in 2018 as the club's Friday night starter on the mound. Heading into the postseason, Yovan is tied for the single-season Oregon home run record with 14 and the most multi-RBI games in a season with 16. He needs seven RBI in the NCAA Tournament to set a new single-season RBI school record. The Ducks' designated hitters is batting .319 with a team-high 51 RBI and 10 doubles.
Kafka, a junior from Walnut Creek, Calif., is 5-3 heading into regional play with a 2.66 ERA in 14 appearances. He is second on the team with 82 strikeouts in 74.1 innings pitched while allowing 22 earned runs on 64 hits. Opponents hit just .232 against Kafka. The Ducks' Saturday starter most of the season, the right-hander earned Pac-12 Conference Pitcher of the Week honors after a dominating performance in a win over Arizona State. He ranks second in the Pac-12 in ERA, seventh in opposing batting average and eighth in strikeouts.
Kasevich, a second-year freshman from Palo Alto, Calif., is second on the team in batting average, hitting .332 with four home runs and 48 RBI with nine doubles and two triples. He is tied for the most multiple-hit games in season at Oregon with 16 and ranks fifth in single-season RBI.
Smith, a sophomore from Newport Beach, Calif. who was named a Collegiate Baseball third-team All-American earlier in the day, wrapped up the regular season batting .324 with five home runs and 34 RBI while batting leadoff for the Ducks. He has a Pac-12 best 23 doubles, which set a new Oregon single-season record for two-baggers, while reaching base at a .420 clip and slugging .546. The Ducks' left fielder ranks third among all Pac-12 players with 32 extra-base hits. His 23 doubles ranks fourth nationally and his 0.45 doubles per game is the best in the Pac-12 and 10th overall in the country. Smith also tripled four times, which is good for second in the Pac-12 and 28th nationally.