Fall Report: OregonFall Report
There’s a pervasive feeling around Oregon’s program heading into 2017 that the Ducks have something to prove — and that’s not a bad thing.
Since restarting the program in 2009, the Ducks have made five regionals in eight years, winning one of them (in 2012). That’s not a bad track record for a program that was started from scratch not so long ago, but coach George Horton would be the first to tell you that Oregon has not yet lived up to his own lofty expectations. Horton himself hasn’t led a team to Omaha since his final season at Cal State Fullerton in 2017 — a long drought for a coach with Horton’s premier pedigree — and he’s itching to get back.
There was some sentiment heading into last season that the Ducks had a chance to finally break through, with a pitching staff led by three big-name lefthanders, but the pitching staff didn’t quite live up to its potential and the offense underachieved dramatically, ranking 285th in the nation in batting and 173rd in scoring. That continued a trend that has persisted since the program was restarted — the Ducks haven’t ranked inside the top 200 in batting in any of their eight seasons. Certainly their pitcher-friendly home ballpark has plenty to do with that, but there’s a lot more to it. Too many players have simply underperformed.
“It would be real easy for me to blame the past coaches or players, we’re coming up short, especially the last couple years we’ve had crummy years, in my opinion, for my standards,” Horton said. “I don’t know if the expectation bug got to those guys or we missed on our evaluation of them. But I’m hoping this is a team we can look back on and say, ‘That was more like what we expect from Coach Horton and his staff,’ the manner that we play the game. We have some guys who have had some at-bats and played quite a bit for us, you expect that to be the leadership for us. The two seniors will be Jacob Bennett and A.J. Balta in the outfield — hopefully their bats can be there for us when the bell rings. That was kind of our demise last year: some of the upperclassman guys disappeared.”
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