Chris Sturdivant sends a shot into left field. Credit: Jake Kelly, the GU Bulletin
Compared to the Oregon team who we begin a two-game set with today, Pepperdine was a piece of cake...unfortunately, GU couldn't redirect their current (last cliché, I promise), and lost the series to the Waves. They face a much more challenging team today in the Ducks, who, in only their second season with a revived baseball program, hold the #18 spot in America's top 25 college baseball teams. Gonzaga (13-22, 2-3 WCC) will battle the University of Oregon (23-12, 6-6 Pac-10) today at 6:30pm and tomorrow afternoon at 1:00pm at Patterson. Read on for a series preview.
U of O manager George Horton, who received national Coach of the Year honors in his time at Cal State Fullerton, has brought the Ducks back with a vengeance. Of course they had a rough season in 2009, since it was their first since the early 1980s, and went 13-40. But in 2010 they've burst onto the national scene and surprised Pac-10 teams, who expected to have three guaranteed wins with Oregon in the conference. Think again. With a roster filled to the brim with underclassmen, it's obvious that UO's coaching staff recruited kids who are extremely talented, and more importantly, coachable. Two years ago, I knew ballplayers at my high school who were being recruited by the soon-to-be revived program, but turned down offers because they assumed it wouldn't get off the ground soon enough.
U of O proved how dangerous they are last weekend when they beat UCLA, who had been ranked in the top five, and won the series 2-1. Previously to that, they took a series from nationally-ranked Stanford, and before that played Arizona State very closely in a three-gamer, although the Sun Devils won that series.
Looking at scheduling trends, it's hard not to notice that the Ducks have lost the finale of the last three series. This shows either A) that their third pitcher can't handle potent Pac-10 hitting quite yet, or B) that the young team gets tired playing three games in a row. Either way, that doesn't benefit the Bulldogs. If it's option A, it won't matter since it's only a two-game series and we won't get a chance to see their Sunday moundsman. If it's option B, again, it's irrelevant since they won't have to play three.
Senior catcher Eddie Rodriguez leads the Ducks in the dugout and on the stat sheet. One of the team's only seniors, he was forced to step into this role and jump-start the program. Looks like his bat jump-started, too. Leading the usual starters in batting average, RBIs, and slugging percentage, he's a smart hitter with a great baseball IQ behind the plate. I wonder if Gonzaga ever took a look at him: he played two years for Wenatchee Valley CC, why didn't we go after a local guy that George Horton saw something in? Anyway, it doesn't matter now. He spent the off-season recovering from a knee injury but is playing at 100%.
We'll probably see sophomore southpaw Tyler Anderson on the mound today for U of O. He's started nine games, and in those appearances has racked up a 5-3 record with a 2.63 ERA. His curve is nasty and he throws fast but not too hard.
I'm honestly not sure who the Zags are going to pitch today. Machtolf won't throw Cody on three days' rest, and since the WCC standings are all that matter, we'll probably see someone who doesn't get a whole lot of innings thrown his way, possibly an upperclassmen.
Truthfully, I'm getting tired of saying that GU needs to hit in the clutch to win games...it's repetitive and everybody knows it now. But it's what we need to do if we want to garner more Ws on the schedule.
The game will be on local radio 1510 AM and you can follow the Bulldogs live on GameTracker on www.gozags.com. Go Bulldogs!