Ducks to take on Redhawks over weekend

Sophomore Aaron Payne is tagged out at home plate by USC catcher Jake Hernandez during Oregon's 6-3 victory over the Trojans Monday evening at PK Park. (Alex McDougall/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Sophomore Aaron Payne is tagged out at home plate by USC catcher Jake Hernandez during Oregon's 6-3 victory over the Trojans Monday evening at PK Park. (Alex McDougall/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Posted by Isaac Rosenthal on Thursday, May. 17 at 3:40 pm.

The Ducks baseball team could be forgiven for doing a little bit of scoreboard watching this weekend.

The Pac-12 leading Oregon (37-14, 19-8 Pac-12) entertain Seattle for three games this weekend, while elsewhere in Pac-12 play second-place Arizona looks to make up ground in the race for the conference title. A Wildcats’ sweep would put them tied with Oregon for the Pac-12 lead.

Yet, Oregon head coach George Horton says it’s too early to pay too much attention to the conference race anyway. Even Oregon State — who Oregon plays during the last weekend of the regular season — could wind up taking the inaugural Pac-12 crown.

“I think at this point to do the math is unrealistic,” Horton said.

That being said, he acknowledges the exciting position the Ducks find themselves in.

“On one hand you’re thinking, ‘Well, if we do well down the stretch, we might be a national seed,’” he said. “We might get to host at regionals, but now we’re still scrapping it out and grinding it out for the Pac-12 Championship.”

As the Pac-12 leaders, the Ducks have had continued success in the polls. Oregon is ranked sixth in the Baseball America poll and fifth in the RPI but are ranked first in the USAToday poll. With six Pac-12 teams ranked in the Baseball America poll, Horton said this could be a big year for the West once the postseason rolls around. With his former school, Cal State Fullerton, also ranked in the top ten, he believes the West deserves four national seeds this season.

Still, Oregon is trying not to pay attention to any of that this weekend, instead focusing on a more than capable Redhawks opponent.

“The first time we played Seattle, they beat us one out of three here,” Horton said.

That was in 2009, and since then, Oregon has played Seattle twice, winning once and tying the other game.

“We’ll look at the scores at the end of the day, I’m sure,” Horton said. “But to take (Seattle) lightly and to think more about what’s going on in the Pac would be anti-productive.”

The Redhawks are set to join the Western Athletic Conference next year and have already played several Pac-12 opponents, including the Huskies and Cougars. Seattle is two games under .500 on the season but does have victories against each Washington school — teams that have given Oregon trouble this season.

Seattle is hitting a shade over .250 on the season with only 11 home runs on the year. The Redhawks ISO — a statistic which measures total offensive power by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage — is .077, significantly lower than Oregon’s .112 statistic, and Oregon isn’t known as an offensive team. The Redhawks pitching staff has an ERA just under four and has surrendered fewer hits than innings pitched on the season. 

“Even though it’s Seattle and it’s non-conference, we’re still going to come out and try and win and get better every game,” catcher Aaron Jones said.

The series opens Friday night, with Duck ace Alex Keudell looking to improve on an already stellar 9-3 season. Keudell will put his 1.94 ERA up against the Redhawk’s Seafth Howe, who enters with a 4-4 record a respectable 3.10 ERA. On Saturday night Jake Reed will take his 6-3 record to the mound against Brandon Kizer, who enters at 4-4. Jeff Gold, however, will start on Sunday for the Ducks in place of the injured Brando Tessar who has missed his last four starts with an arm injury.

Horton said Tessar is getting closer to a return, though he won’t pitch this weekend.