During Oregon baseball season, our sports staff will discuss various topics surrounding an upcoming series. Today, Emerald digital sports editor Victor Flores and sports reporters Madison Guernsey and Andrew Bantly discuss Oregon’s last five games and preview the weekend series against between the Ducks (34-14, 13-8 Pac-12) and Arizona State (24-20, 12-9 Pac-12).
Flores — Oregon’s grade is a B since the Oregon State sweep. Going 4-1 with the one loss coming in 12 innings to the Beavers. The Ducks responded well in their first game against Arizona after starting off shaky, they had an amazing comeback in the second game and held off the Wildcats in a tight game three. The one issue with these past five games is that every contest has been close, and only one of those games came against a top-tier opponent. So Oregon gets points taken off for that, but their power surge and late-game execution have been bright spots.
Guernsey — Since the announcement was made that Krook would miss the season, Oregon’s grade is a C. The Ducks swept Arizona, as expected, but dropped all four against Oregon State. The final scores have been close, but Oregon really needed to assert themselves as a legitimate top-tier team and failed to do so. Perhaps they would have with Krook, but to have won without him would have made a much louder statement.
Bantly — I’m going to give them a B+. Oregon’s lone loss came to Oregon State in extra innings. Besides being at home and against their rivals, Oregon really shouldn’t think much of that loss — it didn’t even count as a conference game. But the bounce-back sweep of Arizona was huge. Each game, I think, woke up different aspects of Oregon’s game that might have been quieted in Corvallis.
2) Did Brando Tessar seal the Sunday starter slot with his last performance or does Trent Paddon (or someone else) still have a shot?
Flores — I don’t see how he couldn’t be. In Tessar’s 22.1-inning scoreless streak, he has struck out 20 and walked four. Each of his three starts in that span went exactly 7.0 innings. It doesn’t matter how poor his competition has been; only fellow weekend starters Tommy Thorpe and Jeff Gold have shown this level of effectiveness and longevity. He should and will be the third starter in Oregon’s next three series and playoffs.
Guernsey — Tessar locked it up. He’s thrown 22.1 straight scoreless innings. The Ducks are 6-0 in games he’s started. He further validated himself against Arizona, the first Pac-12 team he started against, when he tossed seven scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.13. Tessar has the experience and his confidence is growing with every strong start.
Bantly — Of course. Tessar was masterful on Sunday and dominated the Wildcats. The Ducks don’t need Tessar to pitch shutouts every outing, they just need him to be good enough to win. His start on Sunday showed that, if he can throw seven shutout innings against Arizona, he can compete with the rest of the Pac-12.
3) How impressed have you been with Shaun Chase?
Flores — George Horton said he and the coaching staff don’t like to call Chase by his nickname “Whammer” because it doesn’t give him credit for his progression as a hitter. Horton wasn’t just being nice. Chase has been unbelievable this season, with a batting average (.318) that leaves him behind just one Duck— Mitchell Tolman. His “Whammer” characteristics haven’t disappeared, either, as he leads the Pac-12 in home runs (8). He’s also handled the pitching staff well. Not many catchers can do everything Chase does so effectively.
Guernsey — As impressed as I would be if a mediocre catcher developed into a team leader and feared hitter. Shaun Chase’s progression is unparalleled, and not just as a hitter. Horton constantly raves about his rapport with the pitching staff. But speaking of Chase’s hitting, he had a career average of .194 before this season and had twice as many strikeouts as hits. This year, Chase has gotten hotter as the season has worn on and is now Oregon’s most reliable hitter. His slugging percentage is an absurd .670.
Bantly — The past couple of seasons, the catching position has been up in the air. Last year Chase shared time with Josh Graham and this year Jack Kruger was added to the mix. But unlike last year, someone actually stepped up like Horton wanted. What’s so impressive is the way Chase has taken control of the starting job. He doesn’t have to hit .318 with 8 home runs and 20 RBIs to be the starting catcher, but he is. And now Horton can’t take him out of the lineup. This kind of production from a “defensive position” is massive. Not to mention, he has been solid defensively.
4) Who will win this weekend’s series between the Ducks and Arizona State?
Flores — Oregon will play another tight series and win two out of three. Arizona State is 24-20 overall and 12-10 in Pac-12 play, so they haven’t acquitted themselves as an overall good team like the Ducks, who are only a game and a half up on the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 standings. Although Oregon has played tight games over the past week, almost every area has performed well. Expect that to continue this weekend.
Guernsey — Oregon wins two out of three. This is a huge series in terms of Pac-12 standings, and the Ducks will be up for the challenge after a disappointing loss at home to Oregon State. Oregon’s bullpen will have had a chance to rest and starting shortstop Mark Karaviotis should be healthy. The Ducks have more talent than the Sun Devils, but ASU will steal one away this weekend.
Bantly — Arizona State isn’t playing exceptionally well at Packard Stadium this season (13-10). I don’t see Oregon leaving Tempe without a couple wins at least. The Ducks’ pitching will lead them in this series because once they get a lead they will, likely, be able to maintain it. ASU isn’t a great pitching team so runs shouldn’t be difficult to come by and add to for the Ducks.