PREVIEW: Oregon Baseball Looks to Close Out Regular Season with Series Win

By Jonah Bruneau

Eugene, Ore. – After going through their worst stretch of the season in losing six straight games, the Ducks (32-21) have righted the ship a bit as they have won four of their last five. The last win for Oregon came on Tuesday in what was a huge walk off victory against the then No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs. That walk off was courtesy of Jacob Walsh (Freshman), who ripped a line drive down the right-field line and brought in Sam Novitske (Junior) from second base and pinch-runner William Riley (Senior) all the way from first. Now looking ahead for Oregon, they will close out the regular season this weekend at home for a three-game series against the Arizona Wildcats (35-18). This Arizona team is a ball club that has had a strong season with eyes on a postseason run. The Wildcats have won four of their last five series, including taking two out of three from Oregon State (40-11) last weekend.

The Oregon bats came back to life in the second of two games against UC San Diego back on May 11 after going on a five-game stretch where the Ducks only combined for eight runs in that span. Oregon was shut out in three of those games, two of which coming against Oregon State and one against UC San Diego. Up until the May 3 series opener against the Beavers, the Ducks had avoided being shut out all season long. In their last five games however, the Oregon offense is back on track as they have mounted double-digit runs in three of their last five. Many of those runs have been thanks to the continuous production of Brennan Milone (Sophomore) and Anthony Hall (Sophomore). Milone is 7-20 in his last five games, tallying six RBIs in that span. Hall is 7-18 in his last four games with four RBIs as well in that period. Josh Kasevich (Sophomore) has also been red hot at the plate as he is 10-24 in his last five games with two home runs and nine RBIs. 

The pitching for Oregon has been solid in the last month of play as it has kept the Ducks in many games, especially in the four-game series at Corvallis. The bullpen specifically for the Ducks has been performing well, with the rise in appearances for Christian Ciuffetelli (Junior). In his last four mound appearances, Ciuffetelli has thrown seven and a third innings while only giving up one run and putting up eight strikeouts. Andrew Mosiello (Sophomore) has done seven and two-third innings of work while giving up just one run and accumulating eight strikeouts over his last five appearances. 

Potential Starting Pitchers – Oregon

Game One: RJ Gordon

Over his last three starts, Gordon (Sophomore) has been lacking some consistency as he gave up six runs on nine hits in just three and two/thirds innings of work against Washington State. He bounced back in his next start against California going five and two/thirds innings giving up just one earned run and recording four strikeouts. Gordon’s last start came on May 6 against Oregon State where he went just three and a third while giving up three runs and allowing five walks. Even with the struggles, Coach Wasikowski has often gone to Gordon this season in the opening game of most three-game series’. With that said, do not be surprised to potentially see the start be awarded to Christian Ciuffetelli. 

Game Two: Isaac Ayon

Much like Gordon, Ayon (Sophomore) has had a rocky last three starts for the Ducks. Back on April 30 against California, Ayon went six innings while allowing three runs and recording a solid seven strikeouts. His next time out however was not as pretty, as he went three and a third while giving up five runs and four walks. In his last start against Arizona State, he was able to put up eight strikeouts, but still gave up five runs on eight hits in five and a third. Ayon has shown promising moments this season, and he will need to be at his sharpest against a tough Arizona lineup. 

Game Three: Bullpen Game

As mentioned before, Ciuffetelli is a possibility to start the opener of the series on Thursday. However if he does not get the start and it goes to Gordon, expect to see Ciuffetelli take the mound to start the series finale on Saturday. 

Potential Starting Pitchers – Arizona

Game One: TJ Nichols

In Arizona’s three previous three-game series, TJ Nichols has been given the start in each opener. Expect to see the same against Oregon. 

Game Two: Garrett Irvin 

Irvin is Arizona’s go-to starting arm. He has 13 starts this season with a 5-3 record and a 2.65 ERA. Irvin’s weakness is allowing free bases, as he has given up 27 walks which is good for second-most on the Wildcat pitching staff.

Game Three: Chandler Murphy

Murphy missed the start of the season due to an arm injury and has struggled to find his groove since returning to the mound. Currently, Murphy has an 8.51 ERA in eight starts with just 13 strikeouts in 24 and a third innings pitched. Oregon could see this game as an opportunity to pounce on Arizona pitching with the struggles of Murphy, or even the possibility of a start from Anthony Susac who has also had a difficult season. 

Oregon’s Keys to Success

  • Strong starts from the pitching
  • Leave less runners on base throughout the series
  • Use speed as an advantage on the base paths
  • Insurance runs from the offense

Projected Starting Lineup – Oregon

  1. LF #31 Tanner Smith
  2. CF #26 Colby Shade
  3. 1B #3 Brennan Milone
  4. 3B #15 Drew Cowley
  5. SS #4 Josh Kasevich
  6. RF #35 Anthony Hall
  7. C #27 Josiah Cromwick
  8. DH #25 Jacob Walsh
  9. 2B #5 Gavin Grant

Project Starting Lineup – Arizona

  1. SS #11 Nik McClaughry
  2. RF #44 Tanner O’Tremba
  3. C #6 Daniel Susac
  4. LF #5 Chase Davis
  5. CF #7 Mac Bingham
  6. 3B #3 Tony Bullard
  7. 1B #20 Tommy Splaine
  8. 2B #1 Garen Caulfield
  9. DH #33 Noah Turley

Final Thoughts

Coming off the walk off victory against Gonzaga on Tuesday, the Ducks are carrying lots of momentum heading into this high stakes three-game series versus Arizona. This will be a hard-fought series between two PAC-12 ballclubs that are looking to end the regular season on a high note and send a message to the rest of the conference heading into the PAC-12 tournament next week. 

Series Prediction

Oregon takes two out of three from Arizona.