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Published: February 19, 2013
Oregon 3, Hawaii 0
Oregon 5, Hawaii 4
Oregon 9, Hawaii 5
Oregon 4, Hawaii 2
We were 0-1 against Hawaii in 2009, 1-3 in 2010, 2-2 in 2011, 3-1 in 2012, and now 4-0 in 2013. I sure can’t wait until we beat them 5 times in next year’s 4-game series! Patterns never fail.
We swept ‘em. At 4-0, we’re off to our best start to a season since rebirth. It’s all rainbows and ice cream and unicorns, as far as I’m concerned. So to play off this outstanding start, I’m going to only bring up positive things in this blog. I’ll keep any concerns to myself for another week. Let’s celebrate the moment.
Oregon’s starters went 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA in Hawaii. Jeff Gold left the finale up 3-1 with two outs in the 5th inning (his ankle got in the way of a sharp line drive), oh so close to a win but the powers that be say you need to go a complete five, thus no win for Gold. Still, he pitched well, and given the performance of the other arms I think it’s safe to say: reports of the strength of this pitching staff do not seem to be overstated.
You last saw Jake Reed (1-0) in the Super Regionals last year in Eugene, securing Oregon’s final win of the 2012 season. He picked up seamlessly from where he left off in Hawaii, throwing six shut out innings in the opener. He’s your ace now, Duck fans, and he looks every bit to be cast from the same mold as Tyler Anderson and Alex Keudell. He fanned 7, allowed 4 hits, 2 walks. The Rainbows just never figured him out. He out dueled a very talented arm in sophomore Alex Squier. For those wanting more offense out of the Ducks, Squier deserves a lot of credit for keeping us under wraps on his end. He pitched well against us last year, and like Reed for Oregon, he looks like he’ll settle in nicely as Hawaii’s Friday starter. I fully anticipate these two squaring off again in next year’s season opener.
But that ain’t all, folks! After Reed, we had a couple arms dueling to impress us all just a little more; Tommy Thorpe (1-0) and Cole Irvin (1-0), ladies and gentlemen. The new additions to your weekend rotation. Thorpe started once last year, but became a household name (well, in my household) as a stellar 8th inning set-up man for Jimmy Sherfy. Irvin, a freshman, obviously made his first career start in Hawaii. And they were both pretty spectacular. Thorpe went 5 innings and was in command from the get-go, scattering seven hits and allowed a single run. Irvin went 7 innings, allowing 3 to cross home plate but was virtually unhittable in the 2nd through 6th innings, at one point sending down 11 straight batters. He lost a little steam in the 7th, but I was surprised Horton had him out there as long as he did. To Irvin’s credit, he contained his own mess and limited the damage.
Jeff Gold (0-0) was very Jeff Goldish, eating up innings without much zip or flair but leaving the game with the lead. That was his thing last year, and for the record, there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. I was hoping he could go longer, not only to see if he could get the win but to see how his stuff has developed, but there’s plenty of season ahead for that. Here’s hoping his ankle is okay.
There was never a point this weekend, from the first pitch Reed threw on Friday to Jeff Gold’s final pitch Monday, where a starter looked like he was getting worked. There was never a point where Hawaii looked like they were starting to figure things out. This was an incredibly impressive weekend from a starting rotation’s perspective. With new roles being figured out and adjustments to the college game being undertaken, this bunch should be a lot of fun as they figure things out over the course of the season.
But we all kind of knew that stuff going in. Not that there was an aura of cockiness about it, but our rotation was being hailed as one of the nation’s best all off-season, and it didn’t disappoint. Let’s look a little at how the bullpen fared; after all, as we learned in 2011, your starting rotation is only as good as the bullpen behind them.
Christian Jones, less than a year removed from Tommy John, made two appearances. He faced 12 batters in 4 innings; to put that another way, he went 3-up, 3-down every time. Not too bad for a guy coming off major shoulder surgery. He looked good. Really good. Once his stamina is up to where both he and Horton want it to be I’m not sure we’re going to be able to keep him out of the rotation. First world problems.
Why was Tommy Thorpe able to move from the ever-important 8th inning set-up role to the rotation? His name is Garrett Cleavinger, and he’s a true freshman from Kansas. Get to know him. He made two appearances in the 8th inning this weekend, striking out three of the six batters he faced in 1.2 innings of work. For now, he’s our bridge to Jimmy Sherfy. So far, he looks like Tommy Thorpe, the Sequel. Let’s hope that keeps up. Sherfy can’t be Sherfy unless he gets the ball with a lead.
Speaking of Sherfy, he made three appearances over the course of the weekend. Two saves, no earned runs, off to a pretty good start for all those national awards he’s up for this year. His hair got longer, too. If you felt I brushed over his contributions here, I probably did. That’s what happens when you’re awesome. Ho hum, another 50 point game by Michael Jordan. Ho hum, another pair of saves from Jimmy Sherfy. Expectations are a dangerous thing.
Darrell Hunter. You remember Darrell Hunter? He was Horton’s first ever recruit, coming from Thurston High School in Springfield. He was a 3B during that brutal inaugural 2009 season, he left the program for awhile, but now he’s back as a relief pitcher. He’s no stranger to the mound: he pitched in two state title games in high school. He worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam against the Rainbows on Saturday. Welcome back, DH.
When we weren’t pitching this weekend, we had bats in our hands. Let’s talk about that for a sec.
No real place to start offensively other than Ryon Healy. He was 8/15 at the plate this weekend (.533), with a HR and three doubles. Enjoy him, Duck fans. He’s going to put on a show for the next three months, and then he’s probably going to be playing baseball for a paycheck. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Week a couple hours ago. Probably won’t be the only time this season. I’ve got big expectations for Healy this year. He’s the kind of bat you can build an offense around. The closest thing we’ve had to that since rebirth was perhaps Eddie Rodriguez in 2010, or Danny Pulfer in 2011. E-Rod could go yard, but he wasn’t the all-around threat with the bat Healy is. Pulfer could hit the crap out of the ball, but he lacked power. Healy’s got a little bit of everything in him. He put the offense on his back at times this weekend, and it’s nice to have someone we can count on to do that. I was surprised Hawaii only intentionally walked him once at one point he had 7 base hits in 8 trips to the plate. He was dialed in.
The line-up didn’t score a ton of runs this weekend – 21 runs, compared to, for instance, 30 last year – but I think we saw a Rainbow rotation that will win a lot of games this season. I wonder if some things may be tweaked as time goes on – moving Ryan Hambright down, moving Garlick and Packard up – but there were some good signs not named Ryon Healy, too.
We have a big weapon with JJ Altobelli in the 9-hole. He was 6/11 at the plate and got on base 9 out of 14 trips. Obviously those kinds of numbers are impossible to keep up, but at spot where most teams put their worst hitter, Oregon’s got something brewing with Alto. He provides an almost seamless transition to the top of the order. Hell, he could probably be a lead-off hitter on most teams.
Speaking of the top of the order, Payne and Heineman are prototypical 1 and 2-hole hitters. They make good contact with the ball, they’re patient, they can work a count and take a walk. Add in Brett Thomas at the 3-hole and we should have plenty of guys on base when Healy comes up.
The wind was brutal on fly balls. Kyle Garlick hit a ball that would have been an easy round-tripper at almost every ballpark in the country, but it got caught in the wind and died well before the warning track. It exploded off the bat, had the proper velocity, and just died. Brett Thomas had one, too.
Defensively, we had one error in four games. With that wind. Not bad.
Shaun Chase pulled off one of my favorite things in baseball, the fake bunt. He squared up like he was going to sacrifice, the pitcher offered up a melon right down the plate, and Chase straightened up and knocked a double down the line. It’s baseball’s equivalent of a perfect Peyton Manning pump fake, or a shot fake that catches a defender in the air in hoops. The defense comes in and can’t react to a ball screaming at them from that distance. I’m actually surprised Horton’s teams don’t do more of this. Lord knows we bunt enough, it’s not like we’d have trouble selling it.
Four up, four down. Up next is Loyola-Marymount. What do we know about Loyola-Marymount? They took two of three from Utah this weekend. They lost 6-3 in their opener but won 1-0 and 11-2 on the back two. They trip to USC on Tuesday, but they’ll likely throw a pitcher we won’t see next weekend. The Utes don’t have a great offense, but only allowing 5 runs in 27 innings is impressive. Not knowing what the weather is going to be like, runs could be at a premium at PK.
Enjoy the 4-0 start, Duck fans. Enjoy it even more if Hawaii goes on a run in the Big West, or whatever the hell conference their athletic department stashed all their non-football sports in. Sweeps are difficult, no matter the opponent. These early season wins are huge at the end of the season when the tournament committee meets to talk seeding. In a conference like the Pac-12, where we could easily go .500 and still be considered a top 15 team, collecting these non-conference wins are huge.