Diamond Ducks: The Eugene Regional

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DucksAttack.com

Published: May 27, 2013

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In 2010 we were shipped off to the Norwich Regional, where we had to deal both with the host school, Connecticut, and perennial powerhouse Florida State. Despite the regional being in Norwich, FSU was the #1 seed. It was kind of a quirky thing. Regardless, everyone knew the region ran through the Seminoles. As the #3 seed, we played UConn, the #2, to open things up.

If you remember our pitching rotation from 2010, you know that Tyler Anderson was our ace, Justin LaTempa was our Saturday guy, and Zach Thornton pitched Sundays. Knowing that we were likely going to play Florida State the following day, Coach Horton decided to throw Thornton on day one against UConn, saving Anderson for the big showdown with FSU. Thornton won his game, Anderson lost to FSU, LaTempa beat (and eliminated) UConn the next day, and Alex Keudell lost to FSU in our own elimination game.

I bring up 2010 and the Norwich Regional because the situation could present itself again this weekend. As the #1 seed in the Eugene Regional, we get #4 South Dakota State on Friday. We’re likely to, though it’s hardly guaranteed, see #2 Rice on Saturday. Rice would appear to be our biggest obstacle to advancing to the Supers.

So the question is this: do you throw Tommy Thorpe on Friday against SDSU, and let Cole Irvin go up against Rice? Or do you throw Jake Reed on Friday, and let Thorpe start against Rice?

There are strong arguments for and against pitching out of order. On the one hand, Jake Reed (pictured) has been Oregon’s weakest starter this year, and this gives him an opportunity against who is perceived to be Oregon’s ‘weakest’ regional opponent. That said, Reed has been our weakest starter; and South Dakota State is more than likely going to be throwing their top guy. You have to have a lot of faith in your #3 in this position. Do you have faith in Jake Reed? Does Horton?

You then get Thorpe, who’s taken over the role of ace quite brilliantly this season, going against Rice, the perceived biggest threat. You want your best guy going up against the best opponent. But is that worth potentially dropping the first game?

These are the questions.

For the record, Horton was in a similar situation last year and it almost blew up in our face. Jeff Gold, our #3, started the Friday game against Austin Peay. He gave up a few runs and it took a ballsy effort from Joey Housey, Tommy Thorpe, and Jimmy Sherfy to keep us in the game and a late rally from the offense in the 9th to get the win. We very nearly lost to a team we never should have lost to. Jake Reed is also a lot better than Jeff Gold. But last year very nearly showed what could have gone wrong pitching out of order.

The good thing is that as a fan, you don’t have to make that call. You just get to sit back and watch it all unfold.

Pitching always intrigues me the most when it comes to the postseason, be it college ball or the pros. But the offense has to do its part, too, and Oregon’s offense has its fair share of questions.

First, the injuries. Ryon Healy will either be named Pac-12 Player of the Year tomorrow, or we’ll find out he came up just short and finished runner-up. Either way, this offense goes as Healy goes. He left last Saturday’s game with what we can only assume is a lingering issue with his back. Was he held up purely for precautionary reasons? Has a week off helped the issue? We’re not advancing without Healy. I think that’s fairly cut and dry. We need him.

Brett Thomas actually overtook both Healy and Tolman in the batting average department, hitting a team-high .328 in the regular season. He’s been outstanding in the leadoff role yet hasn’t played since Friday of the Oregon State series due to a wrist injury. He was upgraded to ‘available for pinch running’ duties last weekend at Utah, hopefully he’ll be good to go by Friday.

Scott Heineman left the game Saturday with a leg injury, and didn’t play Sunday. Precautionary? Something more serious? I have no idea.

Combined, they’re three of our top four hitters. Healy and Heineman are our top two run producers. We need these guys to play. Luckily, it’s the postseason; players have an all-hands-on-deck mentality. If you can stand, you can probably play.

Let’s hope.

The only issue with the line-up I’ve had recently, beyond the injuries, is the re-emergence of Ryan Hambright into the starting line-up. I’m not a big fan of the move. He’s a better defensive 3B than Mitchell Tolman, but he’s lightyears behind Tolman offensively. Hence, Tolman has been the primary DH of late. And Tolman at DH means Tyler Baumgartner is pushed out of the line-up and into a reserve role.

Baumgartner can rake; Hambright is hitting .183 on the year. Even at full health, Oregon is not an offensive juggernaut. I think we need all available (capable) bats in the line-up. That means more Baumgartner, less Hambright, in my opinion.

But hey, Horton knows more than I do. And in the interest of fairness, Hambright was the Eugene Regional MVP last year, hitting 7/11 over the weekend. Maybe he can recapture that magic. It’s just hard to justify his bat in the line-up when you already have light-hitting Josh Graham and Connor Hoffman in there for defensive purposes. You put Hambright (.183), Graham (.153), and Hoffman (.192) back-to-back-to-back in the line-up like Horton has been, and that’s big black hole until you get to Altobelli at the 9 spot.

You all know about as much about Rice, San Francisco, and South Dakota State as I do. I’m not going to read off some statistics and pretend I’m an expert. I’m certainly not. I will say this: focus on this weekend, and let the other regionals play out as they will. A lot of people last year were circling Purdue or Kentucky in the opposite regional and keeping tabs on their games, which is fine… except a complete unknown by the name Kent State ended up winning the regional and making the trek out to Eugene instead of either of the ‘big names’ we thought we’d see. I know a lot of people are already talking about North Carolina State, but A.) who knows who will eventually come out of that regional, and B.) who knows if we’ll make it out of ours.


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