After finishing with record breaking success last season, both the baseball and softball teams at the University of Oregon are projected to take the field and contend with some of the best in the nation. In recent polls, the baseball team is ranked in the top 10 including No.6 in USA Today and No. 7 in National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The softball team is also gaining preseason recognition ranked No. 5 and No. 6 by the NFCA and USA Softball polls. Expectations are high for both sides and with deep rosters and ambitions, spring could shape up to be competitive for the Ducks on the diamond.
Last year, the baseball team won a school record 46 games and came within one win of going to the College World Series. After only four seasons of having their program reinstated, the Ducks have consistently progressed, making two NCAA tournament appearances and hosting last year’s Super Regional in Eugene. The women also made leaps forward last year with their second ever World Series appearance, a third place Pac-12 finish, and a No.5 year end ranking. The preseason rankings aren’t only based on last year’s success, however, as both squads return some of their best players for another run at national success.
On the men’s side 11 starters return – including four starting pitchers and All-American reliever Jimmie Sherfy. Sherfy led the Pac-12 in saves and tallied 93 strikeouts in 61.1 innings. Offensively, the Ducks will look to junior Ryon Healy to help lead the way. Last season, Healy was named All-Conference Honorable Mention after maintaining a 12 game hitting streak and leading the Ducks in hits and RBIs. Outfielder Brett Thomas returns, expected to help drive in runs after leading the team in doubles and hitting .346 in the postseason for 5 runs.
The returners for the softball team are just as impressive. Last year, Samantha Pappas was the team’s first All-American outfielder. She led the conference in doubles and her team in stolen bases, serving as a well-rounded threat in the field, base paths, and at the plate. Senior Kailee Cuico will be leading the infield at second base and brings consistency to the lineup. She led the team in home runs, triples, total bases, and game winning RBIs.
In the circle the Ducks will rely on senior All-American Jessica Moore. She set the record for strikeouts last season and ranked second in the conference for wins. While she’s expected to carry most of the workload for the team, this year she’ll have more depth behind her. Sophomore Karissa Hovinga and freshman Cheridan Hawkins will both be waiting in the wings to ease the burden from Moore who made 52 appearances in the circle last year.
Overall the outlook is good for both baseball and softball as far as rosters are concerned. In the last three years both teams have put themselves on the map after less than remarkable seasons of the past. Spring certainly will not go unnoticed in Eugene this year as both teams have the potential to compete at the highest level of play. The interesting and near coincidental aspect of it all is that it’s rather new for both teams.
For the softball team their projected third place Pac-12 finish is their highest ever in preseason polls and for the men, certainly such high expectations were not anticipated when the team was resurrected in 2009. As the teams prepare for their first tournaments of the year, whether or not hype will play a role for squads who aren’t used to the attention will certainly be taken into account. For now, however, both are interested in taking are of unfinished business and building off historic success from last year. The softball team heads to Tempe, Arizona for their first tournament over the weekend. The baseball team will travel to Hawaii for their first preseason games next week.