Make no mistake: Eugene and Corvallis are football towns. Even when the Ducks make the basketball tournament, or the Beavers roar into the baseball tournament, fans are still watching the football spring practices and waiting for the fall. This year, the Beavers and the Ducks are giving fans notice: baseball lives here too.
The Ducks are the number five overall seed in the tournament, hosting a first-round regional in Eugene, where they posted a 25-6 record this year. A feat to be sure, though their 16-11 record on the road is concerning. Under fourth-year head coach George Horton, the Ducks have surged back to the front of the Pac-12, a spot they had not occupied since 1981.
Leading the way is senior ace Alex Keudell, and his sparkling 2.12 ERA. He has a 2.5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio, and has only given up one home run this season. He does have control issues, as he has hit over a batter a game. Behind Keudell in the rotation are freshman Jake Reed and redshirt sophomore Jeff Gold. Sophomore Jimmie Sherfey is the closer, saving 17 games with a 2.29 ERA. He is also rated as one of the 50 top prospects of the upcoming major league draft.
Leading the push on offense is a vast supply of sophomore sluggers, led by designated hitter Kyle Garlick, who has hit six home runs to go with his .307 batting average, second on the team. Left fielder Brett Thomas leads the team with a .309 average, and highly touted prospect Ryon Healy has a .303 average and four home runs at first base. The speed in the lineup comes from second baseman Aaron Payne, and his fifteen steals out of the second spot in the batting order.
The Ducks will host Austin Peay in their regional on June 1st, and could be looking at a game against second-seed Cal-State Fullerton, the team Horton previously coached.
Perennial title contender Oregon State will come in the tournament as the number two seed in the LSU Regional in Baton Rouge, a low seed for a team that has two national titles under head coach Pat Casey, now in his eighteenth season as the skipper for the Beavers.
The power for the team comes from freshman left fielder Michael Conforto, who has spent the better part of this season devouring Pac-12 pitching. His .343 batting average is second on the team, and his 13 home runs are tied for the best in the Pac-12. Junior shortstop Tyler Smith leads the team with a .350 average, good enough for 6th in the Pac-12. Junior designated hitter Danny Hayes has a .307 average and six home runs.
Freshman left-hander Jace Fry leads the team in pitching and while he is a workhorse with three complete games to go with his 5-3 record and 2.48 ERA, his strikeout to walk ratio is only 1.5-to-1. Sophomores Ben Wetzler and Dan Child round out the rest of the rotation. Child posted a shining 3.9-to-1 K/BB ratio to go with his 2.75 ERA. Junior Tony Bryant is the closer, notching nine saves.
Oregon State will kick off the tournament against Belmont on June 1st, and would have a showdown with the #7 overall seed LSU if they can pull off the win, and LSU can defeat the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
Both teams are heavy contenders in the tournament, and hope to bring a NCAA baseball title back to Oregon. This state is not just about football.