In 2007, the University of Oregon made a run at Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin in an attempt to bring him to Eugene. Since then, they've gone 4-2 against the Commodores - showing that there have been no awkward lasting effects from their jilted advances.
Now, they'll have the opportunity to play the 'Dores for the third straight season in the Nashville Regional of the 2014 NCAA Baseball Tournament. Oregon has been solid this spring, but they have yet to win a marquee series to prove that they are for real. They'll get that opportunity in Music City this weekend. If they can hold off Clemson in Friday's opener, they'll earn a crack at the winner of Vanderbilt and Xavier on Saturday. That would leave the preseason's #11 team with a major chance at redemption after a bumpy regular season.
The pitching-heavy Ducks may be looming in a small-ball matchup against the 'Dores. Let's take a closer look at
Gordon Bombay's George Horton's team.
The Oregon Ducks
Record: 42-18 (18-12 Pac-12)
NCAA RPI Rank: 23rd
Best Win: A 2-1 series win over #61 Southern California. Oregon played four weekend matchups against top 50 programs and lost all of them, winning only two of those 12 games.
Worst Loss: A three game sweep at the hands of #54 California State-Fullerton. Fullerton, a 3-seed in this year's NCAA Tournament, beat the Ducks by a combined 17-8 score back in February/March. Oregon didn't win many big games this spring, but they also avoided bad losses at a similar rate.
Batter to Be Wary Of: Catcher Shaun Chase only started 36 of Oregon's games in 2014, but he led the Ducks with 12 home runs - more than double his next closest teammate. After struggling as a underclassman, the junior has come on strong and developed into the U of O's biggest offensive threat. He finished third on the team with a .281 average, but Oregon didn't make a ton of contact this season - only one player is currently batting over .300 for the year. The Ducks don't have many big time threats at the plate, but Chase has the power to turn a Vanderbilt mistake into an visiting team lead.
Pitchers to Watch: Lefthander Tommy Thorpe was last seen shutting down California in a six-hit, complete game effort. The Ducks' Friday starter was solid across the board in 2014, allowing only 103 baserunners in 98 innings of work. If he can work eight solid innings, he has the opportunity to hand the ball to closer Jake Reed, who has recorded 13 saves and limited opposing batters to a .173 average this season.
Fortunately for all non-Duck parties involved, Oregon will be without freshman lefty Matt Krook, who underwent Tommy John surgery this April. The first-year player was dominant in eight starts, striking out 60 batters in 45.1 innings before his injury. Instead, the 'Dores may have to worry about 10-2 senior Jeff Gold as Thorpe's alternative for a Saturday matchup. The veteran isn't as unhittable as Thorpe or Krook, but his experience and ability to induce ground ball outs will make him a difficult matchup for any team in Nashville this weekend.
Key Stat: Vanderbilt hit better (.278 to .259) and got on base more often (.363 to .361) than Oregon, but the Ducks averaged more runs per game than Vandy did, 5.58 to 5.53. Oregon has gotten better economy from their at-bats, suggesting that their timely hitting could be a factor in a close game at Hawkins Field.