It is likely regionals-or-bust next season for George Horton at Oregon.

After a third straight year sitting out the postseason, the Oregon baseball coach was informed he would return for the final year of his contract that pays $500,000. That deal, signed nine months ago, includes a mutual option for 2020 that Horton will have to earn from athletic director Rob Mullens.

"I thanked the university for giving me at least one more chance and hopefully I will make them look smart and they will want to keep me beyond that," Horton said after Oregon closed the season with an 11-4 loss to Arizona on Saturday.

 

The Ducks finished 26-29, the first sub-.500 record since going 13-40 in 2009 when Horton returned the sport to the school. Oregon has finished 12-18 in Pac-12 play in consecutive seasons, also its worst mark since 2009.

"We weren't a good baseball team this year, plain and simple," sophomore third baseman Spencer Steer said. "We need to go into summer ball working our butts off to make sure we don't have this feeling again."

Oregon graduated only four seniors, but junior pitchers Matt Mercer and Parker Kelly, and outfielder Jakob Goldfarb, are likely to be drafted next week and skip their seniors seasons to turn pro.

Kenyon Yovan will top Oregon's pitching staff as a junior with Kolby Somers also back in the rotation. Ryne Nelson could move from the bullpen into a starting role.

The Ducks should return first baseman Gabe Matthews, Nelson at shortstop and Steer at third with catcher Ray Soderman. If Goldfarb leaves early, center fielder Jonny DeLuca is the lone returning starter in the outfield.

"When you have guys with a lot of experience and at-bats under their belt, that is a game-changer," Steer said. "We are excited for next year because we have some good guys coming back, but we have a lot to get better."

Oregon has signed 13 players in next year's recruiting class led by outfielder Vinny Tosti, a top-100 prospect from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif.

"It looks like we are going to hang on to a lot of our recruits, so that is good news," Horton said. "Three kids who could have been drafted high had a couple injuries that might prevent them from being drafted as high as they would have. If we are fortunate enough to get them and add to this group, I think that is a pretty good nucleus. We have been in a funk for three years now and we need to change the mindset. Roll up our sleeves and get tougher in almost everything."

Horton hinted he may need to take a tougher approach as well when he returns for an 11th season at the school, matching the length of his tenure at Cal State Fullerton that included a national title in 2004.

"I don't know if I need to be more of an in-your-face coach," he said. "I can be that, I was that in the early days and have kind of gotten away from that. Maybe they won't need it, maybe leadership comes back and they are tired of this."

Oregon finished eighth in the conference for the third straight season.

"We do need to change some things from the coaching staff all the way down to the least important guy," Horton said. "Our entire organization needs to get better at a lot of things. More discipline, more focus. I don't think we played like the toughest team and that is embarrassing to me. My teams have always been known to get better and the last couple years we have not gotten better as the season has gone on. We've tweaked some things the last couple years, but it hasn't worked."

After tossing a complete-game, two-hitter on Friday, Yovan said he hoped to start a spark for next season.

"The goal was to set a tone for next year because this year was a struggle," he said. "The first day of practice can't come soon enough."