After sweeping a three-game series from Saint Mary’s, Oregon will look for similar success against Loyola Marymount and then root for the Gaels and Lions to battle for the West Coast Conference title.
The Ducks (4-2) will try to dodge the rain to play a three-game series against the Lions (5-3) beginning Friday at 3 p.m. at PK Park.
Loyola Marymount coach Jason Gill played one season for UO coach George Horton at Cal State Fullerton before serving as an assistant under him for three seasons with the Titans. He was hired by Horton an assistant at Oregon but left before the Ducks played a game to take over the Lions in 2009.
“He’s one of my favorite players, assistant coaches, and colleagues,” said Horton, who is 9-3 against his protege. “They are always competitive.”
The Ducks won three of four games last year against Loyola Marymount, which went on to finish 25-30.
“Their personnel is different and ours is different, but what I know is that they will be well-coached,” Horton said. “We know each other very well and know what they like to do. As always, it comes down to the athletes and I expect them to be a team that operates in the upper echelon of the WCC. We feel really good about what we did against Saint Mary’s and think it will reveal itself as a contender in that conference and do some damage with the team they have.”
Two of Oregon’s three wins over the Gaels came by one run.
“Saint Mary’s was a tough team and Loyola will be like them,” Oregon first baseman Gabe Matthews said. “They are a scrappy team and playing in the WCC, that is the kind of baseball they play. We need to be ready to play our game against them.”
Oregon is batting .335 as a team while averaging 6.3 runs per game. Freshman Aaron Zavala is hitting .542 followed by Jonny DeLuca at .423 with three other Ducks hitting over .300.
“We have gotten a lot of production out of the bottom of our order,” Horton said. “We think we are pretty deep in position players and the freshmen getting opportunities have been in character.”
The coach noted that Oregon has struck out 58 times in 200 at-bats.
“We are striking out too much,” he said. “If you hit the ball over the fence once every three games maybe that is the analytic people are using now, but certainly PK is not a home-run park especially under wet conditions. It is harder to play defense when it is wet so I’d like to see us put the ball in play more consistently. … Our quality of at-bats continue to be good except for strikeouts. I like what our offense is going now, I think we are in a good place.”
Oregon will be without its No. 1 starting pitcher Kenyon Yovan for the second week in a row as the junior recovers after having blood clots in his palm.
Sophomore Cullen Kafka (1-0, 5.56 ERA) starts the opener against Codie Paiva (1-1, 2.53) for the Lions. Junior Cole Stringer (0-1, 1.50) goes on Saturday for the Ducks before junior Ryne Nelson (1-0, 6.10) pitches the finale on Sunday.