Oregon is currently in the NCAA baseball tournament, according to multiple projections.
The Ducks have a chance to pad their postseason resume when No. 2 Stanford visits PK Park for a three-game series beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. Oregon also faces the Cardinal at 4 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday with the series moved up one day to avoid playing on Easter.
“With a series win and maybe a sweep, it would shock the world a little bit,” UO freshman outfielder Tanner Smith said. “But I think we know that we are a special team.”
The Cardinal (24-6) lead the Pac-12 at 10-2 while trailing only UCLA in three national polls. Oregon is 3-5 this season against teams in the Top 25 with wins over Texas Tech, Oregon State, and Arizona State.
“We have been doing this all year,” Oregon junior first baseman Gabe Matthews said. “We played Texas Tech tough and beat Oregon State once and we didn’t play our best against ASU, but I think we could still get them. Stanford, we think we can get them too. Our confidence is not going to diminish because someone is, quote unquote, better than us.”
Oregon (22-13) is tied for fifth in the Pac-12 at 7-5 as it hits the midway part of the conference schedule. The final three Pac-12 series at home for the Ducks come against the Cardinal, fifth-ranked Oregon State and top-ranked UCLA.
“We’ve got to take care of business because the season is out in front of us,” Oregon shortstop Spencer Steer said. “If we play our game and get some wins against top-ranked team, that is going to help us going forward.”
D1baseball.com projects Oregon as a No. 2 seed in the postseason while Baseball America has the Ducks as a third seed.
“There is no doubt that for this time of year, if there is a significant series, this would be it,” Oregon coach George Horton said.
Oregon has scored at least seven runs in each of its last six games while averaging 11 runs per game during that span.
“I think we still have a lot more to go, but we are definitely starting to get hot at the plate and this is a good time to get going in that direction,” said Matthews, who is hitting .308 with three homers and 25 RBIs.
Stanford ranks second in the conference with a team ERA of 2.83.
“That is going to be a real good matchup,” Smith said. “Our offense from one through nine has done a great job so far this year and they have done a great job pitching.”
Steer was named national player of the week by Collegiate Baseball after going 9-for-19 with three homers, including two grand slams, and 12 RBIs last week when the Ducks took two of three games from Washington State and also defeated Oregon State. The junior leads the team with a .356 batting average, five homers and 32 RBIs.
“Most of the national awards we have gotten over the years have been pitching,” Horton said. “We think of Spencer as one of the best players in the country. … We have other guys who are starting to heat up and that keeps us competitive throughout the lineup as we continue to score crooked numbers in innings, but that is easier said than done against Stanford.”
Brendan Beck, who ranks third in the Pac-12 with a 1.98 ERA, will get the start in the opener for the Cardinal followed by 6-foot-7 right-hander Will Matthiessen of West Linn, who is also batting .355 with five homers. Tim Tawa, another West Linn native, has six homers and 22 RBIs for Stanford.
Oregon’s starting rotation is uncertain as it has been most of the season with Horton indicating that Robert Alhstrom or Cullen Kafka are questionable due to illness while the other will start the series opener. Cole Stringer is also likely to get a start against the Cardinal while Ryne Nelson, who has pitched in relief for the past five weeks, could start if necessary.
“Rather than announce something, we have two or three different plans,” Horton said. “We are not playing any kind of shenanigans. It is based on one guy, but that affects the whole rotation so I’d rather not say which way we are leaning.”
All-conference starter Kenyon Yovan remains “week-to-week” as he deals with a hand injury that has kept him off the mound since Oregon’s opening game on Feb. 15 at Texas Tech.
Oregon does expect to have senior Jakob Goldfarb available for Stanford after he missed the past month with an ankle injury. Goldfarb, who is batting .315, could play in the outfield, be the designated hitter or catcher for the Ducks.