A win over Oregon State on Sunday may have kept Oregon’s postseason hopes alive, but the margin of error is almost gone.
The Ducks improved to 25-24 with a 3-2 win over the 11th-ranked Beavers after dropping the first two games of the series. Oregon remained at No. 52 in the RPI through the weekend and still sits ninth in the Pac-12 at 9-15.
The Ducks would likely need to win at least seven of the final eight games to have any hope of hearing their name called when the NCAA Tournament is announced on Monday, May 27.
Oregon can’t finish with a winning record in Pac-12 play and no conference team at .500 or below has reached the postseason since the conference expanded in 2012. However, UCLA got into the NCAA field with 30 overall wins in 2017 while both Washington and Arizona State recently got into the postseason with 33 overall victories.
“We are fighting for our lives and taking it game-by-game,” Oregon third baseman Spencer Steer said. “We can’t really make any more mistakes. We have eight games left and we need to win them all.”
Oregon stays home Tuesday night to host Gonzaga (28-20), which is second in the West Coast Conference at 16-8, before visiting USC (20-26-1, 9-13-1) during the weekend. The Ducks will play at UC Riverside (17-31) Monday before finishing the regular season with three games at home against top-ranked UCLA (41-8, 19-5) on May 23-25.
“We just wanted to play better against a quality team and maybe we can use that experience during the next six games in conference,” UO coach George Horton said after Oregon beat the Beavers. “USC is not in the Top 10, but it is always difficult to go down there and play. UCLA is obviously No. 1 and playing awfully well so maybe this gives us some confidence we can be more competitive.”
Steer had multiple hits in all three games against OSU while going 7-for-10 with five RBIs. He moved up to eighth in the conference with a .362 batting average and 47 RBIs.
“I am keeping it simple and trying not to do too much or put to much pressure on myself in RBI spots,” Steer said. “When stuff is working, stick with it.”
Steer played the first 45 games of the season at shortstop after spending his first two seasons at third base. Horton move Steer back to third base last week and he responded with a couple of highlight plays on defense.
“He’s one of the better players not only in our conference, but in the country,” Horton said. “He’s a security blanket for us at third base. It sure is a nice luxury to have Spencer there. When a ball leaves the bat hard in that direction, you feel like you have a chance to get them out. He makes hitting look ridiculously easy. I wish it would catch on to some other guys. He’s a great player and that was just another great weekend for him.”
Oregon reliever Ryne Nelson had been the losing pitcher in three straight appearances before earning the win in the finale against the Beavers. He allowed eight hits and two earned runs while striking out 12 in 6 1/3 innings of relief.
“He has some of the best stuff in the country so when we have a lead and Nelly on the mound, we have nothing but confidence that he will get us the win,” Steer said.
Oregon State left nine batters on base in the final four innings.
“Being a closer mostly, those are the skills I use to dig myself out of my own messes I create,” Nelson said. “I trusted my stuff.”
Nelson began the season in the starting rotation but following a heel injury, the right-hander was moved to the bullpen so he could either throw multiple games during a weekend or give the Ducks a long effort in relief.
“As we finish this thing, maybe he can have some quiet saves and successful outings instead of the bumps he’s had all year with the injury and some things that have gone sideways on him,” Horton said.