Mark Wasikowski will get his team on the field for the first time when Oregon begins fall practice Friday.
The Ducks have 41 players on the baseball roster that will need to be reduced to 35 when the season begins Feb. 14 at the Angels Classic in Tempe, Ariz. Twenty-five players return from last season with 16 newcomers, including 10 freshmen.
“I want to see guys who are ready to compete and have a fresh set of eyes on them,” said Wasikowski, a former Oregon assistant who was hired in June to replace George Horton. “Whether or not in the past they earned starting spots and all that, I encouraged the team to know that everyone is competing with a fresh set of eyes on them so whatever they have done in a negative way or positive way in the past is pretty much irrelevant to us newcomers on the staff.
"We are looking for competition where the players in the program feel as though they have an equal opportunity to play as long as they deserve it. They will be the ones to play regardless of scholarship money or any of those other things that guys look at as indicators. We just want the best guys out there so this will be our first chance to see the guys compete for jobs.”
Oregon returns seven position players who started at least 20 games last season and all four pitchers who got at least seven starts. The Ducks also return two-time all-Pac-12 pitcher Kenyon Yovan, who expects to be ready for the start of the season after suffering a season-ending injury in UO’s first game last season.
Wasikowski was an assistant at Oregon under Horton from 2012-16 when the Ducks made the postseason during the first four years of that span. He spent the past three seasons as coach at Purdue while the Ducks missed the postseason in each of those years, including the last two with a losing record.
“I think there is an awareness inside the locker room about what hasn’t happened, a disappointment that things haven’t happened the way they wanted them to happen,” Wasikowski said. “From my seat, it’s going to be about addressing some of the negative stuff that happened in the past and trying to spin it into a positive in some way to where guys can start earning things slowly to where they can earn their way into championship stuff. Right now, I don’t believe there is a mindset that feels as though they should be champions.”
Oregon will play three fall exhibitions at PK Park beginning with Sacramento State at 1 p.m. Oct. 6. The Ducks will face a Canadian team Oct. 17 followed by Lane Community College on Oct. 18 with both games at 5 p.m.
“I have a group of guys that are hungry and I’m ready to see what they can do,” Wasikowski said.
Across the diamond
After earning honorable mention last year on the Pac-12’s all-defensive team at first base, senior Gabe Matthews is planning a switch to third base.
Matthews has been a three-year starter at first base and committed just one error last season for a .998 fielding percentage. Wasikowski has moved him across the diamond to replace three-year starter Spencer Steer.
“I played shortstop in high school and moved over to third,” Matthews said. “It is just a new feel, I guess. Coach came up and told me to start learning to play third and I said ‘Sweet’.”
The only player listed as a first baseman on Oregon’s roster is freshman Anthony Hall, the first recruit signed by Wasikowski.
Oregon has added three former local prep stars to the roster, including a couple junior-college transfers.
Catcher Sam Olsson is a Sheldon graduate who played at San Jose State before transferring to Tacoma Community College. Marcus Lydon is an infielder who prepped at Marist before playing at Seattle University and Linn-Benton Community College.
Thurston graduate Decker Stedman, who is listed as a pitcher and utility player, is part of the freshman class.
The Ducks also list freshmen Jack Scanlon and Joshua Kasevich as a pitcher and position player, respectively. Yovan has been the designated hitter at times for the Ducks and is listed as an infielder as well as a pitcher.
“Any two-way guy, we are going to bring them in and give them a chance in any way possible to help the team,” Wasikowski said.
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