Oregon baseball takes a big step forward, but wants more in 2022

·2 min read

In the four seasons before Mark Wasikowski took over the Oregon Ducks baseball program, they were floundering around the .500 mark, and in college baseball, that’s mediocre.

Oregon didn’t bring baseball back in 2009 to just be mediocre.

The Ducks could see signs of the turnaround right away in 2020, but the pandemic hit and the season was canceled after just 15 games. In some strange way, it gave Oregon time off the field to go into the weight room, to recruit, and to build up everything it needed to be successful on the field.

Whatever they did, it worked. Oregon proved that the turnaround is nearly complete by being one game away from winning their first conference title and just one inning away from going to a Super Regional. Unfortunately, that one inning where a few mental lapses occurred ended the season with a 9-8 loss to LSU.

But those lapses shouldn’t define a season. Instead, Oregon should take solice in the fact it can be a successful program in many ways. Before the Ducks were offensively challenged and relied heavily on pitching and defense.

The 2021 Ducks proved there’s more than one way to skin a cat. The Ducks featured their best offensive lineup in the program’s history.

BRIAN HAYES – THE STATESMAN JOURNAL

Kenyon Yovan went from one of the best pitchers in the Pac-12 to one of the best power hitters in the country with his school single-season record of 17 home runs. The senior proved PK Park can be the home of a premier power hitter and Oregon has to hope that attracts more power hitters to consider the Ducks in the future.

Recruiting homegrown talent also paid dividends. Besides Beaverton’s own Yovan, Salem’s Aaron Zavala won the Pac-12 Player of the Year. First baseman Gabe Matthews turned into a MLB prospect as well as Eugene’s own Robert Ahlstrom, the ace of the pitching staff and closer Kolby Somers from Hillsboro.

Look for Wasikowski to keep mining Oregon high schools and the Pacific Northwest. It worked for Oregon State in its national championship seasons and Oregon proved homegrown talent can help with the program’s turnaround.

No one knows what 2022 will bring to PK Park, but this season showed that Oregon can be and should be a destination for top talent. Mediocrity won’t be acceptable any more and Omaha is finally within the Ducks’ reach.

List

Oregon's LJ Figueroa is prepared for basketball at the professional level, and the stage is set