EUGENE, Ore. – Entering his fourth season at the helm of the Oregon baseball program, head coach George Horton announced his most challenging schedule yet, which is highlighted by the Ducks hosting the Nike College Showcase 2012.

The tournament – the first hosted by Oregon since the program was reinstated for the 2009 season – invites three teams that reached last year’s postseason to both Eugene and Corvallis.

Set to take place from March 9-11, Super Regional participant and Big East regular-season champion Connecticut, as well as NCAA Regional participants Oklahoma and Big Ten Tournament and regular-season champion Illinois, will visit PK Park along with West Virginia. PK Park will host seven of the tournament’s 12 games, while the other five will take place at Goss Stadium – home of Oregon State in Corvallis.

“We have certainly put together a demanding schedule for our 2012 season,” Horton said. “We are now in our fourth year, and we hope our program is in a place to compete with the best teams in the country. We’ll find out if our team can embrace this year’s challenges.

“I am also thrilled that we were able to bring such a terrific collegiate tournament to the Northwest. I’d like to thank Nike for sponsoring this showcase, which should give fans the opportunity to watch our club compete against some of the most talented teams in the country.”

UO’s 60-game schedule includes 13 opponents that reached the postseason in 2011, including seven opponents in the non-conference portion.

For the third consecutive season, Oregon will cross the Pacific Ocean to visit Hawai’i for a four-game series (Feb. 17-20) to open the season. The Ducks will then remain on the road for the second weekend of the year, making their furthest trip east during the regular season since the program was reinstated.

Oregon will begin the venture visiting Belmont (38-26, 17-13) in Nashville, Tenn., for a single game (Feb. 23) before beginning a three-game series at College World Series participant Vanderbilt (Feb. 24-26).

Belmont won its first ever Atlantic Sun Conference Championship after finishing a perfect 4-0 in the A-Sun Conference Tournament to clinch the Bruins’ first NCAA Regional berth.

Vanderbilt (54-12, 25-11) was the No. 6 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, was tri-champion of the Southeast Conference, and also moved on to the CWS after taking two games from Oregon State in the Super Regional.

Oregon will play its home opener on Feb. 28, welcoming in-state rival Portland to PK Park before Long Beach State (March 2-4) makes its first visit to Eugene in a return series from last year. The Ducks then host the Nike College Showcase 2012 in the final weekend of non-conference play.

UO begins Pac-12 play at Washington (March 16-18) before getting its first look at newcomer Utah from March 23-25 at PK Park.

Oregon also hosts Arizona State (March 30-April 1), Washington State (April 20-22), CWS participant California (April 27-29) and USC (May 12-14) in Pac-12 series at PK Park.

UO will go on the road to play UCLA (April 5-7), Stanford (April 13-15), Arizona (May 4-6) and will end the year for the second season in a row with the Civil War series from May 25-27 at Goss Stadium.

In addition to conference opponents that reached the NCAA Tournament a year ago, the Ducks will host West Coast Conference champion San Francisco (April 9-10), and from March 27-28 will visit Texas State (41-23, 24-9) which won its fourth Southland Conference Tournament championship last season to secure a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

In addition to the home opener at PK Park, Oregon has two additional contests scheduled against Portland. The Ducks and Pilots will play April 18 in a neutral site game at Volcanoes Stadium in Salem, Ore., as well as the final week of the season on May 22 at Joe Etzel Field in Portland.

The Ducks and Beavers will play another five-game season series with Oregon hosting the two non-conference games on April 24 and May 8.

UO will visit Gonzaga for two games from May 1-2, and will take a break from Pac-12 play to host Seattle May 18-20 at PK Park.

Oregon will also host first-time opponent Arkansas Pine Bluff on April 16 at PK Park.
The Ducks lost seven players from last year’s squad to the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but welcome back junior left-hander Christian Jones and right-hander Alex Keudell as part of the starting rotation.

The Ducks also return sophomore catcher/outfielder Aaron Jones, who led the club with 36 RBIs, as well as sophomores Ryon Healy (.320, 4 HR), Brett Thomas (.291, 10 RBI) and Kyle Garlick (.250, 21 RBI, 2 HR). Junior J.J. Altobelli, UO’s top defensive player for the past two seasons, is expected to make the move from third base to shortstop.

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