By Rob Moseley
Tyler Baumgartner is hitting .345 and slugging .473 for the Oregon baseball team entering the start of a two-game series at Gonzaga on Tuesday. Of his 38 hits, 12 have gone for extra bases, and both totals lead the team.
The scary part: Baumgartner did all of that while taking 21 academic credits last quarter, in order to finish his undergraduate degree in March. As of this week, Baumgartner gets to focus solely on baseball.
Baumgartner, a senior outfielder, is one of four Ducks who finished course work at the completion of the winter quarter, and one of six total with their undergraduate degrees in hand less than halfway through this season. Under NCAA rules for players who finish their degrees in the winter, Baumgartner will play out the rest of the season without enrolling for the spring quarter that began Monday.
“I’m pretty pumped I did it now,” said Baumgartner, a general science major. “But at the time I was kind of second-guessing my decision, when I had multiple hours of homework every night.”
Also done with school as of winter quarter are starting second baseman Aaron Payne, pitcher Brando Tessar and reserve Craig Meredith. They joined the ranks of graduates Darrell Hunter and Jeff Gold, who finished school last year but opted to return as redshirt seniors.
Hunter is now working toward a master’s in education. Gold, an aspiring hip-hop artist, is taking courses in music technology.
“It’s definitely nice to get some credentials in the field I want to go into,” said Gold, who improved to 7-0 with the win at Stanford on Sunday. “To get that base, and then build on it further if I want, it’s great.”
Oregon’s graduates lead the No. 19 Ducks (19-8) into the midweek series at Gonzaga on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and Wednesday at 3 p.m. The UO baseball team will then move on to Seattle to play a three-game series at UW beginning Friday, with all three scheduled to be televised by Pac-12 Networks.
Heavy travel weeks in the spring such as this one were an impetus for Baumgartner’s 21-credit load in the winter quarter, which began six weeks prior to the start of Oregon’s season.
“I just figured, we’re going to be on the road a lot this spring,” said Baumgartner, a Washington native playing five games in his home state this week. “That aspect, and then not having to worry about any school and just being able to be down here focusing strictly on baseball this quarter, I felt like it was worth trying for, at least.”
Payne, also a general science major, has joined Baumgartner in the starting lineup for all 27 games so far, and leads the regulars with a .442 on-base average. Tessar is 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA, having made two midweek starts among his five appearances, while Meredith has one hit in seven at-bats spread across eight appearances.
All four look forward to continued success this spring, comforted by having already earned their undergraduate degrees.
“That’ll be huge for me,” Baumgartner said. “Even from the standpoint of just coming in early and getting extra work, or if I’m not feeling particularly well, I’ll be able to focus strictly on baseball and put in extra hours to get better.”