By Rob Moseley
It’s probably too early in the Pac-12 baseball schedule to call this weekend’s three games at Washington a make-or-break series for Oregon’s conference title hopes. But it figures to have a big impact on the Ducks’ chance at the crown, one way or another.
The No. 14 Huskies host the No. 19 Ducks for three games beginning Friday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) in UW’s newly refurbished Husky Ballpark. Washington brings a 10-game win streak into the series, having opened the season 20-5-1 overall and 8-1 in the Pac-12, two games better than anyone else in the conference.
“They’re lightning red hot,” Oregon coach George Horton said.
Coming off two wins at Gonzaga earlier this week, the Ducks are 21-8 overall. They dropped two of three at Stanford last weekend, leaving Oregon at 6-3 in the Pac-12, tied with Oregon State and UCLA for second place in the conference.
“I like the fact our guys got up off the deck and won Sunday (at Stanford), and then found a way to win two games against Gonzaga on the road,” Horton said. “And now this weekend will test us even more. We’ll see what we’re made of.”
Washington enters the weekend as the Pac-12’s second-best hitting team with a .298 team average. Outfielder Brian Wolfe and second baseman Andrew Ely each is hitting .370, and Wolfe has blasted four home runs.
The Huskies also boast two of the top pitchers in the league. Saturday starter Tyler Davis is 5-1 with a 1.38 ERA, and Sunday starter Jeff Brigham is 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA.
Like the Ducks, UW’s Friday starter has scuffled at times this season. Jared Fisher is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA so far for Washington, while Oregon ace Tommy Thorpe is 3-3 with a 3.07 ERA.
Thorpe’s start at Stanford lasted 3 2/3 innings, the shortest of his career. He allowed three runs in the first inning and five overall, frustrating for Thorpe and his coaches though not enough to threaten his status as Oregon’s Friday night guy.
“I guess the best way to say it is, I have great confidence in Tommy Thorpe,” Horton said. “He’s been an important part of our last two years, and will be an important part of this year.”
Horton said there hasn’t been enough animosity between the UO and UW baseball programs to produce the intensity of a rivalry that exists in other sports between the two. That said, Oregon’s coach is well aware of the overall history between the schools.
“Is there that obligation to hate an opponent? No,” Horton said. “But is there an obligation to play against somebody that means a lot to our Duck nation? Absolutely.”