EUGENE, Ore. - After building the University of Oregon baseball program for four years, the Ducks marked the start of something great in 2012: the first time the Super Regionals would come to Eugene since 1954.
The Super Regionals is the step before the College World Series and the step after regionals. All the hard work from the past year led up to the Super Regionals and the Ducks were poised to take home the title.
The Baseball team’s story begins in 1876, and like any team, it had a series of outstanding moments - and a few very low moments.
According to the university’s sports history website, the Ducks baseball team brought home ten PCC Northern Division Champions between 1935 and 1955. From there however, the team slowly declined, ultimately leading to it being cut in 1981.
In 2009 the baseball team was given new wings under the direction of head coach George Horton.
They had new players, a new coach and a brand new field.
They had everything needed to play against more established teams if they could first find their sea legs.
Building a team and a program would take time, as assistant pitching coach Dean Stiles recognized. The coaches would have to instill camaraderie in players, and get them to think about baseball in a whole new way.
As important as it was to win games and fill the stands, it was more important to get the players to stop thinking of individual aspirations and get out of their own heads.
Coach Horton "is able to teach these players to play one pitch at a time, one play at a time, they don't dwell too much in failure. And to be successful in this game, that’s a skill that you really need to achieve,” Stiles said.
One of the biggest reasons for the Ducks success in the 2012 season was pitcher Alex Keudell. Keudell was an All-American player and brought the Pac 12 Pitcher of the Year award to Eugene for the first time.
However, one player’s success can only bring a team so far. The true reason the Ducks went as far as they did, is that they knew how to work as a team.
“This whole organization is built around camaraderie, team building, and success for the group, rather than the individual. I think the reason that this group was so successful was that they bought into that,” Stiles said.
Though the Ducks came close, they couldn’t beat Kent State at the Super Regionals, and their season ended earlier than they had hoped.
Even with the loss of the game fresh on their minds, there is still optimism among the players about next season.
“All the players that were here last year have a full year under our new coaching staff. I think that’s going to help a lot for next season, we can be prepared a lot quicker. And I think we have a good recruiting class, so I think that’s going to help a lot too,” said freshman outfielder Billy Flamion.
Story from the University of Oregon Sports Media Workshop