Road to Omaha: Ducks host Jackrabbits Friday

Road to Omaha: Ducks host Jackrabbits Friday

EUGENE, Ore. – The Oregon Ducks earned the No. 8 overall seed in the 2013 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship and will host the four-team Eugene Regional starting this Friday at PK Park.

No. 1 Oregon (45-15) plays No. 4 South Dakota State on Friday at 6 p.m. in the first round in the double-elimination tournament. Second-seeded Rice (41-17) faces third-seeded San Francisco (34-22) in the regional opener at 2 p.m.

Friday’s winners play Saturday at 6 p.m., with the losers of the first round games meeting at 2 p.m. Sunday’s first game between the two remaining one-loss team is at 12 p.m. with the winner advancing to meet the lone remaining undefeated team at 4 p.m. Sunday. The “if necessary” game is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. All games from the Eugene Regional will be broadcast on ESPN3.

Oregon earned the No. 8 overall seed after winning 45 games, one shy of the school record, against the nation’s fourth ranked strength of schedule. The Ducks finished second in the Pac-12 Conference. Six of Oregon’s 15 losses came to teams receiving national seeds (No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 3 Oregon State and No. 5 Cal State Fullerton), with the Ducks picking up four wins over those teams.

The Ducks, who earned a top-eight national seed for the second straight season, are led by a pitching staff that finished 17th in the nation in earned run average (2.79), 16th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.72) and ranks 23rd in WHIP (1.21). The Ducks also lead the country in sacrifice bunts with 92 and are fifth in fielding percentage (.981).

All-American Jimmie Sherfy is second in the nation with 20 saves, one behind the national leader, while finishing the regular season with a 1.67 ERA. Tommy Thorpe (7-4, 2.22 ERA) and Cole Irvin (11-3, 2.61) headline the Ducks’ starting rotation while freshman Garrett Cleavinger (8-0, 1.41 ERA) joins Sherfy at the back end of the bullpen.

First baseman Ryon Healy paces the Ducks’ offense leading the team in hits (68), home runs (10), RBI (50) and slugging percentage (.548). Freshman Mitchell Tolman is second on the team in batting average (.327) and third in RBI (33), while Scott Heineman is second in runs batted in (35). Senior J.J. Altobelli (.290, 24 RBI, 8 SB) is one of 14 players on the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year watch list.

Oregon is making its third NCAA Regional Tournament appearance in five years since reinstating the baseball program for the 2009 season. The Ducks went 2-2 in the Norwich (Conn.) Regional in 2010 and won the Eugene Regional last season with a 3-0 record. UO is making its fifth overall postseason appearance, also qualifying in 1954 and 1964. The Ducks advanced to the College World Series in 1954 and played in the Super Regional last season. Overall, Oregon is 9-7 all-time in NCAA postseason play.