Oregon Ducks baseball is ready to begin its journey to Omaha. First up: San Diego

The Oregon baseball listen to the coaching staff on their first official practice day of the 2022 season.
·5 min read

The goal for every college baseball program is to make it to Omaha and play in the College World Series.

The Oregon Ducks will begin that journey Friday night in California.

It has been eight months since the Ducks baseball team has last played in a game.

But that will change this weekend as Oregon begins its season Friday in a four-game series against the San Diego Toreros. The Ducks are coming off a surprising 39-16 season where they finished second in the Pac-12 and hosted an NCAA Regional.

Oregon lost in the Eugene Regional to LSU, which advanced to Super Regionals.

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The defeat left a sour taste in a few players' mouths. Now the Ducks have higher expectations for the 2022 season.

"Our goal has always been to get to Omaha and win a national championship," pitcher Kolby Somers said. "In the past, it wasn't as tangible as it is now. We really just wanted to win games and get to the postseason.

"After being there last year, our expectations and goals are a lot higher. We know what we can achieve, we know we are talented, we know we are really good.

"Our focus and goals are winning a national championship, it's pretty simple."

20 players return to Ducks' 2021 roster

Oregon returns 20 of 38 players who were on the 2021 roster. Some of those players returning including shortstop Josh Kasevich and outfielders Anthony Hall and Tanner Smith. However, the Ducks will need to replace a lot of production from last year's team.

Gone are Gabe Matthews, Kenyon Yovan and Robert Alhstrom. Also, the Ducks will need to replace Aaron Zavala, who was the 2021 Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year after batting .392 and nine home runs.

The Ducks also lost all three of their starting pitchers from last season.

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Oregon hit .289 as a team last year, but some Oregon players believe this year's team is as good if not better than the 2021 team.

"I think everyone is starting to realize that the talent is arguably better than it was last year," Smith said. "We all realize the type of team that can be and the full potential for each player.

"We are finding our identity, and we believe we are going to take off as a team this year."

Transfer Adam Maier focuses on pitching

One of the newcomers who hopes to fill the void by the departures is Adam Maier, who transferred to Oregon from the University of British Columbia during the offseason.

Maier was a two-way player at UBC who pitched along with playing at shortstop. He made five appearances on the mound while getting 15 starts as the designated hitter or an outfielder during the COVID-19 shortened season in 2020. He finished with a 3-0 record and a 2.84 ERA with one save while making two starts on the mound as he struck out 22 hitters with just four walks in 19.0 innings.

At Oregon, Maier will solely focus on pitching as he will start Game 1 of the series against San Diego. Andrew Mosiello, Issac Ayon and Tommy Brandenburg will be the Ducks' starting pitchers for the following three games.

Maier says he misses being a two-way player, but he has enjoyed his adjustment at Oregon.

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"New country, new everything," Maier said. "I'm just getting used to the whole thing. People have been welcoming, which has been nice.

"Just having a lot of awesome facilities to use, coaches to train with and awesome players to play with. It has been an awesome offseason and I'm looking forward to the season."

First home game will be Feb. 25

The Ducks will play a Toreros team that finished 33-12 record and 19-8 in the West Coast Conference a season ago.

The series against San Diego will begin a 56-game schedule that will include 23 games against teams ranked in one of the preseason polls. After starting the season on the road, the Ducks play in nine consecutive games at home in a series against St. John's (Feb. 25-28) and UC Santa Barbara (March 4-6) before wrapping up the homestand March 8 with one game against Portland.

Wasikowski says it's crucial for the Ducks to get off to a good start against San Diego but also to remain healthy.

"You don't want to come out injured and you want to come out 4-0," Oregon coach Mark Wasikowski said. "Those would be fantastic indicators of how things might go.

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"You just really just want to play well and get your eyes off the wins and loss column. Just really play well and see how kids develop. Some of these guys are going to have their first college at-bats after this weekend.

"Want to see the guys play well this weekend, play with energy and I don't think that will be a problem for opening weekend."

Oregon at San Diego

Time: 6 p.m. Friday, Fowler Park and Cunningham Field, San Diego

Radio: KUGN-AM (590)

Contact Register-Guard sportswriter Antwan Staley at astaley@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Oregon Ducks baseball ready for season opener vs. San Diego