Oregon Baseball 2024 Season Preview (2024)

Oregon baseball and softball has followed curiously parallel lines over the past two seasons. In 2022, the programs had very good defense and offensive output but were seriously lacking when it came to pitching. In 2023, the respective pitching improved (for softball) and improved somewhat (for baseball), and both were able to reach the Super Regionals; however, even as the pitching rooms were performing better, they were still not of a level to get to Omaha.

Oregon Baseball 2024 Season Preview (1) Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

That’s where 2024 Oregon baseball finds themselves - can the Ducks maintain their offensive and defensive excellence, and improve further on their pitching to make a serious stab at the CWS?

After the 2023 season ended, Oregon made a significant coaching change when their pitching coach, Jake Angier, accepted the position as head coach of New Mexico State. Oregon head coach Mark Wasikowski then brought Blake Hawksworth on as the new pitching coach for the Ducks.

We got our guy. Happy to have @blakehawk_11 on board to lead the pitching staff. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the program. #GoDucks

Press Release: https://t.co/BHUVfheVyA pic.twitter.com/adxpzCCicM

— Oregon Duck Baseball (@OregonBaseball) July 28, 2023

Hawksworth pitched MLB with the Cardinals and Dodgers after moving up in the minor league ranks. He spent 10 years in professional baseball and then worked as a baseball agent before becoming a collegiate pitching coach. His first stint as a pitching coach was at Cal State Fullerton in 2017, and he helped lead the Titans to the CWS that year. Since then, Hawksworth has worked a variety of positions in high school, professional, and college baseball before coming on board with Oregon.

Said coach Waz of Hawksworth: “Blake is the total package in terms of what we were looking for in a pitching coach. He has Northwest roots which will be a huge advantage in recruiting with the connections he has established. His professional baseball experience, playing in the majors for both the Dodgers and Cardinals, will be invaluable for our program, as will his track record as a collegiate pitching coach who helped lead his team to the College World Series. His approach in player development leans heavily on technology and modern pitching training methods.”

His experience off the field is equally as impressive. His knowledge as an agent in the Scott Boras agency will benefit our players immensely.”

Oregon matched a school record with six Ducks drafted in the top 20 rounds of this week's @MLBDraft. #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/Xmv01d8m6A

— Oregon Duck Baseball (@OregonBaseball) July 13, 2023

Pitching aside, the Ducks have to work with the loss of some significant fielders from last year’s team, including Sabin Ceballos, Rikku Nishida, Drew Cowley, and Colby Shade.

Oregon returns important pieces in the field and at bat with Bryce Boettcher (OF), Drew Smith (3B), Bennett Thompson (C), and Jacob Walsh (1B). They have also brought seasoned talent into the program with Justin Cassela (OF, Elon), and Jeffrey Heard (OF, Sacramento State).

The Ducks do not have any fielding freshmen talent listed on their roster at the outset of this season, and we’ll have to keep an eye out for newcomers that find their way into the rotation.

The 2023 Ducks pitching staff performed well considering that before the season started they lost RJ Gordon and Isaac Ayon to injury. Jace Stoffal became Oregon’s ace before he also went down with injury. Stoffal and Josh Mollerus have moved on after making important pitching contributions last season.

A top-20 recruiting class joins a talented group of returners. The Ducks' highest-ranked class by @CBNewspaper since the 2016 class. #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/8E3HvrLC3z

— Oregon Duck Baseball (@OregonBaseball) September 27, 2023

Oregon’s 2024 pitching staff appears deep, even as the starting rotation is uncertain at the season’s outset. Part of that uncertainty is a result of the announcement that Isaac Ayon - who missed all of 2023 with an injury - will also miss 2024 due to injury. Not having Ayon is another devastating loss to Oregon pitching and is not the way they wanted to start the season - again.

RJ Gordon is set to come back, however, and he will certainly be in the starting rotation. After that it’s anyone’s guess who the Ducks will bring out as starters, although the return of Logan Mercado could put him in the starting rotation. Now-sophom*ore pitchers that saw action last year and are returning include Grayson Grinsell and Turner Spoljaric.

Oregon also brings some notable freshman pitching talent on board. Pitchers to be keeping an eye on include 6-2 RHP Ryan Featherston, 6-6 RHP Cole Stokes, and 6-2 LHP Toby Twist.

@AustinAnder30 has been named a second-team preseason @NCBWA All-American. #GoDucks

2023 Stats
0.66 ERA
.111 b/avg. against

Story: https://t.co/O8eAyhGO57 pic.twitter.com/fRVfCjny6d

— Oregon Duck Baseball (@OregonBaseball) February 6, 2024

Mercado could be a closer this year as well as a starter, a role he is familiar with as demonstrated last season. SR RHP Austin Anderson could very well see closing duties. Also, newcomers SR RHP Brock Moore and FR RHP Collin Clarke have also been mentioned as closers for the Ducks.

Oregon baseball was selected #4 in the Pac-12 Preseason Poll, behind Oregon State, Stanford, and UCLA.


The schedule is set. Oregon will face three Big 12 teams at the home of the Texas Rangers. #GoDucks

Release | https://t.co/y74To8lEX9
Tickets | https://t.co/izSTKJmIMb pic.twitter.com/ZzVdPLnZ46

— Oregon Duck Baseball (@OregonBaseball) September 28, 2023

Their season opens tomorrow at the Shriners Children’s College Showdown, in Arlington, TX. Friday they play Oklahoma, Saturday’s game is against Baylor, and on Sunday they battle #18 Texas Tech. Next weekend they open in Eugene with a four game homestand against Layfayette.

53 games with 28 at PK Park. It all gets underway on Feb. 16 in Arlington, Texas. #GoDucks

Tickets: https://t.co/1pjVZgJxwb
Release: https://t.co/peS0viLGK8 pic.twitter.com/0VrI5jzpU6

— Oregon Duck Baseball (@OregonBaseball) December 19, 2023
Oregon Baseball 2024 Season Preview (2024)
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