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Let the home games begin

by: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF OREGON - Tommy Thorpe helps lead the Oregon pitching staff as the Ducks welcome the Portland Pilots to PK Park on Tuesday night to open a 15-game, 27-day homestand in Eugene.(The Register-Guard) — The Oregon baseball team begins a month-long homestand with a visit from Portland this evening.

"We get to focus on schoolwork, get our nose in the books and also kick some butt on the field," junior pitcher Jordan Spencer said.

If the weather cooperates, the Ducks will play their next 15 games at PK Park over 27 days.

"That will be a fun month," freshman pitcher Matt Krook said. "We get to play in front of the home crowd and see what that is like. Obviously, I have never done that before, so I am excited."

The Ducks (7-0) opened the season with a four-game sweep at Hawaii then took three games from Loyola Marymount. Portland (3-4) started the season with a 1-0 win over defending NCAA champion UCLA but has dropped four of its last six including losses to Saint Mary's and UC Davis.

Oregon senior Jeff Gold, who allowed one run in six innings during a win at Hawaii, will start today against the Pilots in the first of four games between the teams throughout the season.

Oregon hosts Cal State Fullerton (4-3) Friday through Sunday in a top-10 national matchup. The Ducks moved up to No. 9 in this week's Baseball America poll, and the Titans are No. 5.

Oregon coach George Horton faces the school he led to the 2004 national championship, and the series also features two first-round draft picks. Fullerton reliever Phil Bickford was the No. 10 overall pick by the Blue Jays and Krook was drafted No. 35 by Miami, but those two became the highest-drafted players to choose college instead of turning pro.

The Ducks host Seattle University next Tuesday and Wednesday before Ohio State arrives for a three-game series beginning on March 7. Oregon is home for its first two Pac-12 series of the season beginning with USC on March 14 before Utah arrives the next weekend.

"It is great to play in front of our fans, so I can't wait to get started here," Spencer said. "We want to kick off the season right."

As expected, pitching has been the strength of the Ducks even without Cole Irvin, who is out for the season after Tommy John surgery. Oregon has a team earned run average of 2.39.

Tommy Thorpe is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA. Krook has a 2.03 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings.

Oregon has five relievers who have combined to pitch 17 1/3 scoreless innings, led by closer Jake Reed. He has a win and three saves in four appearances.

Darrell Hunter is 2-0 with five scoreless innings, Trent Paddon has not allowed a run in 3 1/3 innings, and Porter Clayton has thrown 2 2/3 hitless innings. Brando Tessar has one scoreless appearance.

The Ducks are batting .270, led by outfielders Kyle Garlick and Tyler Baumgartner. Garlick is hitting .429 and has eight walks for a .567 on-base percentage, and Baumgartner is batting .370 with five doubles.

Freshmen Austin Grebeck and A.J. Balta are batting .400 and .353, respectively. Aaron Payne and Mitchell Tolman are both batting .292.
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