Duck Baseball: New season begins with new approach

EUGENE, OR - A new-look Oregon baseball team begins its season a week from Friday with a four-game series at Hawai'i.

George Horton enters his fourth year as head coach with three new assistants and a very young team with just four seniors on the roster. The Ducks lost seven players from last year's team to professional baseball. Senior pitcher Alex Keudell was also drafted a year ago, but chose to play one more season at Oregon.

The Ducks hope to perform better than last season when they finished eighth in the Pac-10 (11-16) and did not make the postseason, finishing with a 33-26-1 record.

"We have something to prove and instead of talking about it, actions speak louder than words," said Horton. "To a man, when you talk to my players, I hope that's what they're talking about."

Expectations seemingly got to Oregon in 2011 after the Ducks made it to the NCAA Regionals in 2010.

"Last year the expectations were so high and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves," said junior shortstop J.J. Altobelli. "This year were trying to take things one day at a time and control this practice today right now and just worry about the future when it comes."

A change in approach and improved chemistry might be the recipe for success for Oregon this season.

"I think last year we had a little division between hitters and pitchers," said Keudell. "This year we're trying to stay with each other and not divide."

"We're a close group and we all just get along," said Altobelli "There's no 'I' guys. We're all looking for the same goal. We're all trying to get to the same place."

That place would include the postseason, but they're not throwing that out there just yet.

"My prediction in this group is: We may not win any more games, but I think we're going to be collectively more together, performing as one team." said Horton.

The Ducks first chance at that comes February 17th at Hawai'i.