May 14, 2016
By Nate Krueger
Head Coach George Horton added another milestone to an already storied career on Friday night, claiming career-win No. 1,000 with the Ducks’ 7-4 win over Oregon State in the opener of the Civil War series.
“It’s probably an old cliché, but that means I’ve had a lot of good relationships, a lot of good coaches and a lot of good players, including this group,” Horton said with a smile following the game. “I’m proud to have been coaching that long, and to have a thousand kind of puts a tear in my eye that I’ve been blessed with a career in making a difference in people’s lives and winning a few baseball games along the way.”
Horton, in his 25th year as a head coach, improved his all-time record to 1,000-455-2. He has 774 victories as a Division I head coach, and 284 while at the helm of the Ducks. He has reached the NCAA Tournament 16 times and the Super Regionals eight times, and has six visits to the College World Series and won a National Championship in 2004.
Yet, amidst all the wins and accolades, none meant more to Horton on Friday than the victory over the Beavers, Oregon’s first conference-win at Goss Stadium as the Ducks fight for their lives down the final nine games in a hectic Pac-12 race.
“That’s probably a sidebar,” Horton said of the milestone victory. “It’s one of the nine. I challenged my team and told them we probably need to win all nine, is actually what I said. Easier said than done, but we haven’t been a good road team and we haven’t been a good road team here. But you can’t win all nine unless you win the first one, so I’m proud of them.”
The 2016 season has been a rocky one with a lot of ups and downs for Oregon (23-21, 11-11 Pac-12), but it remains confident in its ability to mount a winning streak down the stretch and reach the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight season.
And there was little doubt after the game as to where that confidence comes from, as the team diligently listened to Coach Horton’s notes in its postgame briefing. The Ducks’ focus is apparent, and it stems from a clear message that Horton has continued to deliver through a season with so many trials and tribulations.
“It doesn’t change the process, it doesn’t change the work ethic, and it doesn’t change the culture,” Horton said of battling through this season. “These guys are fighting just as hard as anybody as if we were undefeated, and the coaching staff has put a lot of time and effort into it.
“It’s not necessarily how you start, it’s how you finish, and if we can finish it and get invited to the dance maybe we can be one of the hottest teams in the playoffs.”
Horton’s mind was clearly on the task at hand following the win, but his players and coaching staff made sure to give him the credit and attention he deserves, bombarding him with cheers and hugs and presenting him with the night’s game jersey, traditionally given out to a player or coach in the postgame briefing.
“We know he’s a Hall-of-Fame coach, and we’re proud to have him as our boss and as our leader,” said Steven Packard, a redshirt senior who contributed two doubles and an RBI to the win.
The Ducks will take tonight to celebrate their leader’s accomplishment, but then it’s back to work on Saturday for game two of the series at 7 p.m. against the Beavers as they go for the second win in the stretch of nine that Horton has placed in front of them.
And though Horton has posed that challenge, he will continue to stress the importance of taking things one day and one game at a time.
“We just won our first game at Goss Stadium, and if we can get a win tomorrow and win a series here, boy, that would be really special,” Horton said.
Oddly, the Ducks’ win on Friday may end up being career-win 1,001 for Horton. Oregon’s game against Portland on April 13 in Hillsboro was halted in the top of the ninth inning with the Ducks holding a 3-1 lead. The game will be resumed on May 17 at PK Park and if the Ducks hold on to win, Horton’s 1,000th career-win will technically be Oregon’s 12-2 win over Arizona State in Phoenix on Sunday.