About an hour after the Oregon Ducks (15-14, 1-5 Pac-10) second straight extra innings debacle, pitcher Scott McGough, catcher Jack Marder and short stop KC Serna were on the field working on the same defensive miscues that proved fatal hours earlier. It showed if nothing else, this is not a team that is going to roll over.
And that is a good sign after the previous two days ended in frustrating fashion. The Ducks lost 4-3 in a 14-inning barnburner Friday night. Saturday night didn't ease the heartbreak as Oregon squandered Madison Boer's best start of his career. Boer went nine innings and struck out nine, both career highs. And for the the second straight night, the eventual game-winning run reached on an error. Friday night it came by way of a throwing error by Serna-giving him a team high fifth error of the year. On Saturday, Shawn Peterson booted a routine ground ball off the bat of Huskies right fielder Chase Anselment. The run would later come around to score, and the Huskies would plate two more runs in the 10th-all runs were unearned.
On Sunday, the players decided to arrive at the ballpark earlier than usual for extra batting practice and glove work. People will say what they want about this team, but one thing that nobody can deny is they want to win. They REALLY want to win. They probably want it too much.
Opening conference play with a five game losing streak epitomized a young team that had succumbed to the pressures of winning, and how quickly that can cause a season to snowball.
Of the Ducks 35-man roster, 21 players are underclassmen-most of those underclassmen have never experienced, at this level, the type of environment that manifests when a season begins to spiral out-of-control. Hell, even the coaches are feeling the heat.
Head coach George Horton said he didn't sleep a wink after Friday's loss. And Saturday, in an attempt to end what was eventually a 17-inning scoreless streak, the third base coach waved freshman Aaron Jones home from second after Huskies second baseman Jacob Lamb booted a ball in the second inning. Lamb's throw home would have been able to beat Ichiro.
"That's another thing of a coach maybe trying too hard," Horton said. "If (Jacob Lamb) throws it away, he's a hero. If he doesn't, he's a goat. Might have been an over-zealous decision on his part."
Even Tyler Anderson said that the team was "trying to be perfect." He said that was the case during the fourth inning of an otherwise stellar start on Friday night. Anderson allowed three run on three hits and a walk in the fourth. "I was trying to put up a zero instead of letting them get one," Anderson said. "I was trying to be perfect and just held onto things too long." Like a boxer being worn down from a never-ending barrage of left and right hooks, the Ducks best efforts still left them KO'ed by the Huskies in extra's.
But Oregon entered PK Park Sunday with an attitude of "if we're going down today, we're going down swinging." The Ducks landed the first of nine punches in the second inning.
Junior Brett Hambright ended the scoreless streak with a double down the left field line, scoring J.J. Altobelli from first. The at-bat ended in a much better way than it started. Hambright missed the sign for a hit-and-run and instead bunted. He then received the sign to bunt and bunted the ball foul.
Behind the arm of starting pitcher Alex Keudell, who went eight innings, scattered three hits, retired 12 straight batters at one point and fanned six, Oregon cruised to a 9-0 much-needed victory.
The Ducks walk away from this weekend believing that their pitching will keep them in ballgames. But only time will tell how "inflated" the numbers were that Anderson, Boer and Keudell posted in each of their starts-Washington is among the worst hitting teams in the Pac-10.
Call me a homer, or maybe a wide-eyed optimist, but I'm not ready to write-off this season. In speaking with players like Danny Pulfer, Peterson, Anderson and Keudell after Sunday's win, the Ducks still believe this season can be salvaged. And I don't believe the 0-5 start in conference play was indicative of this talented team. Remember, this is the same team that some thought had an outside shot of winning the Pac-10 this year
While I'm not wide-eyed enough to think that could happen, the Ducks could make it interesting in the seven series left against Pac-10 teams. But they will have to lean on guys like Marder and Serna and hope their swings come around. And for a second straight day, Marder, who went 1-for-12 in the series, was on the field an hour after Sunday's blowout victory taking batting practice. Like I said, they're not ready to roll over. And hopefully that will lead to some victories soon.
- KC Serna went 2-for-12 with three walks, two RBI's and two runs scored. He lined out in his first two at-bats on Saturday, but both balls were hit hard. On Sunday, he reached base on four of his five at-bats. Can't ask for much more from a leadoff hitter in that game.
- Danny Pulfer went three-for-five with four RBI's on Sunday. He is batting .296 on the year.
- Stefan Sabol drew walks in each of his two at-bats during extra inning on Friday. Both walks came on 3-2 counts. He showed tremendous discipline for a freshman.
- Scott McGough threw 1.2 innings in the series. Three runs scored during his outing on Saturday, but none of the runs were earned.
- Horton had this to say after the loss on Saturday: "... I think there's a handful of guys that don't pay attention and they're just here to participate and they're happy that they participated. I think it means too much to too many people, including the coaching staff... and all the people that invested in building this program, for guys to just go, ‘oh we didn't play good, we'll get them tomorrow." When I talked to Anderson after the game, he agreed with Horton, but this appears to be more of a problem with the bench players rather than the starters. Anderson had this to say: "... we've been loosing so often that its hard to keep that driven. For some people, they have a harder time. If their not in the lineup they have a harder time figuring out a way to push themselves to get into the lineup and push guys that are starting in front of them."
Follow me on twitter @ twitter.com/kanders4. I will be providing in-game tweets from the press box and updates about the team throughout the year.