Playing a noon game in front of a crowd largely of elementary and middle school kids on the coolest field trip ever, the Oregon Ducks won a sloppy contest over Cal State Northridge 4-1, and can now turn their full attention to the much-anticipated series against #2 Vanderbilt this weekend.
The game started off on a sour note, as CSUN turned an error by Oregon shortstop J.J. Altobelli into a 1-0 lead after three innings of play.
Ducks starter Jeff Gold was never knocked off his game though, and the junior right-hander twirled a gem for the Ducks, striking out six over seven full innings and just the one unearned run, lowering his ERA to 0.51 on the season.
"I've been fortunate I guess, putting my work in and throwing strikes," Gold said of his torrid start to the season.
Oregon's bats would awaken in the fourth inning and take the lead for good. First baseman Ryon Healy led off the inning with a double and was knocked in by outfielder Brett Thomas to tie the game.
Thomas subsequently scored the go-ahead run on catcher Shaun Chase's sacrifice fly, and sophomore center fielder Scott Heineiman provided another run in the fifth inning with the following sequence: walk, stolen base, wild pitch, ground out.
"We weren't on it offensively today, obviously, with a lot of hits, bunting game wasn't as good as we want it to be under wet conditions," head coach George Horton said. "Finding a way to win and finding a way to create runs has kind of been us, you know? We're not a 14, 15 hit kind of team, although we got quite a few yesterday."
That burst of offense would be plenty for Gold, as he cruised through the remainder of his outing. He also provided the highlight of the afternoon, throwing his entire glove – with the ball inside – to Healy at first base for a force out.
With this weekday pair of games out of the way, Oregon now turns their attention to the incoming Vanderbilt Commodores, ranked #2 in the country and boasting one of the top pitching staffs in the country.
After dropping their first series against a ranked opponent last weekend at Cal State Fullerton, winning at least two against Vanderbilt would look good on their resume come NCAA tournament time.
"I wouldn't say [there's] extra importance," Horton said. "A bounce back effort against a nationally prominent, Omaha-type team that's well coached and very talented; I'm sure the players – not disrespecting Northridge – wanted to get through these two games."
"If you think about how they felt when we came into their yard and swept them, they got off to a crummy start last year, they're off to a tremendous start [this year]."