The first of three crucial games between the #10 Oregon Ducks and #13 UCLA Bruins played out how it looked on paper, with pitchers controlling the game for both teams throughout.
Both UCLA's Adam Plutko and Oregon's Tommy Thorpe found themselves in multiple jams of the course of their outings, but in the end it was the Bruins plated the only run of the night in the fifth inning en route to a 1-0 victory on a Friday night where the Ducks mustered almost as many errors as they did hits.
"Yeah, pretty uncharacteristic," Oregon head coach George Horton said after the game. "I've probably been jinxing ourselves talking too much about it. Tolman had a rough day, but on the other side of that, they put some bunts down and we didn't...we didn't do many things in character."
Not helping the Ducks confidence were the unusually high number of errors from a team known for their defense. In fact, the three errors committed by Oregon set a season-high.
Healy wasn't concerned with Tolman – responsible for a pair of errors on the night – going forward at third base.
"They definitely stand out way more than they should with how good our defense has been this entire year," Healy said. "It's sad to see three errors up on the board, especially in a one run game when we needed it, but it's the game of baseball. Mitchell Tolman's being doing a great job at third base, so you can't shake your head at him at all. You just gotta say 'learn from it and you're a great third baseman, just keep getting better.'"
Each team had their fair share of scoring opportunities early in the game, but neither was able to capitalize and take control of the game.
UCLA had runners on second and third with nobody out in the third inning and failed to score, while the Ducks had left fielder Scott Heineman on third base with one out in the fifth and couldn't bring him home.
The Ducks wouldn't threaten Plutko again, as the UCLA ace didn't give up a hit until shortstop J.J. Altobelli's bloop single in the sixth and finished the night with seven shutout innings.
Making his second Friday night start of the season, Thorpe traded blows with Plutko the entire way, throwing seven innings and giving up only three hits.
He walked four batters on the night however, including a lead off pass given to UCLA's Brian Carroll in the fifth. Carroll score from third as Oregon turned a double play later in the inning.
The walks aside, Horton was pleased with Thorpe's performance on the mound under the pressure of the Friday night lights.
"After the one error that Tolman threw away [in the third inning], that was a big zero there, Horton said. "He lost it a little bit with some lead off hit batters or walks, but I thought he pitched really well."
For his part, Plutko looked every bit the part of an ace, and has the ability to throw up to five pitches for strikes, but one stood out to Oregon first baseman Ryon Healy.
"I mean, he threw 105 pitches and 82 fastballs, so that answers your question right there," Healy said when asked whether one of Plutko's pitches was stronger than the others. "We weren't doing a good enough job lining up his fastball and putting good swings on it."
The Ducks were able to muster one last charge in the bottom of the ninth after Healy led off the inning with a single and third baseman Mitchell Tolman bunted him to second base, but UCLA closer David Berg struck out Heineman and induced a game-ending ground out form designated hitter Tyler Baumgartner.
"We had a couple spots, and going into this game you knew there was only going to be a couple opportunities with Plutko and of course Berg at the back end," Horton said. "Unfortunately we had some crummy at bats there."
The Ducks will look to even the series against UCLA tomorrow night as freshman Cole Irvin looks to continue his strong inaugural season.