A message to teams that face the Ducks at PK Park: fear that flashing bird.
After Stanford's Justin Ringo roped an eighth inning change-up – one that Oregon pitcher Jake Reed and coach George Horton said was executed perfectly – over the right field fence to make it 3-2 Cardinal and the Ducks left the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, it seemed that Oregon had let a golden opportunity slip away.
Then, "Techno Chicken" – the team's version of a "rally monkey," if you will – played in the bottom of the ninth.
First baseman Ryon Healy drilled an RBI double over the third base bag, and freshman Mitchell Tolman laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to give the Ducks a 4-3 victory and sweep of the #21 Cardinal.
"He's a big fastball guy, I knew that going in," Tolman said of Stanford closer Sam Lindquist. "The first pitch I took, I kind of got a feel for it and the movement on his pitch, so I felt confident when I got the sign."
"As soon as he released it, it was a strike, and yeah. We put so much work and time into practicing our bunts and everything, so it worked out well."
Horton said that the call to bunt was made by offensive assistant Mark Wasikowski and that Tolman had been bunting well up to that point – he had two sacrifice bunts prior to the ninth inning.
"Mitch is not one of our better bunters, but he had a good day bunting today, and coach Waz pushed that button," Horton said. "I had nothing to do with it. It's an exciting play when it's executed, and it's something between our coaching staff and players, we invest a lot of time in the bat control and bunting game. To have that weapon available in that situation and execute it is obviously a good thing."
The biggest play of the game before Healy's double was back in the fifth inning when Oregon thought it had an inning-ending double play off the bat of Ringo, but catcher Josh Graham was called for catcher's interference.
Two batters later, Cardinal first basemen Brian Ragira tied the game at two with an RBI single up the middle. Neither run was attributed to Reed, as he through eight innings, earning a no-decision when Healy tied the game in the ninth.
"Yeah, we got stunned a little bit there," Horton said about the catcher's interference call. "Then I went out to take to Jake [about] whether we pitch to Ragira, or pitch careful to him, or walk him to get to Wilson."
"[Reed] executed every single pitch except for the last one, so I think the stun of the catcher's interference was over by that point; we have no excuses. Jake got to it; he was equally frustrated with the change-up the kid hit out, because it was a perfect pitch."
Having put themselves firmly in contention for a national seed, which would allow them to host both a Regional and Super-Regional in the postseason, the Ducks now face a long road trip, and won't play at PK Park until May 14.
Between now and then, they'll play two at Seattle University, three at Washington State, and then three games at Ohio State.
"We still got three weekends left of hard work," Horton said. "Washington State's been hard on us, the worst thing we could do is get so busy taking pats on the back for this that we don't get back to business against Seattle."
"If we take care of business in the last nine games, the last three series just get more exciting, and it could play a big factor in earning the right to host Regionals and Super-Regionals."