Oregon lefty Tommy Thorpe had himself a ballgame Friday against the Oregon State Beavers, throwing () as the Ducks took game one of a crucial Civil War series with the Beavers at PK Park, 3-0.
Thorpe hurled eight shutout innings against a solid Beaver lineup, only giving up only two hits – neither of which left the infield – and striking out seven in his arguably his most important start of the season.
"It's up there, it's probably number one right now," Thorpe said.
First baseman Ryon Healy added that because Thorpe worked so many 1-2-3 innings, it almost seemed like he wasn't pitching at all.
"That was something special and it was a lot of fun to play behind," Healy said. "The innings went so quick, almost forgot that he was throwing for us throughout that game."
Having moved into the Friday-starter role just over a month ago, Thorpe has stood up to the challenge, proving to coach George Horton that the move was the right one, and pitching his best game on the biggest stage thus far.
"He had a great year last year," Horton said. "The thing with Tommy is cause he's not big by stature and he spins the ball a lot is you don't know how many bullets he can fire as a starter, but he's a competitive little bugger, and he didn't have many bullets to dodge today."
Tonight, Thorpe's most important pitch came in the third inning after Thorpe hit center fielder Max Gordon and second baseman Andy Peterson hit a single, bringing Beaver slugger Michael Conforto to the plate.
After Peterson stole second on a pitch in the dirt, Thorpe struck Conforto out on a belt-high curve ball, en route to holding the .328 hitter hit-less on the evening.
"That was big, Thorpe said. "Coach came out and settled me down a little bit, then threw two sliders – slider fastball – and then threw curve ball [for the strikeout]."
After Peterson's single, Thorpe did not allow another Oregon State hit, giving up only a walk in the fifth and eight the rest of the way.
He came out to start the ninth, but gave way to closer Jimmie Sherfy, who carded his school-record 21st save of the year, albeit after hitting two Oregon State batters, including a pitch that hit designated hitter Ryan Barnes square in the helmet.
"I'm sure glad he got that last out because the second-guess might be 'why didn't' we go to Jimmie from the beginning,'" Horton said. "We had planned that if one guy got on we were going to go to Sherfy. He wobbled a little bit, but he gets that last out more times than he doesn't, so it was a good ball game."
Aiding in Thorpe's effort on the mound Friday were the Oregon bats. They came to play early against Beaver lefty Matt Boyd, who came into the game with an ERA under two.
First baseman Ryon Healy and right fielder Scott Heineman each knocked in a run in the first inning, and shortstop JJ Altobelli's blooper to center scored Nick Catalano in the second.
The Ducks got their lead off man on in each of the first three innings, something Horton attributed to the attitude his players brought with them to the ballpark Friday.
"I was impressed with their personality...they walked in, they had energy, and I thought it was one of our best pitch-to-pitch focuses, and that's because the Beaver's have our respect."
After the early fireworks, Boyd settled down and only allowed one hit in his final six innings, though the three earned runs matched a season-high. Oregon nearly tacked on an insurance run or two, but Gordon made a leaping catch to rob Healy of extra bases in the fifth.
The Oregon first baseman finished 1-3 with an RBI on the night in his first game of the week after sitting out both games against Gonzaga with a back injury.
"I woke up this morning with the most energy I've had since Hawaii. I was really excited to get back out there and for the opportunity we had."
Tomorrow's game figures to be a good one, featuring arguably the two best freshman pitchers in the country in Oregon starter Cole Irvin (10-2, 2.64) and Andrew Moore (10-1, 1.48). Moore played for North Eugene High School, and Horton lamented the fact that he couldn't keep Moore in Eugene.
With the two teams now tied atop the Pac-12 standings with five games left, the Ducks are feeling good about where they're at, but Horton doesn't expect their mentality to change as the weekend unfolds.
"I guess the last three years, whoever won on the first day swept," Horton said. "We're not going to be immature about that."