The No. 11 Oregon baseball team managed to hold off Loyola Marymount's small ball tactics long enough until their bats came alive in the eighth inning as they defeated the Lions 12-2 on Friday night in Los Angeles to remain undefeated to start the season.
The Ducks (5-0) scored eight runs in the top of the eighth inning, including seven runs without an out. Until that point, the Lions (2-3) had trailed just 3-2, but Oregon opened the floodgates in the eighth, forcing Loyola manager Jason Gill to go to his bullpen on three different occasions during the inning.
Oregon starter Tommy Thorpe (1-0) earned his first win of the season after a no decision last week against Hawaii. Thorpe went 7.0 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits along with two walks and six strikeouts.
Loyola starter Colin Welmon (0-1) went 7.1 innings, giving up three runs on six hits, walking one and striking out six.
Oregon's batters channeled their inner Edgar Martinez and relied on the two-baggers all night, coming up with six different RBI doubles bringing in eight runs. The Ducks' first six runs of the game were produced off of doubles.
The Lions jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first. After a leadoff single from David Fletcher, who would eventually advance to third on a wild pitch from Thorpe, Tommy Cheek sent a deep fly ball out to left field, scoring Fletcher on the sacrifice fly. David Edwards, who had walked on a full count in the previous at bat, thought the ball was hit deep enough to tag up to second base. Freshman left fielder A.J. Balta delivered a heads up play, throwing out Edwards at second as part of a relay throw to complete the inning-ending double play.
The Ducks would get a Mitchell Tolman over to third base in the top of the second after he was hit by a pitch and advanced up on a passed ball and a fielder’s choice groundout from Balta, but would be stranded as a weak popup to second base from Jack Kruger ended the inning and the scoring threat.
After a one out walk on four pitches from Tanner Donnels, Chris Barnett sent a fly ball over the head of A.J. Balta in left field to give the Lions runners on second and third with only one out. Thorpe would battle back though, striking out Kevin Garcia after the at-bat started with three straight balls. The Ducks escaped from the inning without any damage thanks to a barehanded play from Scott Heineman at third base, throwing out Brice Savage at first, saving at least a run.
Oregon got another runner to third base in the top half of the third. After a one out walk, Kevin Minjares moved over to third base when a attempt to throw him out at second on a stolen base attempt went into centerfield.
The Ducks got a lucky break as Aaron Payne delivered an RBI double down the right field line to tie things up thanks to the ball taking a wicked hop off the bag. In the next at-bat, Tyler Baumgartner delivered an RBI double of his own down the left field line, scoring Payne easily and giving the Ducks a 2-1 lead.
Baumgartner turned in a big night at the plate, going 3-4 with two RBIs and one run.
A double from Austin Miller and a passed ball gave the Lions the tying run 90 feet from home with just one out in the bottom of the third. Thorpe would work his way out of another jam though, striking out Edwards before Baumgartner saved a run with a diving catch in right field to end the inning.
The Lions put more pressure on Thorpe in the bottom of the fifth as Kevin Garcia started things off with a leadoff double to left centerfield. He would advance to third off a sacrifice bunt from Savage and score off a sacrifice fly from Fletcher to tie the game 2-2 as the Lions used small ball to hang tough with Oregon.
The Ducks regained the lead in the top of the sixth with an RBI double to left field off the bat of Mitchell Tolman, scoring Aaron Payne from second base. However, Tolman drifted a little too far off the bag during the next at bat and was picked off, killing Oregon’s chance at an insurance run. Kyle Garlick would strike out looking on a 3-2 curveball, ending the inning.
The Lions had a pair of missed opportunities to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth. who would move up to scoring position himself with a stolen base. With nobody out, David Edwards was caught trying to advance to third off a bloop single into left field. Then, after a stolen base from Tyler Cohen, Tanner Donnels ripped a pitch down the right field line which would have tied the game had it stayed fair. Instead, it went foul, and Donnels would foul out to first base, stranding Cohen at second.
A single up the middle and a hit batsman gave the Lions runners on first and second with just one out in the home half of the seventh, prompting Oregon manager George Horton to have a chat with his starter. Thorpe would remain on the hill and get out of the jam thanks to a lineout to Minjares who fired it back to first for the inning-ending double play to preserve Oregon’s lead.
Loyola manager Jason Gill brought in southpaw Sean Buckle after Heineman reached first on an error from Tyler Cohen off a bunt. Heineman would advance to second off a balk as Buckle lost his footing on the mound and hesitated with his decision to go towards home or first.
With runners on first and second and one out, Tyler Baumgartner provided Oregon with an RBI double down the right field line to extend their lead to two runs. The Ducks would load up the bases after Mitchell Tolman was hit by a pitch, prompting another pitching change for the Lions.
Buckle lasted just four batters, giving up a run, a walk and a hit batsman without recording an out. Michael Silva came in for Buckle to stop the damage.
The Ducks would continue to build on their lead with their fifth RBI double of the night, this time off the bat of Kyle Garlick who tattooed a ball off the "Blue Monster" in left field. Had it not been for the high wall, Garlick could’ve provided Oregon with a grand slam Garlick went 2-4 with two RBIs and a run scored during the night. After loading up the bases with a walk, the Ducks would produce another run with a bases loaded walk from Jack Kruger. Just like his predecessor, Silva failed to record an out, forcing Gill to dig deeper into his bullpen and bring in Brenton Arriaga.
Arriaga wouldn’t have much more luck, giving up a double down the right field line to Connor Hoffmann, scoring Garlick and Austin Grebeck. A single up the middle from Kevin Minjares would tack on another run in the next at-bat, Oregon’s seventh run without an out. A sacrifice fly from Scott Heineman would add one more run for good measure before the inning came to a close.
The Lions would load up the bases in the bottom of the eighth as they tried to recover from the brutal top half of the inning. Oregon reliever Garrett Cleavinger gave up a single, hit two batters and committed a balk as the Lions had the bases full with just one out. Cleavinger would recover to strike out Tanner Donnels and force Chris Barnett to fly out to right field, stranding all three runners on base.
As if their lead wasn't large enough already, the Ducks would tack on one more insurance run in the top of the ninth with an RBI single from Jack Kruger to cap off Oregon's big night at the plate.
The Ducks and Lions are back at it tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch slated for 1:00 pm. Freshman Matt Krook gets the start for Oregon. In his collegiate debut last week against Hawaii, Krook went 7.0 innings allowing two runs while striking out eight and walking two in a no decision.