After a lifeless display in the final game of the series against the UCLA Bruins where the Oregon Ducks failed to avoid the sweep, it was time to clear the air between the players. Second baseman Danny Pulfer described the atmosphere on the team as a growing resentment between pitchers and position players.
Well, too bad it didn't happen sooner.
The Ducks bats jumped all over the Stanford Cardinal (27-17, 9-10 Pac-10) pitchers for 11 hits as the Ducks took the first game of the series 6-2 Friday night at PK Park.
With the 2011 season nearing its end, the Ducks (25-23, 6-13 Pac-10) talked about approaching the remaining games with a new attitude."It's about time that guys were like, ‘You know what, who cares?' It's been going bad for us all year. What's the worst I could do,?" said Pulfer, who went 3-for-5 with one run batted in on the night. "At this point, let's just put everything we have into it and see what happens. It's going to take a miracle for this (postseason) thing to happen anyway."
With the help of two Cardinal errors by third baseman Stephan Piscotty in the first inning, the Ducks climbed out to an early 2-0 lead. Starting pitcher Tyler Anderson wouldn't need any more runs than that as he returned to his usual form following a rough outing against the Bruins a week earlier. He pitched seven innings, allowed four hits, four walks and struck out seven.
"Last weekend I pitched careful and nervous," Anderson said. "You couldn't tell from today, but my intent was just to throw strikes. Like, make somebody beat me, not give them free bases and free runs. I had way more walks than I would have like to tonight. But regardless of that, I think the mentality was a lot better tonight."
The only trouble he ran into was in the sixth inning when a single and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with one out. Facing the three and four hitters in the Cardinal lineup, he recorded back-to-back strikeouts, including a strikeout of Stephen Piscotty, whose .373 batting average leads the team.
"I think it makes it sweeter," Anderson said of facing Stanford's best hitter. "If the bases are loaded, I'd rather face the best hitter they have. I don't want somebody that's never had an at bat."
Providing an extra incentive to turn the season around was the much talked about shaving of head coach George Horton's legendary mustache. For the Ducks, it was more than a humorous way to inspire the team--it was a sign of his dedication to his players.
I think he looks younger," Anderson said. "That's a big step for him. Me and Scott (McGough) looked up pictures of him from like 25 years ago, 30 years ago coaching in Alaska with that dirty rat ‘stache. He's had that thing forever, and it's a big commitment from him to us, and we decided to make that commitment back to him."
While it's only one game, the sense in the clubhouse is that the Ducks are not the team they were a week ago. After last Sunday's game, players and coaches talked about immaturity on the team and certain players who were playing like the season was already over. Today, there was an energetic and relaxed mood before the game, and that carried over into the game. Even shortstop KC Serna, who is in the midst of a disappointing season, had one of his best games of the year as he went 3-for-4 with three runs batted in.
Dating back to the Ducks' two midweek games against Seattle University, the Ducks have recorded 44 hits in their last three games.
The Ducks out-hit Stanford, making them 18-3-1 when out-hitting their opponents.
Madison Boer has been moved to the closer role to relieve a struggling Oregon bullpen. He made his first relief appearance since June 6, 2010 as he came in to pitch two innings of relief. He allowed one run on four hits and struck out thee.
Alex Keudell will be on the hill on Saturday for the second game of the series.