Zany, wild, and bizarre were the themes of the day as the Oregon Ducks prevailed in a 4-1 decision over the Utah Utes on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at PK Park.
The bizarre events started off in the top of the first, as erratic Oregon starter Matt Krook hit two batters in the top of the inning. A throwing error on a grounder to shortstop by Mark Karaviotis allowed Utah 1B TJ Bennett to take third to set up runners at the corners. However, while the ball was retrieved before Bennett got to third, Krook did not cover home plate, allowing Bennett to take home uncontested and give Utah the early 1-0 lead.
Krook's wildness would be a persistent problem throughout his five innings. In addition to the two HBPs, Krook threw numerous wild pitches. However, a series of lucky bounces kept Utah from being able to capitalize on his command issues. A wild pitch hit the backstop and bounced right back to catcher Jack Kruger, who easily tagged out the runner heading home. Another breaking ball in the dirt well before it reached home plate hit off of Kruger's gear and bounced straight back to Krook, who rifled the ball to third to nail the runner trying to advance.
In all, Krook allowed only the one unearned run in five innings while striking out six. The command is an issue, and he was all over the place today. That said, I came away really impressed. As a guy who was a first round pick, we know he has a lot of potential, and some of his wildness was a sign of the movement that he has on his pitches. He touched 94 with his fastball, then countered on the next pitch with a 78 mph breaking pitch. That's just filthy for a freshman, and he will be a bona fide ace by the time he leaves Oregon as he learns how to harness that control.
Oregon's offense, meanwhile, was assisted by some bizarre plays in their favor as well. Twice, we saw a popup to the second baseman fall between three Utah infielders. Oregon scored two runs in the bottom of the first on an RBI triple by Kyle Garlick and a sacrifice fly by Mitchell Tolman. They added a pair in the 7th to stake a 4-1 lead.
Oregon's bullpen held Utah scoreless, as Trent Paddon and Garrett Cleavinger mopped up while Jake Reed earned the save.
But the big take away from my first live game at PK Park this season was what a talent Krook is. If Tommy Thorpe sticks around for his senior season and Cole Irvin comes back from Tommy John surgery, Oregon is going to have an entire rotation of legitimate MLB prospects and be almost impossible to beat.