TUSCON, Arizona— Oregon shot themselves in the foot Friday night, as sloppy fielding put the Ducks in an early hole that they were unable to climb out of, falling to the Arizona Wildcats 5-4 at Hi Corbett Field.
Arizona (25-9, 8-6) took advantage of a less-than sharp sophomore right hand starter Matt Mercer (5-2), scoring two runs in the bottom of the first courtesy of a single, two walks, and a throwing error by freshman second baseman Morgan McCullough, one of four gaffes on the night committed by Oregon (23-9, 6-5). The Wildcats would score three more runs in the bottom of the fifth thanks in part to a pair of Duck errors to make the score 5-0. For the game, Mercer pitched five innings, giving up five runs (two unearned) on five hits while striking out one and walking five. For sake of comparison, Mercer had only given up fifteen bases-on-balls all season prior to Friday.
Oregon’s offense did themselves no favors either, leaving ten base runners stranded on the night, including seven in scoring position. Freshman right fielder Matthew Dyer was the primary culprit, striking out three times and leaving five runners stranded.
Arizona starter JC Cloney (7-0) pitched well enough to win, giving up three runs on seven hits while striking out five and walking one. However, he and relievers Cameron Ming and Cody Deason struggled with control problems of their own, hitting five Oregon batters on the night, including two in the ninth as the Ducks closed the gap to 5-4 and had the winning run on second with one out. But Deason managed to work out of the jam, coaxing a fly ball out from freshman first baseman Gabe Matthews and a ground out from redshirt junior pinch hitter A.J. Balta to close the door and pick up the save.
The two teams will meet again Saturday in the Rubber Match of the series, with first pitch from Hi Corbett Field scheduled for 12:00 pm.
Game notes: Break out the ice packs— Oregon batters have now been hit by a pitch forty-eight times on the season, far and away the most in the PAC-12 Conference.