SALT LAKE CITY, Utah— It was a game of role reversals Saturday, as the Utah Utes that put eleven runs on the board, demolishing the Oregon Ducks 11-5 at Smith’s Ballpark.
The day started off peachy for Oregon (17-7, 5-3) in the top of the first, when after singles by redshirt senior centerfielder Jake Bennett and freshman DH Gabe Matthews, freshman third baseman Spencer Steer drove a sinking fastball from Utah starter Riley Ottesen over the left field fence for a three run home run.
Oregon managed to manufacture a pair of runs in the fifth thanks to a trio of walks, a hit batter and a single from junior shortstop Daniel Patzlaff to take a 5-1 lead, but that was it for the Ducks as Ottesen (4-1) righted himself and held Oregon to a scratch single through the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Reliever Spencer Johnson came in and pitched a hitless ninth for Utah (11-13, 2-6) in a mop-up role.
Oregon starter Matt Mercer struggled on the day, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits while only striking out one and walking two. He also had a costly wild pitch and throwing error in the first, leading to Utah’s first run of the game. After a series of singles by Utah in the bottom half of the fifth which cut the Ducks’ lead to 5-3, sophomore righthand reliever Parker Kelly took over for Mercer and promptly uncorked a wild pitch to put runners at first and third with two outs. The damage could have been much worse if not for a head’s up play from junior catcher Tim Susnara on the subsequent pitch, picking off Utah third baseman Dallas Carroll at third base to stem the tide and end the inning.
Oregon’s bullpen was ineffective all day, as a total of five relievers were used in the game including senior righty Connor Zwetsch (0-2), who upon entering the game in the bottom of the seventh, promptly gave up a towering two-run home run to Utah DH Wade Gulden to give the Utes a lead they would not relinquish.
The two teams get it on again on Sunday in the rubber match of the series, first pitch from Smith’s Ballpark scheduled for High Noon.
Game notes: Steer’s home run was his second on the season, tying him with Patzlaff for the team lead; Steer’s 18 RBI also lead the team... with the loss, Oregon drops behind Washington into a tie for third place in the PAC-12 with UCLA.