Trailing late, and facing series losses, Oregon’s softball and baseball teams rallied to win key early-season Pac-12 series. Baseball beat USC 7 - 6 after trailing 6 - 1, and softball beat Cal 8 - 7 after trailing virtually the entire game.
BASEBALL - The Ducks split the first two games with USC, winning the Friday opener 9 - 7, and with USC taking the Saturday tilt 6 - 5. Sunday’s game started off poorly for Oregon, as USC struck for 5 runs in the top of the first inning. Oregon starter Caleb Sloan (0-0, 3.06 ERA) had a shaky start, issuing a 1-out walk, throwing a wild pitch and then walking the third batter he faced. Sloan struck out the next batter for the Trojans 2nd out. But USC then laced two singles to left and center fields, scoring three runs, and when Nick Lopez hit the first pitch he saw over the right field fence, the Trojans had jumped out 5 - 0. Oregon clawed one back in their half of the first when Colby Shade singled to left and then Brennan Milone doubled to left, plating Shade.
In the 2nd, Oregon made a not-quite-early-enough pitching change, bringing on Freshman right-hander Tommy Brandenberg for Sloan. Brandenberg gave up a one-out home run, then a single and a walk, and the Trojans looked like they were in business again. But the next batter flied out to right field, and when the Trojan runners tried to advance on the caught ball, a runner was thrown out ending the threat. The Ducks went three-and-out in their half, and the second inning ended at 6 - 1 Trojans.
Neither team could score in the third, although Oregon made another pitching change, going to Logan Mercado after USC got 2 runners aboard on a single and a walk against Brandenberg. Mercado got a strikeout and a flyout to retire the Trojans. In their half, the Ducks got two aboard with 2 outs, but the inning ended on a strikeout.
Neither team threatened in the 4th, 5th or 6th innings, and the Trojans went down in order in the top of the 7th as Senior right-hander Dylan Sabia came on for Mercado. Sabia got two flyouts and a foul pop-up to third in a 10-pitch inning. Down 6 - 1, Oregon started its comeback. Junior infielder Gavin Grant led off the inning for Oregon with a 9-pitch walk, and after a fly out, Shade crushed a ball over the left-field fence to make it 6 - 3. Oregon followed with routine outs.
Sabia again set the Trojans down in order in the top of the 8th, this time on just 11 pitches. USC brought on right-hander Carson Lambert to face the Ducks in the bottom of the inning, and it turned out to be mistake. Lambert, who had thrown 44 pitches in the Saturday game, did not have his best stuff, and Oregon made the Trojans pay. Josh Kasevich started the inning for Oregon with a sharp single to left field on the 6th pitch. Anthony Hall followed with an eight-pitch walk giving Oregon two on with no outs. A pinch-hit pop-up gave Oregon its first out, but Josiah Cromwick followed with a first-pitch homer to left, plating 3 Ducks and tying the game at 6. After a strikeout, Tanner Smith came to the plate and hit a solo shot to right field, giving Oregon its first lead of the game. A following strikeout ended the 8th, but Oregon now led by what would be the final score 7 - 6. Left-handed Senior Kolby Somers came on in relief of Sabia and snuffed out the Trojans in order again on just 8 pitches.
Sabia earned a well-deserved win for the Ducks, his first decision of the year, and Somers got the save, his 4th. Oregon was 10 - 34 from the plate, but it was the Ducks ability to extend at-bats - especially late - that proved decisive. Oregon is now 16 - 7 on the season and leads the Pac-12 at 7 - 2 in Conference with Arizona and Oregon State a game behind. The Ducks have a busy week upcoming, playing Tuesday and Wednesday games in Eugene against the San Francisco Dons and then heading south for a 3-game set against UCLA starting Friday.
SOFTBALL - Oregon’s women followed a similar path to the baseball squad. After losing a game by run-rule (11 - 2) for the first time in 3 years on Friday, the Ducks struck back on Saturday to win 8 - 6 and even the series. Like the baseball game, the softball team fell into a hole early in the Sunday decider. Makenna Kliethermes started for Oregon and gave up back-to-back singles and then a home run to rival Cal pitcher Sona Halajian to stake the Golden Bears to a 3 - 0 lead. In their half of the first, Oregon managed to get runners on first and third with two outs, but Hanna Delgado was thrown out at home on an attempted double steal.
Neither team threated in the 2nd, and Cal went down in order in the top of the 3rd. Allison Benning led off the Oregon half of the 3rd with a first-pitch single to right. Hannah Galey came on to pinch run, and promptly stole 2nd base. Kai Luschar walked, and then Oregon executed a double steal, moving the runners to 2nd and 3rd with no outs. After a strikeout, a wild pitch by Halajian allowed Galey to score from 3rd and Luschar to advance to 3rd, cutting Oregon’s deficit to 3 - 1. After Allee Bunker walked, the next batter lined into a double play, ending the Oregon threat.
As Kliethermes found her rhythm, Cal again failed to make much noise in the top half of the 4th inning. Oregon however struck again in the bottom of the 4th, as Rachel Cid took the 2nd pitch of the inning over the fence in right center. The Ducks went down in order after that but had now closed to just a one-run deficit at 3 - 2.
Oregon made a pitching change for the top of the 5th, bringing on Stevie Hansen in relief of Kliethermes. Hansen gave up a double but struck out the next batter before a fielding error gave Cal runners at first and third with one out. Halajian then hit a first-pitch deep fly to center that was caught for the second out but scored the runner from third. Hansen walked the next batter but pitched out of trouble with a strikeout to end the inning with Cal maintaining a 4 - 2 lead. The Ducks rallied once more in the bottom of the 5th as Benning struck again, this time with a lead-off first-pitch double to right. Gabby Herrera came on to pinch run for Benning, and advanced to third on another wild pitch by Halajian. Kai Luschar then reached and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice effort to get Herrera at third. Herrera then scored on another fielder’s choice by Halajian as Cal could not complete the play at the plate, and Delgado went to first on the come-backer and Luschar advanced to third. Bunker grounded out to the pitcher for Oregon’s first out of the wild inning, moving Delgado to 2nd. Ariel Carlson popped up to short and Luschar scored from third just before Delgado could be thrown out at third for Oregon’s final out. The game went to the 6th inning tied at 4.
Cal had its best offensive success since the first inning in the top of the 6th. After Hansen retired the first two batters on pop-outs, she hit the next batter and then made an uncharacteristic mistake, giving up a home run to Cal’s Amani Bradley, her first of the season. After getting a fly out to end Cal’s half of the 6th, Oregon again trailed 6 - 4. A team less mentally tough than this Duck squad could have easily become discouraged after coming all the way back only to fall behind again. Not this team. Cid led off the inning with a solid single to left and was sacrificed to 2nd by a KK Humphreys bunt. After Jasmine Williams drew a walk, Vallery Wong singled up the middle scoring Cid and advancing Williams to third. Herrera followed with a double down the left-field line, scoring Williams and advancing Kedra Luschar - pinch running for Wong - to third. With the game now tied, Oregon was in business with runners on 2nd and 3rd and just one out. Kai Luschar then singled to center, scoring her sister from third and Herrera from second in what turned out to be the game-winning RBI. Oregon continued to threaten, as Kai Luschar stole second and advanced to third on yet another wild pitch from Halajian but Oregon did not score again as Bunker and Carlson could not get a hit. Oregon exited the inning leading 8 - 6.
Cal continued to keep the game interesting as two of their first three batters walked while Halajian struck out. After getting the next batter to fly out to left, Hansen hit a batter, loading the bases. A following Cal single scored the runner from third and tightened the game to its final 8 - 7 score. Jordan Dail came on for Hansen and got the final out on a 7-pitch strikeout.
Hansen got the win for Oregon, to run her season record to 8 - 0 and Dail earned her first save of the year. The Ducks were 8 - 23 from the plate and also drew 6 walks and stole 7 bases. Oregon improves to 24 - 5 overall and 4 - 2 in Conference play. Oregon sits alone in 3rd, trailing UCLA and ASU by 2 games. The Ducks next travel to Los Angeles for a weekend series against UCLA and a chance to tighten up the Conference standings.
Be on the lookout for coverage of this week’s baseball games and a Friday preview of the Softball and Baseball series against the Bruins.