Oregon’s Diamond Ducks completed their weekend series this afternoon, with quite different results. The softball team was swept for the second weekend in a row, while baseball won 3 of 4.
Baseball - The Ducks came in having won 2 of the first 3 games, and with a chance to win the series against Ball State, the top team in the Middle American Conference. Oregon had outscored the Cardinals 25 - 14 over the first 3 games, being held to just 2 runs in the first game of Saturday’s double-header. Getting their bats rolling, as they have in so many games this season, seemed to be the key to an Oregon victory Sunday. Instead, the teams played another close game, with Oregon loading the bases and delivering a walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th for a 7 - 6 victory.
Sophomore Scott Ellis got the start for Oregon, and after a lead-off single shut down the Cardinals. The Ducks also got a lead-off single, but also could make nothing of it. Caleb Sloan came on for Ellis in the 2nd and set down Ball State in order. Oregon got rolling in their half of the inning. After a fly out, Anthony Hall singled and stole second. Josiah Cromwick was up next and also singled, advancing Hall to third. A subsequent wild pitch scored Hall and allowed Cromwick to advance to 2nd. Sam Novitski then drew a walk to give Oregon runners on first and second with only one out. Gavin Grant followed and laced a single to left field that scored Cromwick. Ball State tried to get Cromwick at the plate, but Novitski and Grant took an extra base on the failed attempt. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Tanner Smith grounded out to 2nd, but drove in Novitski from 3rd on the play. A ground out took the Ducks out of the inning, but they held a 3 - 0 lead after 2.
Neither team could get much going in the 3rd or 4th innings but Ball State surged into the lead in their half of the 5th. Stone Churby came on in relief of Sloan and struggled, walking the first batter he faced, allowing that runner to advance to 2nd on a wild pitch and then hitting the second batter he faced. The coaching staff having seen enough, Rio Britton came on as the second Oregon pitcher in the inning. Britton got a strikeout on 12 pitches, but then gave up a single and a 2-run double, followed by an intentional walk to load the bases and bring up the chance for a double-play that would end the threat. Unfortunately, the next batter also drew a walk, plating a run and a following sacrifice fly brought in another run before Britton could close Ball State down. The Cardinals led 4 - 3 after the top of the 5th, and in the bottom, Oregon managed to score again to tie it up. Oregon opened with 3 straight singles by Colby Shade, Brennan Milone and Jacob Walsh, but Shade was cut down trying to score on Walsh’s hit as Milone advanced to 3rd. Josh Kasevich drove Malone home on a groundout to 2nd, but a strikeout ended a promising Oregon inning with the score now tied 4 - 4.
Britton set Ball State down in order in the top of the 6th, and Oregon struck again in their half on a Grant homer to right to go back in the lead 5 - 4. In the 7th, Britton got the first two hitters on flyouts to centerfield, and yielded the mound to Dylan Sabia, who got a matching flyout to center. Thanks to a sequence in which Ball State threw the ball all over the park except where it needed to be, Oregon scored again in the 7th. Oregon had one hit - a single by Kasevich - but he advanced to second when a fielder’s choice throw was late. A subsequent ball put in play by Cromwick led to another fielder’s choice throw going awry, allowing Kasevich to score, giving the Ducks a 6 - 4 lead after 7 innings.
In the 8th, Ball State got back to even with two straight home runs off Sabia. When he walked the next batter, Kolby Somers was brought on in relief. Somers got a sacrifice bunt and two strikeouts, sandwiched around an intentional walk. The Cardinals could do no more damage and the game was now tied 6 - 6. Oregon went down in order in the 8th, and it was anyone’s game going into the final frame.
Somers then shut down Ball State again, getting two groundouts and then a strikeout on 13 pitches, and the Ducks came to the plate in the bottom with a chance to score and win. Milone drew an opening walk. Taylor Holder, pinch running for Milone, then advanced to second on a wild pitch bringing the winning run into scoring position. Walsh followed with a single moving Holder to third. Walsh’s “single” was an amazing play in which he took a good cut at the ball but got only enough to get it moving up the first base line. The nubber looked as though it might roll foul and Ball State’s pitcher was left watching helplessly as the chalk (apparently) stopped the ball in fair territory. Kasevich was then intentionally walked to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Bryce Boettcher hit a grounder to third which allowed Holder to be cut down at home. The bases were still loaded with only one out, however, when Tyler Ganus came to the plate and drove the first pitch into left field, plating Walsh and winning the game for Oregon 7 - 6.
Oregon used 6 pitchers, with Somers (2-2) coming on late to get the win. The Ducks improved to 21 - 11 with the non-Conference series victory and dive back into Pac-12 action against Washington in Seattle on Thursday.
Softball - Sunday’s game held to the familiar pattern of this series against Arizona State: the Ducks jumped out to an early lead, and scored enough runs to win, but were ultimately let down by pitching mistakes that allowed ASU to pile on.
After starter Stevie Hansen, who had pitched 5 good innings Saturday, held the Sun Devils scoreless in the top of the first, Oregon got off to a fast start at the plate as Hanna Delgado and Allee Bunker each singled. Following a strikeout, Terra McGowan crushed a double to left center, scoring Delgado and advancing Bunker to 3rd. Ariel Carlson then grounded out to third, with Bunker scoring on the throw, but another groundout ended the inning with Oregon leading 2 - 0.
Neither team could score in the 2nd, but in the 3rd, Hansen walked the first three batters she faced and then gave up a grand slam homer. Hansen was then pulled for Raegen Breedlove, who gave up a couple of hits and got out of the inning - but the damage was done, and ASU led 4 - 2. Oregon pulled one back in the bottom of the third as Rachel Cid led off the inning with a double and McGowan singled to score Gabby Herrera who came on to pinch-run for Cid. After McGowan advanced to second, Carlson drew a walk, and Oregon had a promising inning going, with runners on first and second and no outs. ASU, though, made a pitching change, bringing on Marissa Schuld for Allison Royalty and, as it has done repeatedly over the past 2 series, Oregon failed to take advantage, recording three straight outs and heading to the 4th down 4 - 3.
In the 4th, ASU struck again. After a lead-off line-out to 2nd base, the Sun Devils laced two straight singles, and then a home run cleared the bases, and gave ASU a 7 - 3 lead. This brought Makenna Kliethermes to the circle, and she got the final two outs of the inning. Oregon again got a run back in their half of the 4th. After a lead-off fly-out, Delgado singled and Bunker doubled. With two runners in scoring position, Cid hit a deep sacrifice fly to left, scoring Delgado from third. A foul pop ended Oregon’s inning, with the Ducks trailing 7 - 4.
Neither team had a baserunner in the 5th, and while ASU managed to get a runner to third in the 6th, she was stranded there. Oregon managed to score again in their half of the 6th, as Delgado had a 2-out single to left, and Bunker followed with a homer to left. After 6, Oregon now trailed just 7 - 6.
In the 7th, ASU again got on the scoreboard, stretching the lead to 8 - 6 on a two-out single that scored a runner from second. The Ducks got a 2-out double from KK Humphreys, but left her there on a final fly out to left.
Hansen (8-4) took the loss again for Oregon. The series sweep by ASU dropped Oregon to 24 - 11 on the season and 4 - 8 in the Pac-12. The Ducks now travel to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats in a 3-game series.