After generating just one hit and being shut out in Tuesday’s match-up with UC San Diego, Oregon’s bats roared back to life in Wednesday’s rematch. The Ducks unleashed a 19-hit attack, including 2 home runs, a triple and 4 doubles, and blasted San Diego 15 - 6. It was the highest run production for Oregon since they scored 13 in a win over Ball State on April 8. The Ducks have struggled offensively in recent weeks, including being shut out in 3 of their previous 5 games.
The game got off to a bit of a slow start for the Ducks. Dylan Sabia started on the mound for Oregon and after getting two quick outs, including a spectacular over-the-fence robbing of a homer by Colby Shade, gave up 3 straight singles and a run before getting a strikeout to end the inning. Oregon had a little action in its half of the first as Tanner Smith led off with a single and Shade was hit by a pitch. A double-play grounder to 3rd and a groundout to 2nd left Shade stranded on third.
Trailing 1 - 0 going into the 2nd inning, the fireworks started for the Ducks. UCSD led off with a single and a double, but the lead runner was cut down at the plate trying to stretch the play into a score on a great relay from Shade in centerfield to Josh Kasevich to Bennett Thompson at the plate, who put the tag on the runner. Sabia got the next two batters and Oregon had held. Oregon came to bat in the 2nd having not scored a run in 19 consecutive at-bats. Kasevich, perhaps still Jonesing from the great defensive play in the top of the inning, crushed the first pitch he saw over the left field fence to break Oregon’s scoreless streak and tie the game at 1 - 1 and the Ducks were rolling. Bryce Boettcher drew a base on balls and then Sam Novitske homered to left center to give Oregon its first lead at 3 - 1. Thompson singled, forcing a UCSD pitching change, and Gavin Grant greeted the new hurler with a double down the line in left. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Tanner Smith singled through the infield, scoring Thompson and advancing Grant to third. Smith then stole 2nd, and a passed ball allowed Grant to score from third to put Oregon up 5 - 1. Despite having a runner on 2nd and no outs, the rally fizzled as Smith was thrown out on an ill-advised effort to steal 3rd, and the next two Oregon batters flied out and struck out.
For the 3rd, Freshman Tommy Brandenburg came on in relief of Sabia and set San Diego down in order. Oregon rekindled its offensive rally, as Drew Cowley led off with a double to left center. After a ground out, Boettcher bunted his way on base, and advanced to second on a throwing error trying to catch him at first while Cowley scored on the error, pushing Oregon’s lead to 6 - 1. Novitske followed with an infield single and then a double steal gave Oregon runners on 2nd and 3rd with just one out. Another infield single by Thompson plated Boettcher and moved Novitske to third. Grant hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield, allowing Novitske to score. With Oregon now leading 8 - 1, Smith doubled, moving Thompson to third. Shade was up next and he singled, scoring both Thompson and Smith but then being thrown out at second on another head-scratching base-running decision. The Ducks moved to the 4th inning ahead 10 - 1.
In the 4th, UCSD got back on the board with a couple of singles against Brandenburg and some good base running. Oregon also scored a single run as Brennan Milone got in on the action with a lead-off single and was followed by another single from Cowley. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and a Kasevich groundout scored Milone from third for an 11 - 2 Oregon lead. Two flyouts followed for the Ducks.
In the fifth, both teams had good offensive innings. Oregon brought on Jacob Hughes for Brandenburg. Hughes developed some control problems, walking 4 of the first 6 batters he faced, while also getting a flyout and a strikeout. The fourth base on balls, obviously, scored a run for San Diego, and when the next batter singled, 2 more runs came home. Stone Churby came on to pitch and got a strikeout to end the UCSD at-bat with the score now 11 - 5. UCSD also made a pitching change and got a similar result. Thompson and Grant led off for Oregon with walks and Smith’s sacrifice bunt moved them to 2nd and 3rd with one out. Shade then also walked loading the bases and setting up a bases-clearing double by Milone that scored 3 more runs for the Ducks and pushed Oregon ahead 14 - 5. Two groundouts ended the Oregon inning.
Neither team could score in the 6th or 7th, and UCSD also went down in order in their half of the 8th. Boettcher opened Oregon’s 8th inning with a triple to right field and scored when Novitske grounded out to 3rd base. Oregon got one more baserunner on a walk but could not score again.
Oregon led 15 - 5 going into San Diego’s last gasp and it was brief. A groundout and a strikeout left the Tritons on the edge and they managed to squeeze out one more run on a single, an uncontested steal of 2nd base and another single. Matt Dallas, who had come on for Kolby Somers after the 2nd UCSD out, struck out the final batter and it was all over.
Oregon used 7 pitchers in the game and Somers (5-3), who came on to pitch the 8th and 9th and didn’t allow a runner in 1.2 innings, got the win for the Ducks. Tanner Smith and Bennett Thompson each had 3 hits for Oregon and 5 other players had 2 hits each.
While UCSD may not be a Pac-12 level opponent, Tuesday’s anemic loss understandably rang alarm bells for some of the Duck faithful. Oregon now needs to translate Wednesday’s momentum into this weekend’s series at Arizona State. Check ATQ on Friday for a series preview as the Ducks return to Conference action against the Sun Devils.