What can only be described as a disappointing baseball season came to an end for the Ducks this afternoon. Louisville took advantage of anemic Oregon bats and untimely pitching mistakes to win 8 - 5 and close out the Ducks in the Regional.
One day after setting a program and Pac-12 postseason record for hits and scoring 18 runs against SE Missouri State, Oregon did not generate much offense against the Cardinals and repeatedly missed chances to plate runners in scoring position. Oregon’s post-season was littered with poor offensive production and the Ducks averaged fewer than 5 runs per game in the Pac-12 Tournament and in the Regional outside the SEMO game. Despite its pre-season goals, the Ducks post-season record was 1 - 4.
Against Louisville on Saturday Oregon, playing as the Visitor, took an early lead in their first at-bat. After a strikeout, Colby Shade doubled to left center field. After a flyout, Drew Cowley brought Shade home with a ground ball single through the right side of the Cardinal infield. Oregon’s third out came on the next at-bat, as Cowley was thrown out at second on a Fielder’s Choice grounder, but the Ducks led 1 - 0. Jace Stoffal (1-2) got the start for Oregon, and the Ducks gave up their lead. Louisville led off with a double, and a subsequent grounder moved the runner to third. After issuing a walk and allowing a stolen base, Stoffal fielded a come-backer and Louisville scored on the throw to first. The inning ended 1 - 1 after a line drive out to right field.
Neither team could get a runner on base in the 2nd, and Oregon’s 3rd inning was a missed opportunity. After singles by Gavin Grant and Tanner Smith, Shade sacrificed and Oregon had runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Brennan Milone put the ball in play, but Grant was cut down trying to score from 3rd for Oregon’s second out. The next Oregon batter knocked a harmless fly ball to right field and the Ducks got nothing from the promising start to the inning. The Cardinals went down in order in the bottom of the 3rd.
In the 4th, Oregon went three-and-out, and Louisville took its first lead in the bottom of the inning on a one-out single and a 2-run homer. That was all the run scoring, though, as Stoffal gave up another single, a sacrifice and a wild pitch, but then got a strikeout to end the inning with Louisville now in the lead 3 - 1.
Oregon pulled one back in the top of the 5th when Sam Novitske walked and was then advanced to second on a controversial balk call on what would have been a called third strike. Louisville Head Coach Dan McDonnell went ballistic and got into what turned out to be an effective shouting match with the home plate umpire. Somewhat surprisingly, given the language and volume of the “conversation,” McDonnell managed to stay in the game. The balk call stood, however, and Grant drew a walk on the next pitch. A wild pitch sent Novitske to third and caused a Cardinals pitching change. Smith put the ball in play, and Novitske scored as Louisville was able to get Grant at second base. Shade then walked, and again Oregon had 2 runners on with only one out. Also again, Oregon could do nothing with the opportunity as a line-out and a ground-out ended Oregon’s at-bat, now trailing 3 - 2. Andrew Mosiello came on in relief of Stoffal in the bottom of the 5th and set down Louisville in order.
In the 6th inning Oregon managed a one-out single from Anthony Hall, but Louisville turned a double play on the next batter. In their half, the Cardinals took full control of the game. The first two batters walked on 9 pitches and Mosiello was replaced by Kolby Somers. Somers got a groundout that advanced the runners, and then a pop-up to shallow left that didn’t. Coach McDonnell’s previous explosion paid dividends as a balk was then called on Somers - just to even things up you understand - scoring the runner from third. Louisville then had a run scoring double and a run scoring single before the Ducks threw out an attempted steal of second base. But the damage was done with Louisville scoring 3 runs in the inning and pushing their lead to 6 - 2.
After the Ducks went down in order again in the top of the 7th, Louisville added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning on a solo home run to go up 7 - 2.
The Ducks weren’t quite done and as they have so many times this season rallied late. Shade led off the 8th with a single to center and Milone followed with another to left center. After a fly out, Josh Kasevich brought in Shade with a ground ball single up the middle. A wild pitch then again gave Oregon runners on 2nd and 3rd with only one out. Hall hit a clutch double to right field that scored both Milone and Kasevich, and closed Oregon’s deficit to just 7 - 5. With a runner in scoring position and the tying run at the plate, Oregon’s next two batters struck out and flied out to leave the Ducks just short on the scoreboard. Louisville scored yet another insurance run in the bottom of the 8th as Oregon brought in Rio Britton, who gave up a walk, a wild pitch and another walk before being pulled for RJ Gordon. Gordon got a sacrifice and a strikeout sandwiched around another walk that loaded the bases for the Cardinals. A subsequent shot to shortstop on which a diving stop was made, allowed Louisville to score when the throw to 2nd base for the force out arrived late. It was a tough play, the kind that frequently went Oregon’s way during the regular season but not today. The next Louisville batter flied out leaving the Cardinals with an 8 - 5 lead, which would be the final score when Oregon went down in order in the top of the 9th.
Jace Stoffal ended up taking the loss for the Ducks although 4 of Oregon’s 5 hurlers gave up at least one run in the game. Oregon generated 9 hits with Colby Shade going 2 - 3 and Anthony Hall 2 - 4 with 2 RBIs. The Ducks stranded 6 runners as did the Cardinals and Oregon needed a couple of hits at key moments and much better relief pitching, areas where they were frequently strong during the regular season.
The_Badwater will have a baseball season review on ATQ tomorrow. Please be sure to leave your comments about this game here or comments about the season on that story.