Oregon’s Diamond Ducks were back in action today, facing the second games of their respective Pac-12 Conference season-opening series. After both teams opened with wins on Friday, UCLA and Washington turned the tables on the Ducks baseball and softball clubs, respectively, setting up series-deciders Sunday at high noon in Eugene and Seattle.
In Friday’s game, the Ducks shut down the Bruins at the plate, giving up only 2 runs. To try to continue that defensive excellence, Oregon brought Freshman Right-Hander Leo Uelmen to the mound to start the game. Uelmen, a talented if youthful hurler, had started 3 previous games in pre-season and earned a 1 - 1 record. Despite pitching well early and holding UCLA to just a 2 - 0 lead through 4 innings, Uelmen ended up with the loss as the Bruins scored 4 times in the top of the 5th inning. An inning-opening walk, followed by a single and a home run gave the Bruins a 5 - 0 lead and chased Uelmen.
For much of the game, Oregon matched the Bruins hit-for-hit, but struggled to string together enough hits to score. Down 6 - 0 in their half of the 5th, the Ducks finally got on the scoreboard as Colby Shade led off with a single to left and Bennett Thompson hit a tailing ball toward the line in deep left that ran away from the UCLA left fielder for an RBI double as Shade blazed home. Oregon pulled back another run in the bottom of the 6th as Rikuu Nishida and Sabin Ceballos led off with back-to-back singles. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt and then Nishida scored from third on a wild pitch. Oregon couldn’t get Ceballos home from third, and now trailed 6 - 2.
UCLA tacked on what would turn out to be 2 more crucial runs in the top of the 8th to lead 8 - 2 and when Oregon failed to score in the bottom of that inning, things looked pretty bleak. The Ducks held the Bruins in the top of the 9th and finally got their bats going in their last chance. A furious Oregon rally would bring 7 batters to the plate and the Ducks would get back-to-back-to back homers to score 5 times. With one out, Jackson Jaha got things started with a double to right field. Tanner Smith followed with an RBI single to make it 8 - 3, but a strikeout gave Oregon 2 outs and threatened to snuff out the potential rally. But then, Ceballos, Drew Cowley and Jacob Walsh each went yard, plating 4 runs and pulling the Ducks to within just a single run. But a ball that was hit a little too well to right center field was snagged by the Bruins and the game was over, recorded as an 8 - 7 win for UCLA.
Oregon outhit UCLA 12 - 9, but 5 of the Ducks hits came in the bottom of the 9th, and the rest were too scattered to do enough good. Ceballos had a huge game for Oregon going 4 - 5 at the plate with the home run and 2 RBI. Cowley was 2 - 5 and Jaha was 1 - 1 as a pinch hitter.
Uelmen gave up just 6 hits, but 5 earned runs over 4 innings, most of the damage coming in the 5th inning where he gave up 3 runs but recorded no outs. Matthew Grabmann and Dylan McShane came on for the bulk of the relief and gave up 3 runs over 3 innings that basically decided the game.
The Ducks and Bruins play the rubber game of the series tomorrow at 12:05 pm at PK Park.
It may have been by mutual agreement, but neither the Ducks nor the Huskies played much defense or pitched very well in today’s game in Seattle. The game was a crazy back-and-forth affair through 5 innings but Oregon’s bats ran out of gas and couldn’t keep up with the Washington offense late. The Ducks used 4 pitchers and none were effective.
Washington got rolling at the plate early, scoring 3 times in the bottom of the first after blanking the Ducks in the top of the inning. The 2nd inning was a completely different story, however, as Vallery Wong and Hanna Delgado led off with walks, and after a foul out and a wild pitch to advance them to second and third base respectively, Tehya Bird drew Oregon’s 3rd walk of the inning to load the bases. Karissa Ornelas came on as a pinch hitter and delivered a single to center, moving everybody up one and plating Wong from third. Terra McGowan then delivered the big blow of the inning, a grand slam home run to left field. The tater put Oregon up 5 - 3, and the Huskies could pull only one back in their half of the 2nd.
Washington, though, would not be behind for long, scoring 3 more times in the 3rd inning against Oregon starter Morgan Scott and sending her to the bench. Reagan Breedlove, after pitching well and getting the win in relief in Friday’s game, came on in relief again and recorded the third out. The damage was done, though and the Huskies led 7 - 5 after 3 innings. Neither team could score in the 4th and the Ducks regained the advantage in the top of the 5th.
What a play by @tehyaabirdd!— Oregon Softball (@OregonSB) March 12, 2023
Makes the long throw from behnd the third base bag on her knees to cut down the runner at 1st #SCTop10
E4 | UW 7, Ducks 5
@Pac12Network #GoDucks | #Version5 pic.twitter.com/nwNYYueTIc
McGowan had a lead-off single and then advanced to second on a wild pitch after a pop out. A strikeout then gave Oregon 2 outs, but a walk to KK Humphreys set up a Wong 3-run dinger to give the Ducks an 8 - 7 lead.
The Ducks, though, simply couldn’t get the outs they needed to stay in the game. Breedlove walked the first batter she faced and Oregon Coach Melyssa Lombardi - showing a tendency to make pitching changes at the first sign of trouble that first arose in pre-season games - pulled Breedlove and brought on Stevie Hansen. After a shaky appearance on Friday night, Oregon’s putative Ace didn’t have her stuff again and gave up 3 singles and 2 runs and the Huskies had retaken the lead 9 - 8.
That was it for Oregon’s offense, and the Huskies would tack on more runs in the bottom of the 6th inning as Hansen gave up back-to-back homers and 4 more runs. Allison Benning then came on for mop-up duty and when Oregon could get only one runner on base in the 7th, the game was over with the Huskies on top 13 - 8.
Washington pounded Oregon’s pitching staff for 17 hits and scored 13 runs while also leaving 6 runners on base, a shocking failure for the Ducks hurlers. Scott gave up 7 runs on 8 hits and Hansen 5 runs on 7 hits in a total of 4 innings of work between them. The entire staff combined for only 2 strikeouts. Everyone has an off day and hopefully that’s all this was. Hansen’s performance in the two games is concerning as it represents a step backward from her work so far this season.
The Ducks managed to score 8 runs on just 6 hits, with McGowan going 2 - 4 with 4 RBI and Wong 1 - 3 with 3 RBI. Only 2 other Duck starters had a hit. Oregon simply has to have more production down the batting order.
Oregon and Washington face off in the third game on Sunday at Noon with the series on the line.