Oregon’s Men’s basketball team continued what it hopes will be a deep run in the NIT, and the softball and baseball teams finished up their weekend series against Stanford and Washington State on Sunday.
Oregon came in to the “rubber” game of the series against Stanford having earned a split of the first two games with a dramatic late-inning rally in game 2 on Saturday. Oregon’s pitching - by Morgan Scott - and defense - after some first-inning jitters - were outstanding, the Ducks survived some “Pac-12 Umping” and broke Stanford’s 21-game winning streak. Sunday’s game, like the first two, was closely contested, but this time it was Stanford with the late tally to squeeze by Oregon 3 - 2 and win the series 2 - 1.
Stevie Hansen started in the circle for the Ducks and her scoreline looks better than some of her pitching did. She did manage to hold the Cardinal scoreless for 4 innings, despite some struggles. Stanford loaded the bases in the top of the second with just one out on a double, a hit batter and a base on balls. At some points earlier in the season, Oregon Coach Melyssa Lombardi has pulled Ducks pitchers as they began to struggle with control or opposing hitters began tagging them. Both of these things happened to Hansen in the 2nd inning, but Lombardi stuck with her. Lombardi’s trust was rewarded, as Hansen got two infield popups to get out of the jamb.
The Ducks took the lead in the bottom of the 2nd as Ariel Carlson led off with a hard-hit single up the middle. Hanna Delgado followed with another single to left center and after a strikeout, Vallery Wong plated Carlson with a drive to left. The Ducks had runners at first and second with just one out but couldn’t take advantage. Neither team could get anything going in the third and Stanford had just one baserunner in the 4th, who reached on an error.
Oregon took a 2 - 0 lead in their half of the 4th, as Delgado laced a leadoff triple to the wall in right center. The Ducks almost wasted the prime set-up with two straight outs, but Tehya Bird produced an infield single that finally scored Delgado from third. Bird would have been safe even without the dreaded “backward throw” by the Stanford shortstop.
Hansen’s time in the circle quickly came to an end in the top of the 5th. After getting a groundout to start things off, Stanford got a triple of its own and Hansen gave away the run with a wild pitch. That was enough for Lombardi, and Reagan Breedlove came on in relief. Hansen went 4.1 innings, giving up 3 hits and just one run. Breedlove didn’t have her best stuff, unfortunately, and gave up a double and a single to allow Stanford to tie the game 2 - 2. After another single gave Stanford 3 hits in 3 at-bats against Breedlove, the Ducks turned a double play to get out of the disappointing inning.
Oregon got a runner aboard in their half of the 5th but couldn’t do anything with her. Stanford then took the lead in the top of the 6th as two of their first three batters stroked singles, and the fourth batter reached on a fielder's choice, giving the Cardinal runners at first and third with 2 outs. Oregon got the third out on the next batter who singled to right, but the runner on first tried to stretch all the way to third and was thrown out. Too late, however as Stanford scored the go-ahead run on the play before the out was recorded and led 3 - 2.
Oregon got a runner into scoring position in the 6th with one out on Delgado’s lead-off single and a Remington Hewitt sacrifice grounder to short. The Ducks couldn’t deliver the crucial hit to bring Delgado home and tie the game, however. Morgan Scott came on to finish the last inning, gave up one hit and no runs and Oregon was down to its last chance in the bottom of the 7th. Three groundouts to the left side of the infield set the Ducks down in order and the game was over.
Certainly, the series outcome was a disappointment, but the Ducks were competitive throughout. This is in marked contrast to several series last season against high quality opponents in which Oregon didn’t play at the same level and seemed to have little chance to win individual games, much less the series. The contrast with last weekend’s series against Washington is also pretty stark - last week the Ducks hit well and struggled with pitching and defense. Against Stanford the Ducks pitched and defended well but struggled at the plate.
Breedlove took the loss for Oregon. After her performance against the Cardinal on Saturday, Scott probably should have been first off the bench when Hansen faltered. The Ducks had 7 scattered hits Sunday and Bird and Wong drove in Oregon’s runs. The Ducks had only 3 strikeouts and didn’t draw a single base on balls.
Oregon will welcome UCLA (27-3 overall) to The Jane next weekend. The Bruins won 2 of 3 against the Huskies at home this weekend. As usual, UCLA will present a tough, tough challenge.
Like the softball team, Oregon came into Sunday’s rubber game with Washington State in Pullman tied at one game apiece having rallied late in Saturday’s game for the win that knotted the series. After a few games in a row in which Oregon’s bats were pretty silent, the Duck hitters came alive late again in Sunday’s matchup, scoring 7 runs in the 7th inning to outscore the Cougars 13 - 7 and claim the series victory.
Oregon got off to a quality start, although it was brief. Rikuu Nishida deposited the 4th pitch of the game over the fence in left field and the Ducks bounced ahead 1 - 0. The next two batters struck out, and Sabin Ceballos’s double to left was followed by a groundout. The roof fell in on Oregon starting pitcher Jackson Pace in the bottom of the inning. After getting the leadoff batter on a routine grounder, Pace gave up 5 runs on just 3 hits while issuing 3 bases on balls and hitting a batter. Pace was also victimized by an Oregon error on a fielder’s choice play that should have generated the inning’s 2nd out. After issuing his third walk, Pace came out of the game in favor of Matthew Grabmann who walked into a bases loaded, one-out situation trailing 5 - 1. Grabmann promptly walked in a run and then got a groundout to 1st that sacrificed in another run. Grabmann (mostly) restored order - and signaled things to come - by getting the 12th Cougar of the inning to watch a nice third strike, ending the inning with Washington State enjoying a 7 - 1 lead. The Cougars would not score again.
It took awhile, but Oregon started its climb back into the game in the 4th inning. After a leadoff strikeout, Jacob Walsh rapped a single to left and Josiah Cromwick followed with a homer - also to left - and the Ducks had clawed back to 7 - 3. It’s worth noting that in the bottom of the 4th, Grabmann hit two batters in a row with one out and was relieved by Matt Dallas who got a strikeout and a comebacker to end the inning.
In the 5th, Oregon inched even closer and kept the pressure on the Cougars. Nishida walked to lead off the inning, and Colby Shade singled. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and Nishida scored on a groundout. After a strikeout, Tanner Smith hit a 2-out, 2-run shot over the left field fence and Oregon was suddenly right back in the game, trailing just 7 - 6. WSU went 3-and-out in their half of the 5th, as did Oregon in the top of the 6th. The Cougars had a single baserunner in their half of the 6th courtesy of another hit batsman but couldn’t do anything with him.
T5 |— Oregon Duck Baseball (@OregonBaseball) March 19, 2023
This is how you tie the school record for hits in grand fashion. @tannerr_smith a 2-run tater to get the Ducks within one. #GoDucks | #D1Baseball | #NCAABaseball
WSU 7 pic.twitter.com/FsbQlnEoXV
And so we come to the top of the 7th, which must have felt a little like deja vu for Washington State. On Saturday, Oregon also trailed but scored 7 runs over the last 4 innings - including 5 in the 8th to forge the win. On Sunday, the Ducks would bring 12 batters to the plate in the 7th inning, score 7 runs, pound out 7 hits, draw two walks and be the beneficiaries of a wild pitch.
The big blow was a one-out, 3-run tater to left by Freshman Carter Garate which put Oregon ahead 13 - 7 and would end the scoring for the game. Washington State would generate only 2 more hits in the final 3 innings and get only one runner into scoring position.
Matt Dallas (2-0) got the win for the Ducks, giving up only 1 hit while striking out 5 over 4 innings of work. Matthew Grabmann went 3 innings and gave up just one hit. Josh Mollerus went the last 1.2 innings and gave up only one hit. The Ducks pounded out 16 hits and left 6 runners on base. Colby Shade and Josiah Cromwick were each 4-5 at the plate and Cromwick had 4 RBI. Carter Garate was just 1-5, but his 7th inning homer accounted for 3 RBI and put the game out of reach. Drew Cowley also had 2 RBI.
The Ducks (11 - 7) now have a 4-game, non-Conference series against Northwestern State (hailing from Louisiana) in Eugene starting Friday. The Demons are 12 - 7 on the season.
Oregon’s second-round NIT game brought University of Central Florida, an upset winner at Florida in the tournament’s first round, to Eugene. The Ducks had only marginally more trouble with the Knights than they did in the revenge-win first-round matchup with UC Irvine. Aside from a short period in the first half when Oregon struggled and UCF pulled ahead, Oregon looked good, pulling away in the second half for the 68 - 54 victory.
Both teams got off to a slow start and the first point was a UCF free throw after two and a half minutes. Neither team had much offensive success early, and a Nate Bittle layup and then a jumper gave Oregon a 4 - 2 lead a minute later. Oregon was cold from the field much of the first part of the game and trailed 12 - 9 at 10:22 before UCF hit a 3-pointer to go up 15 - 9 and prompt an Oregon timeout.
Head Coach Dana Altman’s on-point remarks lit a fire under the Ducks and they would go on a 14 - 3 run over the next 6 minutes to lead 23 - 18, a lead they would never surrender. UCF would get as close as 26 - 24 at the 3:10 mark but Rivaldo Soares hit a jumper, Bittle hit two free throws and Quincy Guerrier hit a 3-pointer with just 44 seconds left in the half and Oregon went into the locker room ahead 33 - 24.
Oregon picked up where it left off in the second half, particularly on the defensive end of the court early on. The Ducks went on a 11 - 2 run to open the half and led 44 - 26 at 16:10. Bittle was proving very difficult for the Knights to handle inside and when Kel’el Ware got into the act with a bucket and foul shot, Oregon had its first 20-point lead at 47 - 26 just 30 seconds later.
Oregon’s lead would hover between 15 and 21 points with Bittle, Ware and Guerrier doing most of the offensive damage. UCF could not buy an outside shot and were faced with trying to get inside against Bittle and Ware - along with Lok Wur at some points - a very difficult ask. The Ducks played out the game, continuing to play good perimeter defense and grabbing rebounds on repeated misses by the Knights. The game was long decided, but a Guerrier layup gave Oregon it 67th and 68th points on the night with just a minute remaining.
For the game, Bittle led all scorers with 21 points (a career high) and all rebounders with 13 (his first 20-10 game). He also dished out 2 assists and while he didn’t have a block he certainly changed the trajectory of plenty of UCF shots. Guerrier added 16 points and 6 rebounds and Ware came off the bench for 11 points and 2 rebounds. Oregon shot 48.9 percent from the field and were 5 - 19 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Ducks shot just 65.4 percent from the free throw line, leaving 9 easy points on the table and making the game closer than it might have been.
Oregon’s defense held UCF to just 19 - 62 (30.6%) from the field and 5 - 30 from 3-point distance. It’s surprising to see that Oregon outrebounded UCF 40 - 31 and yet gave up so many more shot attempts. It usually takes a lot of second-chance attempts to get 15 more shots than an opponent.
The Ducks now draw the Wisconsin Badgers (19-14) for their third-round NIT game. That will also take place at Matthew Knight Arena, and is scheduled for a 6:00 pm tip-off on Tuesday, March 21. The Badgers beat Bradley in the first round 81 - 62 and defeated Liberty University 75 - 71 on Sunday.