On the surface, it would appear that Oregon Ducks baseball lost on the road in Portland in the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday because of an error in the outfield. This defeat, however, squarely rests in the lap of the pitching staff because the game should have never gotten to the point of turning on a botched play in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Freshman Jackson Pace pulled the start for the Ducks. In spite of a run by the Pilots in the second inning, Pace pitched well enough into the mid-innings to have the luxury of sitting on a comfortable lead.
Meanwhile, the Oregon bats immediately jumped on Portland’s pitching with a Tanner Smith 2-RBI double that gave him the all-time RBI record at Oregon.
Later in the top of the first, Bennett Thompson also hit a 2-RBI double and the Ducks were off and flying with a 4-0 lead.
A Gavin Grant home run in the second inning gave Pace a 5-0 cushion.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Pilots hit a couple of singles before a third single scored Portland’s first run of the game.
McCarthy's RBI single brought Briley Knight home and moved Tsukada to third pic.twitter.com/1I4J2KYYov— Portland Pilots Baseball (@PortlandBSB) April 19, 2023
As disconcerting as giving up three hits was, Pace righted himself and only allowed a meaningless double over the next three innings.
In the fourth inning, Sabin Ceballos hit a solo home run that gave Oregon a five-run edge again, 6-1.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Portland bats began to get at Jackson Pace. A couple of unfortunate infield errors did not help:
Briley Knight came home on McCarthy's RBI Bases remain full pic.twitter.com/pw5yY88k0J— Portland Pilots Baseball (@PortlandBSB) April 19, 2023
But after Pace gave up three hits and the Pilots scored four runs, Pace’s turn on the mound was over.
Two more runs added Pilots trailing one pic.twitter.com/J3t7KtY4fr— Portland Pilots Baseball (@PortlandBSB) April 19, 2023
Austin Anderson came in for relief and the Ducks were only up by one, 6-5.
Oregon’s bats were silent in the middle innings. Grayson Grinsell took the mound in the bottom of the seventh, and another pair of Portland hits brought in a runner to tie the game at 6-6.
The Ducks regained the lead in the top of the eighth. After a Gavin Grant home run, Oregon was able to load the bases. A walk of Ceballos scored Rikuu Nishida, putting the Ducks up 8-6.
Josh Mollerus was brought to the mound in the bottom of the eighth to protect the lead. Molerus knocked down the order with Ks going into the top of the ninth. In the ninth inning, an error by the Pilots game up another Oregon run, and it appeared that the Ducks had a comfortable enough lead, 9-6, with their closer on the mound in the bottom of the inning.
Appearances can be deceiving.
Mollerus struck out the first batter, and then his control completely dissipated. After a Portland hit, Mollerus walked a batter and hit the next batter with a pitch to load the bases. A pinch hit got the batter out, but scored a run on the fielder’s choice. The Pilots would tie the game with a double.
JUSTIN TSUKADA HIT THAT ONE A LONG WAY PILOTS ONCE AGAIN TIE IT UP pic.twitter.com/H8KR1nwUr1— Portland Pilots Baseball (@PortlandBSB) April 19, 2023
Portland completed their four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to escape with the win off of this unfortunate error:
Justin Tsukada came home on an error by the Ducks IT'S BALL GAME ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/SvQVpth6dN— Portland Pilots Baseball (@PortlandBSB) April 19, 2023
And Oregon dropped a game that they should have won, 9-10.
The Ducks bats were in fine form in this game, with Sabin Ceballos, Drew Cowley, Colby Shade, and Gavin Grant all scoring two RBIs.
The Oregon Ducks (24-11, 9-6 Pac-12) continue on the road, as they head down to the Bay Area this weekend with a series against California beginning on Friday.