Oregon Ducks baseball sits in the middle of the Pac-12 conference standings, and the Utah Utes occupy the bottom of the conference standings, but one may not have believed that after watching the opening game of this weekend’s series in Utah.
A combination of continued sub-par pitching along with an astonishing four errors spelled defeat for Oregon in the first game of their final series of the Pac-12 season.
Logan Mercado again picked up the first-game start. After the Ducks went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning, Mercado started the bottom by walking the first batter. The runner then reached second on a wild pitch. The next batter hit and reached second on the first of many Ducks fielding errors, putting runners on second and third. A single to right field put the Utes on the board.
Then what was initially called an out at home turned into a successful steal of home and Utah was up 0-2.
In the top of the second inning, the Oregon offense started rolling. Singles by Sabin Ceballos and and Tanner Smith were followed by a Drew Smith three-run shot to right center.
With Oregon holding the lead at 3-2, the Ducks were able to keep Utah off the board in the bottom of the frame.
In the third inning, Colby Shade walked and was brought home by this Drew Cowley double:
Cowley then stole third and scored on a throwing error, and Oregon was up 5-2.
In the bottom of the third, the Utes erased the Oregon lead with back-to-back home runs to start their half of the inning. A double was followed by a single to tie the game at 5-5.
Utah struck out the order to start the fourth. In the bottom, Mercado hit a batter and was replaced by Grayson Grinsell, who pitched well and kept Utah from scoring through the seventh inning.
However, the Ducks were unable to advance the score after the third inning, with their offense being stymied by the worst pitching staff in the Pac-12.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Dylan McShane pitched relief for Grinsell. Unfortunately for Oregon, McShane had zero control in arguably his worst outing of this season. It didn’t help that the Ducks had multiple throwing errors, and the combination of the two contributed to Utah putting six on the board, putting this game essentially out of reach.
Yet another fielding error by Oregon in the eighth inning brought the game to the final score of 5-12.
Utah’s starting pitcher, Bryce Van Sickle, has a season ERA of 5.55 and pitched 5.59 in this opener; however, he overcame the Ducks scoring to pitch six innings with 10 Ks and three walks. Utah pitched a for a cumulative ERA of 6.16 in this opener, but managed to keep Oregon from scoring in the last six innings of the game.
Inexplicably, the Oregon bats could not muster any offense against the Pac-12’s worst pitching staff. There is no explanation for why Rikuu Nishida - who leads the Pac-12 with the fewest strikeouts at the plate - went 0-5 with three Ks. Colby Shade was the only Duck with multiple hits, going 2-4 on the night.
The last of offense, combined with a plethora of fielding errors that is not typical for Oregon, allowed Utah to snap a 12-game losing streak to the Ducks going back to 2017. Oregon has now lost five in a row and allowed 11 or more runs in each of those losses.
The Ducks will again attempt to end their current losing streak when they face Utah in the second game of this series. It’s an early 10 am PT start on Friday, and the game will be televised on the Pas-12 Network.