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Oregon Baseball Rallies to Defeat #1 Stanford

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAY 23 Pac-12 Baseball Tournament Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a dismal first two inning against the Stanford Cardinal, Oregon Ducks baseball put the kibosh on a Stanford win, rallying in extra innings to prevail 8-6.

This game may have played out a bit differently from Tuesday’s game against Cal, but the Ducks bullpen was again magnificent in keeping the Cardinal off the board after a dismal first two innings. Oregon’s bullpen blanked Stanford for eight straight innings and gave the Duck bats some time to rally and take this game.

Turner Spoljaric got the start against the Cardinal. To say that he had a shaky start would be an understatement. To be fair, Spoljaric is one of a handful of freshman pitchers that show promise, but will still have the ups and downs that come with being an inexperienced pitcher. He was in for only a couple of batters over one inning, and was dinked for 6 runs off of 7 hits. It was not a memorable start, but he has the support of his team for the victory outcome, and that’s what team play is for.

Stanford took it to Spoljaric early, scoring four runs in the first inning.

Stanford took a 0-4 lead after one, but Oregon halved the lead with two runs in the top of the second inning. After a Tanner Smith single, Jacob Walsh sent a single to right field to score Smith.

Immediately afterwards, Bennett Thompson knocked a double to score Walsh.

Oregon cut the lead to 2-4, but in the bottom of the second inning, Logan Mercado was put into a tough situation, and while a couple of runs were scored with Mercado pitching, it was scored against Spoljaric. Such is the nature of baseball scoring. But after those two scores, Mercado pitched four innings of nearly flawless baseball, and although the win is not technically scored as his, this game was won primarily on the pitching of Logan Mercado. Mercado put down the Stanford order in the third and fourth inning, and allowed a hit in the fifth - but that was exactly the breathing space that the Oregon offense needed to kick start their bats.

Down 2-6, Oregon started chipping away at the Cardinal lead in the fifth inning. Bennett Thompson got on base with a single and was brought home by Rikuu Nishida.

With the Ducks now down 3-6, both teams went scoreless in the next two innings. Mercado’s outing was not without help from the defense. It never is.

In the sixth inning, Mercado began to lose some form and walked two batters. No problem - the bullpen and defense had his back. Austin Anderson came in for relief, and the infield defense did the rest.

Anderson pitched through the end of the seventh, and was relieved by Dylan McShane in the eighth. In the seventh, Anderson was masterful and we saw an intentional walk in the seventh inning. This is a move that you see in MLB all the time and almost never see in college ball. It made a lot of sense, because Stanford’s Alberto Rios is a dangerous hitter, as he was in this game as well. He went 2-3 with 2 RBIs - his hits were doubles - so he had a hot hand. Then Anderson took care of everyone else.

In the eighth inning, Oregon needed to respond to what their bullpen was serving. After a disastrous first two innings, the Ducks bullpen shut down the Cardinal. All they needed was the Oregon bats to do their part. Back against the wall, this was go-time.

In the eighth, The Ducks cut the lead to two, 4-6, when Tanner Smith hit a clutch RBI single:

Still, the game was tense. In the second part of the eighth inning, Josh Mollerus was brought in to shut Stanford down. It was tense, but he left all runners on base.

Then we were presented with a ninth inning where Oregon was down two, 4-6. The pitching had set the stage for a comeback - the Cardinal had not scored since the second inning - but could Oregon find some offense and rally?

Yes we can.

After Rikuu Nishida hit a sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Tyler Ganus, Colby Shade scored off a triple and a resulting defensive error:

In the bottom of the ninth, Mollerus did his job and kept Stanford off the board. With the game tied at 6-6, we went into extra innings.

10th inning - can Oregon rally and try to take a game from #1 Stanford?

Yes, we can.

The Ducks took the lead off a critical Sabin Ceballos home run:

But Oregon was not done. More was needed. After a comical string of walks on the part of the Stanford bullpen, Jacob Walsh scored with more errant Stanford pitching. I mean, a wild pitch.

The hapless Cardinal had exhausted their bullpen and had nothing to offer. Meanwhile, Josh Mollerus locked down Stanford and secured the win in 10 innings. It was a rally for the ages.

Instead of returning to Eugene, the Oregon Ducks have earned a spot in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals, where they face the #3 Washington Huskies on Friday, 5/26/23, at 2:30 pm PT. The game will again be telecast on the Pac-12 Network. The winner faces the winner of Arizona vs. Stanford on Saturday, 5/27/23, at 7:05 pm PT. The semifinals and finals are single-elimination games.