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Ducks Win Regional Opener Against Xavier

Overcome Early Deficit, Rally Late

NCAA Baseball: Nashville Regional-Oregon vs Xavier Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

As they’ve done repeatedly in recent weeks, the Oregon Ducks overcame some shaky early pitching and rallied late for a 5 - 4 victory over Xavier in their first Nashville Regional game. Logan Mercado started on the mound for Oregon and gave up 2 runs on 3 hits while walking two Musketeers in just the first two innings. Grayson Grinsell came on in relief to start the third and also struggled. Grinsell pitched the 3rd and 4th innings, allowing 2 more Xavier runs on only one hit while walking 3.

As hoped for, however, Oregon’s bats were able to keep the game close while Coach Wasikowski searched for a live arm. Already trailing 2 - 0, the Ducks knotted the game in the bottom of the first. Rikuu Nishida got things rolling with a lead-off infield single and moved to second on a Colby Shade single to center. Drew Cowley - recently named a 3rd-team All American - singled to right, plating the speedy Nishida to cut the deficit to 2 - 1 while Shade went all the way to third.

After a pop-up, Tanner Smith hit a deep sacrifice fly to left that brought Shade home to tie the game at 2.

After holding Xavier in the top of the second, the Ducks took their first lead in their half of the inning. Jacob Walsh opened the inning positively again, knocking a 2-2 pitch down the right-field line for a double. A passed ball moved him to third and the next batter - Bennett Thompson - hit a ball to the hot corner that the Musketeer third baseman couldn’t handle. An attempted pick-off at third added a throwing error that allowed Walsh to score. The Ducks went down in order after that, but they were now ahead 3 - 2.

The euphoria of a moment soon passes, and the Musketeers jumped right back on top with a 2-run third inning against Grinsell to lead 4 - 3. That would be it for either team for a while as Oregon’s pitching settled down as the relatively little-used Dylan McShane (20.2 innings in 19 appearances) pitched 1.2 innings of shut-out ball and gave way to Austin Anderson for 1.1 innings of nothing for Xavier, at least on the scoreboard.

Oregon came up in the bottom of the 7th and did what it has done repeatedly this season - rallied for the go-ahead runs late in the game. After a lead-off ground-out, Nishida struck again, blasting a double to left field. A Xavier pitching change didn’t help as Shade traded places with Nishida, knocking another deep double to left and scoring Nishida.

Oregon’s third-straight double was then delivered by Cowley, this time to right, bringing Shade home and giving Oregon the 5 - 4 lead. Despite an intentional walk to Smith, Cowley could not be brought in for an insurance run and Oregon had 2 more Xavier at-bats to face to close out the game.

Matt Dallas came on to pitch and he set the Musketeers down in order with two groundouts and a strikeout looking.

Oregon couldn’t score in the 8th, and Josh Mollerus came on to try and close out the game in the top of the 9th inning. The tying run, in the form of Xavier’s first batter, reached first with a solid single through the left side on a 2-2 count, but Mollerus got the next batter to strike out on 3 straight pitches and then produced a weak ground ball to short that turned into a game-ending double-play for the Oregon win.

Anderson (5-0) got the win for the Ducks as Oregon used 6 pitchers over the course of the game. Anderson struck out 2 batters and gave up nothing to the Musketeers. Oregon pitchers gave up only one hit and one walk after the 4th inning.

The Ducks had only 9 hits and one walk but made them count. Nishida, Shade and Cowley at the top of the order were all 2 - 4, with Shade and Cowley combining for 3 RBIs. Smith added the only other RBI and went 1 - 2. Walsh scored Oregon’s other run on the Xavier throwing error.

Oregon now awaits the winner of the afternoon tilt between host Vanderbilt and Eastern Illinois, which is just underway at press time. The Ducks next action will be Saturday afternoon.