“That was a grind win,” UO head coach George Horton said.
Aaron Payne’s sacrifice fly off of Golden Bears reliever Logan Scott (3-2) with the bases loaded scored Brett Hambright from third base to give the Ducks their first lead since the eighth inning on Saturday against Washington State.
Aaron Jones, who returned from a right ankle sprain he suffered against Stanford two weeks ago, followed up with a two-run double down the line in left field to give starter Alex Keudell some breathing room heading into the final frame.
The rally was jumpstarted by back-to-back one out singles by Hambright and Connor Hofmann, who entered the game an inning earlier as a defensive replacement. Shortstop Kevin Shepherd followed with the play of the game, catching the Golden Bears defense off-guard with a bunt single to load the bases.
“I would say in a lot of our rallies when we’re going good, there’s a bunt in there somewhere, whether it’s a sacrifice or a base hit,” Horton said. “That was certainly the case tonight.”
Jones reasserted his role as the dominant offensive player with a 2-for-5 night at the plate. Though he said he was playing at limited capacity and had trouble getting his timing back, he had three RBI, which included a RBI single in the third inning off of Cal starter Michael Theofanopoulos to even the score at 1-1.
“They told me to let them know once I was good to swing and give them 80 percent. I feel like I was about there this weekend,” Jones said.
Keudell continued his streak of impressive starts, registering a complete game, giving up only five hits and a run to nab his sixth consecutive victory. After giving up a RBI groundout in the third inning to Golden Bears right fielder Andrew Knapp, Keudell (7-3) cruised, giving up only three hits the rest of the ballgame.
“After the first inning I decided to be more aggressive with strike one,” Keudell said. “A lot of these guys are first ball hitters and I keep the ball down low usually they hit it on the ground right at people so it worked out well.
The senior didn’t record a strikeout until the ninth inning, but kept a solid Golden Bears lineup at bay while his offense struggled to produce. Oregon left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh innings, but Keudell remained steady throughout, until the rally ensued.
“That three-run inning in the eighth was huge,” Keudell said. “It lifted a little bit of weight off my shoulders so I could go out and throw strikes and get the win.”
The win capped a day of good news for the baseball program as Jones and Brett Thomas, who was out with a concussion after colliding with Shepherd on Sunday against Washington State, returned. Thomas reached base twice via a walk and a triple.
As a result, Oregon regained it’s winning form and some of the swagger it lost during a brutal three game stretch in which they couldn’t execute on the mound or at the plate. Jones’ return, especially, provided the spark that the Ducks had lacked in run scoring opportunities as of late.
“He brings a sense of calmness and he’s an awfully clutch player,” Horton said.
The Ducks and Golden Bears square off again at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
GAME NOTES –
Attendance at PK Park was 1,531.
Payne’s streak of consecutive games reaching base was snapped at 16 after a 0-for-4 night at the plate where he didn’t reach base.
The Ducks left 11 men on base.