The Ducks fell behind by a run before a two-out rally in the sixth inning pushed them ahead. First baseman Ryon Healy started things with a RBI double off of Pilots starter Kyle Kraus. Pinch-hitter Kyle Garlick followed with a RBI single on his only swing of the night to drive in Healy and give the resilient Ducks the lead.
“It’s just mentality,” Healy said of the Ducks two-out success. “It’s something we’ve been doing all year and working on a lot in the fall, and luckily it’s paying off.”
Kraus had bested Oregon in his two starts against them last season and was poised to do it again with a dominating performance through the first five innings. He pitched all eight innings for the Pilots, giving up eight hits and striking out four.
The Ducks shot at a breakthrough off of Kraus (6-6) turned ugly in the fourth inning when left fielder Brett Thomas, who leads the team in batting average, came up hobbling as he attempted to stop after rounding second base on a double. He was tagged out and immediately left the game with an undisclosed injury. His status for the Oregon State series is up in the air.
“Hopefully he’ll be available for the weekend,” Horton said. “If he isn’t then somebody else gets a chance to play.”
Ducks starter Jordan Spencer didn’t toss a no-hitter like he did against the Pilots on Apr. 18, but did manage to go six innings, giving up only one run on three hits with three strikeouts. Though he was erratic in the early innings with three walks, he was able to keep the Pilots off the scoreboard, and ended up retiring eight straight Pilots before hitting Turner Gill with a pitch with one out in the sixth inning.
The mistake proved costly as designated hitter Beau Fraser put the Pilots ahead with an opposite field RBI double off the left-hander. Spencer (4-2) would finish the inning before he was moved to the designated hitter spot of the Ducks lineup once they took the lead in the bottom half of the inning.
“I thought that might have been his second best game,” Horton said.
From there, a trio of Ducks relievers shut down the Pilots, retiring the last nine batters in order. Joey Housey’s perfect seventh inning, led to a similar showing by left-handed set-up pitcher Tommy Thorpe in the eighth inning. Closer Jimmie Sherfy picked up his 17th save of the year by striking out the side in the ninth inning.
After weeks of anticipation, the Ducks will now travel to Corvallis to play Oregon State in a three-game conference series holding a one game lead over No. 13 Arizona in the Pac-12 standings. Last season, the struggling Ducks swept the Beavers and robbed them of a chance to take the conference crown. This time, the Beavers have a chance to play spoiler.
“We just can’t let them do that to us,” Garlick said.
Both teams split two non-conference games at PK Park earlier this year. And though the Ducks are still sticking with their “one day at a time” mantra and playing a “faceless opponent”, with so much on the line, Horton isn’t selling this series short. Not only is the conference championship on the line, but a high postseason seed and a chance to host a regional series at PK Park also hang in the balance.
“From here on in we’re not going to have any easy roads to win because it’s going to be all regional type teams, including this weekend,” Horton said.
So far, the Ducks have been able to handle the adversity of stiff competition. They are 10-4 against the other five ranked conference teams this season, with three of those series coming on the road. Having Horton in the dugout, given his past experiences with big series’ at Cal State Fullerton, doesn’t hurt their chances either.
“I came here to coach important series’” Horton said. “The Beavers have been the established team up here and I’ve been talking about them waiting for this opportunity to get back at us from last year, so it’s everything that college baseball should be.”
The Ducks and Beavers start their series on Friday night at 5:30 p.m.
GAME NOTES –
Attendance at PK Park was 1,447
The Ducks left six men on base to the Pilots five.
Aaron Payne extended his consecutive games reached base streak to 15 games with a first inning single. J.J. Altobelli’s streak was snapped at 16 games with a 0-for-3 day at the plate.