The Oregon Ducks knew it was a historic game against Cal State Fullerton. The 3,540 in attendance could attest to it as well. In the end, the Ducks (44-17) didn’t wilt, jumping out to an early 6-0 lead before settling for a 7-5 win over the Titans (36-20) to improve to 2-0 in regional play of the NCAA Playoffs.
The night also brought a little bit of extra history as Ducks starter Alex Keudell (11-4) picked up the 23rd win of his career, setting a UO record that was previously held by Dean Kegler. The senior pitched seven innings, giving up five runs on four hits with five strikeouts and four walks.
“I think later on I’ll definitely think about it at the end of the season,” Keudell said. “Right now, as far as me and my team our main concern is…focusing on tomorrow.”
The Ducks pounced on Titans starter Dylan Floro (10-4) early with four runs in the first inning. Aaron Payne started things with an infield single and then moved to third base on a throwing error by Floro on a pickoff attempt. He scored later on a Ryon Healy RBI ground out.
Following a Brett Thomas single, designated hitter Kyle Garlick roped an opposite field triple to score two more runs, which was followed by a RBI infield single by third baseman Ryan Hambright.
Healy was 2-for-4 with two RBI, adding another run on a two out single that scored Aaron Jones in the second inning. His offense helped propel the rest of the lineup as Jones got an RBI of his own in the fourth inning with a RBI sac fly to push the lead to 6-0.
“I was able to slow things down enough and see the ball well enough for one pitch and was able to get some RBIs and get on the board and help the team,” Healy said.
Fullerton looked lifeless, registering only one hit Keudell through four innings. Then the Titans exploded for five runs on three hits in the fifth inning, aided by Keudell plunking two of the first three batters with a pitch.
Richy Pedroza put the Titans on the scoreboard with a RBI single, but catcher Jared Dudley was tagged out in between second and third base after failing to pay attention to the runner in front of him.
The error potentially cost Fullerton a run later in the inning after Michael Lorenzen’s three-run home run sucked the life out of an energetic PK Park crowd and drew them within a run.
“We got ourselves back into it,” Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook said. “We just didn’t put anything together after that.”
After that, the Titans were punchless the rest of the way as Keudell retired the last seven batters he faced before closer Jimmie Sherfy took the hill in the eighth inning. Sherfy carried a two-run lead into the ninth after Brett Hambright scored in the eighth inning and he closed the door on his 18th save of the season with consecutive strikeouts to end the game.
“They executed and played a pretty perfect baseball game,” Vanderhook said.
The Ducks now look ahead to a meeting between the winner of the Fullerton vs. Austin Peay game Sunday afternoon. Both teams have cases for another shot: The Governors for having felt slighted by a ninth play-at-the-plate call in Friday night’s game that led to a Ducks comeback win, and Fullerton for chances missed in Saturday’s game.
Horton, clarifying that it was of no disrespect to either side, stated his preference.
“I’d like Fullerton to win tomorrow because those are my guys,” Horton said. “I’ll be rooting for them.”
Either way, the Ducks will have a motivated opponent come Sunday afternoon.
“As we talked about in the locker room, we’ve got a lot of work yet to do if we’re going to be the team that advances,” Horton said.
The Ducks play at 4 p.m. Sunday.
GAME NOTES —
Attendance at PK Park was 3,540.
The Ducks left six men on base to the Titans five.
Horton said that Jake Reed will start Sunday’s game regardless of the opponent.