"We're searching," Horton said of the shakeup. "We're 18-16 and I'm the leader of a group that's sick and tired of coming up short and there's nobody that's bulletproof and there's nobody that's too important, including Coach Horton."
Freshman Stefan Sabol, who went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, got the Ducks on the board early in the first inning with a double to the left field wall, which scored fellow freshman Brett Thomas from first and gave them a 1-0 lead.
"I think it's good that we finally put the pressure on the other team early and came out swinging today and, you know, just got some good at bats," Sabol said.
In the third inning, the Ducks racked up two more runs on three hits. Sophomore J.J. Altobelli singled to start the inning and junior Danny Pulfer followed that with a double to left field to score him. Two batters later, Sabol rocketed a line drive up the middle to score Pulfer and gave the Ducks a 3-0 lead.
The offense was more than enough for junior pitcher Christian Jones, who started his first game since returning from a back injury. Jones was stellar on the hill and pitched six innings of shutout baseball, giving up only four hits and striking out seven. He allowed only three base runners during his outing.
"He looked like the old Christian," Horton said. "And good for us because he's awfully good. Hopefully he will maintain his health and can help through the second half of the season, but he made it look awfully easy."
Jones attributed his limited, but quality start to the effectiveness of his changeup, which he implied gave him the freedom to confuse the Dons hitters with the rest of his arsenal.
"It's good when it gets later into the game – when they face me for the third time and they don't know necessarily what's coming if they've seen three different pitches so far," Jones said.
From there, often-troubled reliever Scott McGough took over and had perhaps his most dominant outing of the season at home. He retired nine of the ten batters he faced, including the last six in order. He had five strikeouts, including three looking in the seventh, and gave up one hit in three innings of work to earn his third save of the year.
The win marks the Ducks fourth in their last six games and quickly got rid of the sour taste left in their mouths following two weekend losses to the USC Trojans.
"When you play a lot and you get in a good rhythm it can really springboard you," Horton said. He added later, "We got off to a pretty good start, then we stumbled and now its our job to get back up and do something about it on a positive side and I commend our guys. They did something about it today."
The team didn't get back from southern California until 12:30 a.m. Monday morning and had to attend classes and finish up schoolwork before getting to the ballpark at 10:30 a.m.
Monday's game marked the fifth game for the Ducks in six days, but the schedule will remain hectic. Following their second matchup in a week against Portland on Tuesday, the Ducks get a day off before starting a series against the No. 25 ranked Arizona Wildcats on Thursday.
However, the goal in the locker room is still focused on the "one game at a time" mantra.
"I don't think anyone has their eye on Omaha anymore. I don't think anyone's thinking about the Super Regional. I don't think anyone is looking at hosting a regional. At this point we have to bear down and get as many wins as possible," Pulfer said.
Game Notes –
Attendance at PK Park was 1308.
The Dons used six pitchers in the game, none lasting more than 2 and 1/3rds innings.
When asked what he thought of Sabol's positive performances, Horton said "He looks like a man to me…he looks really good in a batter's box to me right now."
Marcus Piazzisi made a brief appearance as a pinch runner in the eighth inning. It was his first appearance at PK Park since breaking his hand during fielding practice before the finale of the BYU series on Mar. 12.
The starting lineup had normal third baseman Altobelli at shortstop, left fielder Sabol at third base, freshman Kyle Gar.lick in left field and Thomas in center field.
In case anyone was wondering, Sabol divulged he had to do physics homework before heading to the ballpark today.
Junior Paul Eshleman had a pinch hit RBI sac fly in the sixth inning. Pulfer extended his current hitting streak to six games. He's now hit safely in 18 of the last 19 games.