Ducks fall in opener to UCLA

Facing arguably the most coveted college baseball prospect in the nation, the Oregon Ducks (23-21, 5-11) couldn't live up to the challenge against the UCLA Bruins (25-16, 12-7), falling 7-1 Friday night at PK Park.

Gerrit Cole, the UCLA right-hander whose mere presence brought dozens of professional baseball scouts and their radar guns to the ballpark, had little problem dealing with the Ducks offense, getting stronger as the game wore on.

The junior is expected by some to be the first pick in the Major League Baseball Draft in June. Using a 97 mile-per-hour fastball as his intimidation pitch, Cole only allowed one run and six hits, and struck out five in his 7-1/3 innings of work.

"I think we got on base we just didn't have any timely hitting you know. It's the story of our lives," freshman designated hitter Ryon Healy said.

Though the Bruins had a comfortable lead, the Ducks had an opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth.

After Cole (5-5) exited with one out in the eighth, Oregon loaded the bases to bring up junior shortstop KC Serna. But, he struck out looking and junior catcher Paul Eshleman grounded into a fielder's choice at second base to end the threat.

"It's Groundhog's Day," Horton said. "I keep saying that we have good kids they just don't compete with confidence in the clutch or when it's important."

Bruins closer Nick Vander Tuig recorded the last five outs to earn his sixth save of the season.

The Ducks attempted to counter Cole with their own ace, junior left-hander Tyler Anderson. However the usually steady Anderson struggled with his control all night and the patient Bruins batters took advantage.

"I approached it differently than I probably should have and I tried harder," Anderson said. "I was just trying to be too perfect and that's what happens when you try to do that."

In the sixth, Anderson committed a throwing error to first on a pickoff attempt allowing Bruins left fielder Cody Keefer to advance from first to third base. Keefer scored on a subsequent passed ball making it 3-0 Bruins.

After throwing a couple wild balls Anderson (6-2) was relieved by Scott McGough with one out. Anderson gave up four runs (three earned) six hits, four walks, and struck out four in his 5-1/3 innings pitched.

"We didn't bring it," Anderson said. "Starting with me, I didn't give the team a chance to win and that happens sometimes. It shouldn't, but it did."

Third baseman Cody Regis had three RBIs on the night with two coming on sacrifice flies and the other on an RBI single in the third to score the Bruins first run.

The Bruins tacked on two more insurance runs in the ninth inning after shortstop Pat Valaika hit a two-run single to right field off of reliever Jeff Gold to give UCLA a six run cushion.

Freshman right fielder Aaron Jones knocked in Healy in the seventh inning on a grounder for the Ducks only run. They left 10 runners on base.

Horton lamented afterward that the mental make up of his squad isn't where it needs to be at this point in the season, and said the blame starts with the coaching staff.

"I don't like the competitive personality of this group so far," Horton said. "I'm part of it. Wherever we failed them to get them into this wishing and hoping instead of grinding and doing, I take that personal. I hold myself accountable."

The two teams square off again tomorrow evening at 5 p.m.


Attendance was at 1548 PK Park tonight.

Senior center fielder Marcus Piazzisi made his first home start since Mar. 12. He had possibly the play of the game with a diving over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track in center field. He was 0-for-5 at the plate.

Post game interviews and highlights by photographer Andrew Louie are available here (copy and paste link):

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