Tessar leads Oregon past Gonzaga

Continuing a streak of impressive hitting and relying on the arm of a freshman starter the Oregon Ducks (27-24-1) blanked the Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-15-1) 6-0 at PK Park on Tuesday night.

Brando Tessar, making his first collegiate start, was masterful on the mound during his six innings. Tessar gave up all of the Bulldogs three hits and relied on getting ground ball outs, totaling 15 of them out of a possible 18 outs while on the hill. He finished with four walks and a strikeout.

"I've always pitched to contact, not a lot of strikeouts," Tessar said. "With a defense like that you can get away with that."

Tessar had pitched only 10-1/3 innings in 11 relief appearances prior to Tuesday but was suggested to start by Manager George Horton after the Ducks ran through their rotation over the weekend. Pitching coach Andrew Checketts ran with the idea and notified the right-hander yesterday.

"We thought Brando gave us our best chance as a starter," Horton said. "We guessed right, I guess."

Tessar exited in the top of the seventh inning after walking leadoff batter Clayton Eslick. Senior reliever Kellen Moen, who last appeared during the meltdown against Stanford last Saturday when the Ducks blew a seven run lead, was back to old form and took the ball the rest of the way. Moen walked the first batter he faced and then mowed down the next nine in order to earn his eighth save of the season. Moen closed the game by striking out freshman pinch hitter Brock Slavin and freshman first baseman Marco Gonzales, two of the four strikeouts he recorded on the evening.

Ducks sophomore third baseman J.J. Altobelli had a busy night on both sides of the ball and helped the Ducks break open a 1-0 game in the sixth inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, Altobelli drove the ball down the line for a double off of Bulldogs senior reliever Mark Phillips, scoring freshman first baseman Ryon Healy, freshman left fielder Kyle Garlick and redshirt junior catcher Brett Hambright, who kicked the ball out of catcher Cameron Edman's glove on the slide.

After Altobelli moved to third on Edman's error, junior second baseman Danny Pulfer, who had injured his hand earlier in the game, stroked a RBI double to widen the Ducks lead. Freshman center fielder Brett Thomas followed that up with a RBI triple to make it 6-0.

"We had a lot of pressure on them the innings before and we just didn't get that big hit," Altobelli said. "When we finally got that big hit I think everyone kind of loosened up and started playing to their capabilities."

Bulldogs junior starter Andy Hunter earned his third loss and lasted only four innings before being pulled for Phillips, who gave up five runs in just 1-2/3 innings pitched.

The Ducks efficiency at the plate was spurred by Healy and Pulfer, the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Week. They each went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Oregon has now won four of their last six games and has scored at least six runs in each of those contests.

"If we're going to win the rest of our games, it can't just be because we throw shutouts," Horton said.

Gonzaga came into the game sitting atop the West Coast Conference in the category of runs scored this season and were led by six hitters batting at least .300 in the lineup. However, they had no answer for Tessar and Moen.

They squandered a bases loaded situation with no outs in the third inning thanks to a 5-2 double play started by Altobelli who threw home in time to Hambright to get the tag on Gonzales. Senior right fielder Tyler Chism grounded out to junior shortsop KC Serna to end the threat. They put only one runner in scoring position after that.

"I had to get after it and get tough," Tessar said of the situation. "I had a good defense behind me that made some sweet plays. J.J. made an awesome play and that helped me out big time."

The two teams face off again tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.

GAME NOTES –

Attendance was 1556 at PK Park.

As mentioned earlier, Pulfer injured his right hand during the first inning when he was hit by an Andy Hunter pitch. Pulfer had the hand taped up and was seen loosening it up the rest of the night.

Chism, overall, had a rough night. In addition to seeing his 13-game hit streak snapped, he slid hard into the wall down the right field line in the second inning chasing down a KC Serna fly ball. He laid motionless for a minute before getting up and staying in the game.

The Ducks snapped a five game streak of getting 10 or more hits during a ballgame.

Serna stole back-to-back bases in the second inning, his eighth and ninth on the year.


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