Ducks sweep Beavers, await playoff fate

Needing a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the Oregon Ducks (33-26-1, 11-16) did just that and completed a three game sweep against the No. 6 ranked Oregon State Beavers (38-17, 17-10) with a 6-0 win on Sunday afternoon at PK Park.

Spurred by consistent offense and right-hander Alex Keudell's incredible day on the mound, the Ducks were able to spoil their arch rival's chances at a Pac-10 Conference Championship, which the Beavers would have achieved with a win.

"All we could control was trying to do well this weekend," Ducks Manager George Horton said. "I'm very proud of our guys' effort and that's the thing I kind of want to reflect on."

Keudell (7-3) turned in his best performance of the season, pitching 8 2/3 innings of shutout baseball. After giving up a lead off single to Beavers sophomore right fielder Ryan Barnes, he gave up only one more hit and didn't allow a base runner past second base.

"I've always been pumped to play the Beavers because they didn't really recruit me in high school and they're in-state rivals," Keudell said.

The junior found a zone after getting out of a fourth inning jam, retiring the last 15 batters he faced in order before giving way to senior reliever Kellen Moen. Keudell finished with six strikeouts and only gave up two walks and two hits.

Freshman first baseman Ryon Healy got the Ducks offense going and finished 3-for-4 on the day with an RBI. Healy knocked in junior second baseman Danny Pulfer in the first inning with a double off of the top of the wall in left field after Pulfer reached base on an error by Beavers junior shortstop Ryan Dunn.

"Playing the Beavers was a great thing for the last weekend, getting our minds right, competing and being the Duck team we can be," Healy said.

Dunn made another crucial error with the Ducks leading 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning that led to a run. Ducks sophomore third baseman J.J. Altobelli reached base on Dunn's bad throw and advanced to second. Altobelli would go on to score later on in the inning on a trick play as Pulfer, standing on second, purposefully fell down in order to get caught in a rundown, allowing Altobelli enough time to reach home from third base before Pulfer was tagged out.

"There was no better feeling then when you catch a team like that off-balance," Pulfer said. "That run put a dagger in them and then the two spot the next inning, they kind of rolled over after that."

Ducks junior shortstop KC Serna and redshirt-junior catcher Brett Hambright added back-to-back RBI singles in the sixth inning to extend the Oregon lead. Serna finished 2-for-4 while Hambright had two RBIs on the day.

Oregon made the Beavers go to the bullpen five times on the day. Senior James Nygren (8-3) took the loss despite pitching only 2 1/3 innings and giving up two runs on two hits with three strikeouts.

The Beavers now have to regroup for the postseason after being stifled by the Ducks, scoring only two runs on 13 hits over three games. The Ducks, by comparison, had six runs on 12 hits on Sunday alone.

"We saw an article in the paper about a tale of two seasons between Oregon State and Oregon that showed us not playing well and them playing well," Keudell said. "It fired us up."

Sunday also marked Senior Day at PK Park. The Ducks honored all three seniors remaining on the team and each left their mark. Moen recorded the final out by getting Beavers senior first baseman Jared Norris to fly out to left field despite taking a line drive to his side by freshman designated hitter Kavin Keyes. Shawn Peterson, a Eugene native, got the start at DH for the Ducks and was 1-for-3 with a run.

But, the biggest crowd-pleaser went to little used catcher Mitch Karraker, who got his first hit of the season, a bloop single in the eighth inning. He received an ovation as he left the field for pinch runner Jack Marder.

"Those guys are all quality guys that came to work every day and made our team better regardless," said an emotional Pulfer. "It was so special for Mitch to get his first hit of the season, so special for Shawn to get a hit in his last at-bat at PK Park and for Kellen to get the last out. It's a fairy tale ending."

The Ducks now have to sit and await their postseason fate. The regional sites have been chosen, with Oregon State being one of teams chosen to host, while the rest of the field will be selected Monday morning.

Though their conference record will not do them any favors, finishing 10-3-1 down the stretch with a sweep of the sixth ranked team in the nation will boost the Ducks résumé.

"The talent level hasn't changed," Horton said. "A month ago we probably weren't mentally a playoff worthy team, but I do think we are now."

What also helps is that three of the conference's teams will be hosting a regional series. As of now, Oregon would be the seventh team to make the tournament out of the Pac-10 since USC cannot advance because their record is under .500. The conference sent eight teams to the tournament last year, with the Beavers earning the last spot with a 32-24 overall record.

"In my heart of heart's I think we are one of the 64 best teams in the country," Horton said. "I think we've earned the right to play in the NCAA Tournament. I think we'll make the committee proud."

GAME NOTES –

Attendance was 3445 at PK Park.

Despite being listed on the roster, senior Marcus Piazzisi was not honored during Senior Day after being dismissed earlier this season by Horton.

Altobelli extended his hit streak to 11 games with a third inning double.

Pulfer's hit streak was snapped at 13 games. He was on deck when Altobelli flew out to end the bottom of the eighth inning.

Freshman center fielder Brett Thomas had an RBI single in the third inning.

Highlights and post game interviews courtesy of photographer Andrew Louie are available here (copy and paste the link): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAvdve9nmBo&feature=youtu.be


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