Ducks win wild home opener against LBSU

Oregon Ducks senior outfielder Vernell Warren gave up a track scholarship to play baseball for George Horton. Against Long Beach State University on Friday night at PK Park, those track skills came in handy.

With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth inning and the game seemingly headed for extra innings, freshman third baseman Scott Heineman hit a ball to Dirtbags shortstop Matt Duffy, who threw a bouncing ball off of first basman Ino Patron's glove that rolled away. Warren, pinch running for designated hitter Ryon Healy, took advantage of a throwing error and slid home, narrowly beating out a tag, to secure the No. 18 ranked Ducks 5-4 victory and eighth straight win.

"I just kind of relied on my instincts," Warren said of the play.

For the Portland native, playing in only his fourth game since high school, the moment couldn't have been any sweeter.

"It was a little slow in the fall but now it's starting to come back to me," he said. "It's been fun. I'm just glad I got the opportunity to play again."

The win was uncharacteristic for the Ducks, who bungled away many similar opportunities at home last season. And after leaving the bases loaded in the eighth and leaving a runner on third in the seventh, the game seemed to be following a familiar script. But, Warren ensured that this game would have a different ending, even if it was a gamble.

"I just explained to my assistants that I was like ‘NoooooYeah!'" Horton said, adding of Warren, "He's the only guy on our team that would've made that safe."

From the start, the Ducks (8-1) looked out of character for a team that went 7-1 on an eight game road trip to start the season. Senior Alex Keudell registered his second quality start of the season, but was unable to get the win, having to settle for a no decision in seven innings of work.

He was roughed up in the first inning, allowing the first four batters to reach base with singles, two of which were aided by poor defense. Patron put his team on the board with an RBI single that was followed center fielder Brennan Metzger's RBI sacrifice fly. Designated hitter Robert Vickers added the fifth, and last, single of the inning to plate Patron and give the Dirtbags (4-5) a three run cushion.

"He was upset," Horton said. "You could see it on the mound."

After that, Keudell settled down and was eventually helped out with some run support. He allowed only three more hits over the next five innings before giving up an RBI single to Patron in the seventh that tied the game at 4-4. He gave up nine hits and four earned runs while striking out six, before being replaced by Jeff Gold, who worked the final two innings to pick up his first win of the season.

The Ducks got things going offensively in the fourth after Healy struck out swinging to start the inning, but a wild pitch allowed him to reach first. Freshman first baseman Shaun Chase followed up with a double off the wall in left field to move Healy to third, and the Ducks loaded the bases after Heineman was hit in the hand by a pitch.

Following a fielder's choice that saw Healy forced out at home, redshirt senior catcher Brett Hambright roped a double to left center field to score Chase and Heineman and put the Ducks on the board. Sophomore center fielder Connor Hofmann then knocked in sophomore center fielder Brett Thomas to tie the game.

Thomas' two out bases loaded walk forced in sophomore right fielder Aaron Jones in the bottom of the fifth and gave the Ducks their first lead, but that was countered by Patron's RBI single two innings later.

In the eighth the Ducks saw five different Dirtbags pitchers in what seemed like an endless stream of matchup strategies, but they still managed to load the bases. Jones worked the count full but struck out on a breaking ball by Kyle Friedrichs, who took the loss for the Dirtbags following Warren's heroic dash to the plate.

"The bottom line is finding a way to win," Horton said. The Ducks and Dirtbags square off again at 6 p.m.


Dirtbags starter Shawn Stuart registered a no decision in four innings of work. He gave up three hits, three earned runs and three walks while striking out–you guessed it–three batters.

The Dirtbags used five pitchers in the eighth inning.

Of the Ducks five hits, three were for extra bases.

Attendance at PK Park was 1,250.

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