Jones' walk-off gives Ducks series sweep

Another day, another walk off victory for the No. 18 ranked Oregon Ducks at PK Park. Catcher Aaron Jones' RBI single off of Long Beach State reliever Nick Sabo in the bottom of the ninth inning scored pinch runner Vernell Warren to cap an improbable comeback for the Ducks (10-1), giving them an 8-7 victory and a series sweep of the Dirtbags (4-7). It was the Ducks 10th straight victory.

Jones' was given the green light to swing on a 3-0 count, stroking the pitch into nearly the same spot that Kyle Garlick did on Saturday night when he had a walk-off single in the 13th inning. It was the Ducks third straight walk-off win, with Warren scoring the winning run in each game. Warren was inserted in place of left fielder Brett Thomas, who led off the ninth with his second triple of the game.

"I was expecting [Sabo] didn't want to load the bases," Jones, who finished 2-for-4 with two runs, said. "It was right down the middle, it couldn't get much better."

Warren continues to be the feel good story for the Ducks in the early going. The former Grant High School star chose track over baseball when he enrolled at Oregon, before having second thoughts entering his senior year. Despite having not played for four years, he took the risk and it has paid dividends for him and the Ducks so far.

"Three or four years ago we asked Coach Lananna if we could have him because we heard he was a pretty good baseball player and very fast," Manager George Horton said. "His priority was track and field at that time."

At one point the Ducks trailed 5-0 and showed little life offensively while sophomore starter Brando Tessar struggled on the hill. Tessar couldn't escape the fifth inning, giving up five earned runs on eight hits with a throwing error in 4 2/3 innings. He earned a no decision.

The bats didn't come alive until the seventh inning. Trailing 5-1, the Ducks took advantage of Dirtbags third baseman Juan Avila's throwing error with the bases loaded that scored Jones and and first baseman Shaun Chase. Thomas' one out triple to right center field followed, and that plated Garlick and third baseman Scott Heineman to tie the game. Thomas was 2-for-4 on the day.

"That's what great teams do," Horton said. "It doesn't matter how you play. The bottom line is to grind through it and maybe come out at the end of the day and end up winning the game."

The Dirtbags responded with two runs in the eighth inning but the Ducks remained resilient. With two outs, Garlick smacked a two-run, double off of Dirtbags reliever Jake Stassi that scored second baseman Aaron Payne and Jones to tie the game at 7-7.

"I feel like we are just more aggressive at the plate," Jones said. "Last year I felt like we would take a lot of fastballs and this year I feel like we are just turning them around and taking them right back up the middle and it seems to be working quite well."

Redshirt junior Joey Housey pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for Oregon and earned the victory, his first on the year. He walked two batters and struck out one, but remained steady enough to preserve the tie until the ninth inning.

The game had a different feel in the first five innings as the Dirtbags racked up hit after hit en route to a 5-0 lead. Designated hitter Brennan Fulkerson had plenty of success off of Tessar with an RBI single to put the Dirtbags on the board in the second inning and an RBI double in the fifth that resulted in Tessar getting pulled. He finished 2-for-5 with two RBI. Avila added a two-run double in the fifth to help break the game wide open.

The Ducks squandered many opportunities early, leaving the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth innings with only one run from Ryon Healy's RBI single in the fifth inning to show for it. The Ducks left 12 men on base for the game. Dirtbags lefty Ryan Strufing, who entered the game without giving up a walk this season, had some control issues but was mostly solid in his five innings of work.

However, the Dirtbags bullpen surrendered six earned runs and seven hits in the final three innings, including three extra base hits.

The series sweep is the Ducks second consecutive after sweeping a ranked Vanderbilt team last weekend, and gives them a confidence boost heading into next weekend's Nike College Showcase, which will see them play four games in three days against Connecticut, West Virginia, No. 23 Oklahoma and Illinois.

The Ducks kick off the showcase against Illinois next Friday night at 6 p.m.

GAME NOTES –

Jeff Gold pitched three innings in relief of Tessar, giving up two earned runs and three hits. He had a no decision.

Attendance at PK Park was 1,495.

J.J. Altobelli snapped an 0-for-13 slump from the beginning of the home stand with a fifth inning double.

Three Ducks were hit by pitches on Sunday (Jones, Payne and Thomas).

The 5-6-7 hitters for the Dirtbags (Avila, Richard Prigatano and Fulkerson) combined for seven hits, four runs and four RBI's in the game.


eDuck Top Stories