Tessar dominates Connecticut with four-hitter

Brando Tessar wasn't sure how his stuff would fare on the mound Sunday afternoon against the Connecticut Huskies after a shaky bullpen session. And after giving up three consecutive two out singles in the bottom of the first inning, Tessar seemed destined for a tough day on the hill.

But, Tessar settled himself to get out of the early jam and didn't give up another hit until the eighth inning, all part of a four-hit shutout that propelled the No. 17 ranked Oregon Ducks (12-3) to a 4-0 victory over the Huskies (6-8) in the finale of the Nike College Showcase at PK Park.

Tessar used a mix of fastballs and changeups to take command and occasionally unleashed a big curveball en route to six stikeouts. At one point, he retired 14 straight Huskies batters between the third and eighth innings and allowed only two runners to reach base after the third inning. He wasn't fazed by periods of heavy rain and winds either, walking only two batters on the day.

"Every inning I felt a little more comfortable on the mound," Tessar said.

Tessar (3-0) was aided by a defense that played error free all afternoon. Second baseman Aaron Payne was particularly spectacular by recording all three outs in the seventh inning including a highlight reel worthy diving stab and throw across his body to get Huskies catcher Joe Pavone at first base with one out.

Payne and and shortstop J.J. Altobelli were also a part of two key 4-6-3 double plays, the last of which sealed Tessar's shutout in the ninth.

"It's easy to pitch when you have a defense like that behind you," Tessar said.

Tessar called his career-best performance a "stepping stone" as he and redshirt sophomore Jeff Gold continue to be evaluated for the Sunday starter spot in the rotation. Gold tossed a four-hit shutout of his own in an eight inning game against West Virginia on Saturday afternoon.

"I think he's earned a spot to throw Sundays," catcher Brett Hambright said of Tessar.

Offensively the Ducks were far from dominant, but they're depth off the bench eventually got to Huskies starter Anthony Marzi. Redshirt sophomore Daniel Pardini smacked a pinch-hit home run to lead off the eighth inning to build a 3-0 led for Oregon. Marzi (0-3) did pitch all nine innings, but gave up nine hits and four runs, two of them earned, to take the loss.

Ducks manager George Horton said Pardini's blast let everybody relax in the dugout with a little breathing room. He continued to praise him after the game for his effort in rising up through the program to serve a prominent role on the team leadership council.

"He's worked long and hard and put himself in a position where he can be a key guy off the bench and maybe spot start in the outfield," Horton said.

Oregon took the lead early thanks to aggressive base running. A double steal executed by Payne and first baseman Ryon Healy put runners on second and third base for right fielder Kyle Garlick. Garlick's subsequent groundout to shortstop was enough to plate Payne and give the Ducks a 1-0 lead.

Healy had an RBI groundout to shortstop of his own in the top of the third inning to score Altobelli and extend the Ducks lead to 2-0.

Though Horton would've liked to have seen the Ducks emerge with a better record in the showcase, he said he feels the team is ready for conference play, which begins next weekend with a series up in Seattle against rival Washington.

"What gives us a chance in the Pac-12 is not just flat out ability, its mental toughness and togetherness," he said.

Horton continued to say that with the talent and depth that the Ducks contain, along with great team chemistry, they could be a challenger in a conference that has five teams in the Top 25 of the Baseball America rankings, including No. 2 ranked Stanford and No. 7 ranked Arizona.

"It's been a while since I've been around a team of young men that I look forward to being around on an everyday basis like this group," Horton said.

Oregon and Washington start a three game series on Friday at 5 p.m.

GAME NOTES —

Attendance was 1,123 at PK Park.

The Ducks averaged 9.25 hits per game during the Nike College Showcase. Altobelli led the team with seven hits during the four game stretch with three runs scored.

Altobelli knocked in senior Vernell Warren for the game's final run with two outs in the eighth inning with a single. Warren scored all the way from first after Huskies right fielder Stanley Paul bobbled the ball, resulting in an error. Altobelli and Warren both finished 2-for-4 on the day.

Payne was hit by two pitches in his first two at bats against Marzi. His stolen base was his fifth on the season.

The game time was a quick two hours and six minutes.


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