"I'd much rather see us take a 2-1 lead and add a two, a one, take a ninth inning mentality there and put somebody away because against Pac-12 pitchers, as hard as you try, you're not always going to be able to get that done," Horton said.
What this team may lack in offensive firepower, they certainly make up for in late game theatrics. After blowing a 2-1 advantage earlier, the Ducks rallied behind a three-run eighth inning. Third baseman Scott Heineman's RBI single off of Utes reliever Tyler Wagner (1-4) scored Brett Thomas to put the Ducks ahead for good.
Connor Hofmann added a sac fly to score Heineman for the final run of the game.
Thomas started the rally with a double down the left field line to score Kyle Garlick from first base to tie the game. The hit and run was called after Thomas had failed to execute a bunt during the at-bat. He struck out looking in the sixth inning attempting to bunt as well.
"It was a lot about trust in myself and trust in my work," Thomas said of the double. "I kind of lost that in the beginning of the game."
Like Friday night, the Ducks fell behind 1-0 in the first inning, after a Parker Morin RBI single off of starter Jake Reed. But, the Ducks responded in the bottom half when Aaron Payne triple and subsequently scored on an Aaron Jones sacrifice fly.
Heineman, who finished 3-for-3 with two runs, doubled to leadoff the second inning, and later scored on catcher Brett Hambright's groundout to give Oregon their first lead.
After that, Reed cruised behind his fastball and changeup. He retired 11 straight batters at one point as the Utes seemingly didn't have an answer for the freshman. But, as the game wore on and his pitch count started to rise, Reed lost his effectiveness. A hit batsman with two outs in the sixth inning led to an RBI double by Morin to tie the game.
In the eighth inning, after issuing a walk, Horton allowed Reed to stay in after a mound visit, a move he said he regretted in hindsight. Reed then gave up an infield single that pushed the go-ahead run into scoring position. Reliever Joey Housey came on, but immediately gave up an RBI single to Shaun Cooper, putting Oregon behind once again.
"In retrospect I'm glad we didn't lose the game because of that because I thought that was an easy thing to second guess," Horton said of his decision to leave in Reed.
However, Housey (2-0) recovered to get out of the inning, setting the stage for the Ducks eventual comeback. Reed, who registered his fifth consecutive quality start, earned a no decision.
"Sometimes you just don't come out on top," Reed said. "That's baseball."
The aforementioned flair for the dramatic late game comeback has overshadowed recent struggles executing at the plate for Oregon. They left eight men on base on Saturday, including six in scoring position. Additionally, the bunt game, which has been a cornerstone of Horton's offense at Oregon, has disappeared.
"For some reason our bunting game has become a struggle and we pride ourselves on that," Horton said. "We work hard on that, we've invested time and it better come back because it's a big part of our offense."
Regardless, the Ducks have put themselves in position for the rare sweep of a conference opponent, a feat they achieved only once last season against Oregon State. If it takes another late inning comeback, that won't be a problem, at least for the players.
"This is a new squad," Thomas said. "We have the coaches who know that we can do it and we know we can do it. All that matters is that we know how and we know when to do it."
GAME NOTES –
Attendance at PK Park was 1,527.
A total of four balks were issued during the game, two belonging to Utes starter Brock Duke.
Jimmie Sherfy worked a perfect ninth inning for his fourth save of the season.
Reed was tagged for all three Utes runs. He had four strikeouts and issued three walks.