Ducks Squander Heartbreaker to Utah

For much of the 2012 season, the No. 24 ranked Oregon Ducks have walked a tightrope en route to numerous close wins. On Sunday afternoon, with a chance to sweep the Utah Utes on the line, the Ducks finally lost their balance on that tightrope in heartbreaking fashion, falling 4-3 at PK Park.

Utah catcher Parker Morin's two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning off of Oregon reliever Jimmie Sherfy, bounced in and out of right fielder Aaron Jones' glove before falling over the wall to give the Utes (7-15, 3-3) the decisive advantage.

Morin had nearly hit a home run the pitch before, cranking a slider just to the right of the foul pole in right field. Jones, who had played catcher the previous eight innings before being moved to right field in the ninth, said the rainy weather didn't play a factor in the dropped catch.

"I jumped for it, I landed on the fence, kind of jolted my arm back," Jones said. "I should've caught it."

The Ducks had a chance to tie the game in the bottom half of the ninth with runners on first and third base, but reliver Mitch Watrous (1-0) got shortstop J.J. Altobelli grounded into a 1-6-3 double play in a hit-and-run situation to end the game.

Sherfy (3-1) worked the last five outs for the Ducks despite pitching on Friday and Saturday as well. But, control issues for starter Brando Tessar and reliever Jeff Gold forced Ducks Manager George Horton to go to the sophomore closer.

Though Jones' drop will stick out, the Ducks gave away too many free bases — six walks and two hit batsman — and lacked the offensive aggression they had displayed in earlier innings during the latter part of the contest.

"I thought we just a little bit of a step behind the entire day in all facets," Horton said.

Oregon (15-6, 3-3) jumped out to an early lead, thanks to Jones getting caught in a rundown after a first inning single that allowed Aaron Payne to race home from first base. Jones later scored on first baseman Ryon Healy's double in the fourth inning, and Kyle Garlick added an RBI single of his own to give the Ducks a 3-0 lead.

After that, the Ducks couldn't seem to pull the trigger. Seven Ducks struck out looking, and they recorded only three hits after the fourth inning. The trickle down effect eventually reached the pitching staff.

Tessar routinely found himself in jams after a fantastic start that saw him retire 10 in a row at one point. He gave up an RBI double to Utes designated hitter James Brooks in the fifth, then proceeded to load the bases before working out of the jam.

He surrendered another run on Tyson Gonzalez sacrifice fly in the sixth and was finally pulled in the seventh for Gold, who worked one inning before loading the bases in the eighth, forcing the move to Sherfy, who registered a strikeout and fly out to get out of the inning. Eventually, Oregon ran out of luck, and the Utes made them pay.

"Quite honestly I thought they had the best attitude today and the baseball gods rewarded them for that," Horton said.

The Ducks now look ahead to a brutal week, where they play five games in the next seven days. They'll travel to play Texas State on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning home to play No. 14 Arizona State next weekend. Looming in the distance are series against conference powerhouses No. 7 UCLA and No. 2 Stanford.

"It's just two more opportunities to get better." Horton said. "I'd rather get back up on the horse and get some things fixed."

"We've got a tremendous stretch here that we're going to find out a lot about the 2012 Ducks."


Attendance at PK Park was 1,090

Jones, Healy and Garlick combined to go 6-for-8 at the plate with two RBI and two walks. The rest of the lineup combined to go 2-for-22.

Tessar gave up two earned runs, five hits, and recorded seven strikeouts and three walks in 6 1/3 innings. He earned a no decision.

Three Ducks were caught stealing during the game.

The Ducks left seven men on base compared to Utah's 11.

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