Eighth inning meltdown spells doom for Ducks

An eighth inning meltdown saw the usually reliable Oregon Ducks pitching staff give up a lead and six runs en route to an 8-3 loss to the Washington State Cougars (19-19, 6-7) on Saturday afternoon at PK Park.

The No. 8 ranked Ducks (27-11, 12-5) turned to closer Jimmie Sherfy for the five out save in place of reliever Tommy Thorpe. After walking the tightrope in last night's victory where he loaded the bases before registering the final out, Sherfy found himself in a similar situation on Saturday, one that would have a very different ending.

Facing the Cougars two most dangerous hitters, Sherfy put both men on by hitting Taylor Ard and walking Derek Jones to load the bases. Designated hitter Adam Nelubowich made Sherfy (3-2) pay with a two-run double that not only put the Cougars ahead, but opened the floodgates for their offense.

"In retrospect maybe I played that a little bit wrong," UO head coach George Horton said. "The plan going into that inning was that Thorpe would throw the eighth and Jimmie would throw the ninth, but I thought that was a critical point of the game and I didn't like the matchup of Thorpe versus Ard because of the way we try to pitch him."

Collin Slaybaugh added a RBI groundout. Tommy Richards followed that with a RBI single to chase Sherfy, which brought on right-hander Joey Housey, who couldn't stop the bleeding. Following a two-run single by shortstop Ian Sagdal, the Ducks finally got the third out, 10 batters, four hits and six runs later.

There were no offensive rallies for the Ducks as the Cougars bullpen, led by Spencer Jackson (2-1) shut down the Ducks in the later innings. Despite the crushing blow, Horton said the team will handle business as usual heading into Sunday's finale.

"I shouldn't have to say anything," Horton said. "The obvious is this group's been a pretty resilient group. They don't need a pep talk."

The Cougars stuck early after Ducks starter Jake Reed plunked leadoff man Kyle Johnson with the first pitch of the game. Johnson scored later in the inning on Ard's RBI groundout to give Washington State a 1-0 advantage.

Jason Monda added a solo home run in the second inning, but the Ducks responded with a three run third inning spurred by the continuing hot streak of designated hitter Kyle Garlick.

Garlick, who had three RBI yesterday, evened the ball game with a two out, two-run double off of Cougars starter Joe Pistorese. Garlick scored on the very next play when Cougars third baseman Patrick Claussen committed a throwing error on Ryon Healy's grounder, giving the Ducks a 3-2 lead.

"There's not a long list of guys that have been very consistent with RBI opportunities when they get in the box, but Kyle's one of them," Horton said.

From there Reed battled, racking up his pitch count, but keeping the Cougars off of the scoreboard. By the time he exited after the seventh inning, he had given up two runs on six hits, striking out five, and he was still on the hook for his fourth consecutive victory.

"That's probably the silver lining today was Jake's performance and he grinded through that," Horton said. "That was a pretty difficult challenge and some things went tough on him and he handled it extremely well."

But, the combination of Thorpe and Sherfy wasn't as effective as it was on Friday night. Thorpe plunked Johnson to put the tying run on and Horton went to Sherfy early in order to get a favorable matchup between him and Ard.

The rubber match will be crucial for the Ducks in order to keep pace in the conference standings. Though No. 11 UCLA lost on Saturday to Oregon State, No. 13 Arizona emerged victorious against Washington, giving them a one game lead over the Ducks and Bruins for first place.

"We just got to come back and punch them in the mouth right back," Garlick said. "We've got to come out swinging tomorrow, just have a good strong fight within us."

The series finale is Sunday at noon.

GAME NOTES –

Ryon Healy's fifth inning single gave him a nine game hit streak, which is a season high by any Ducks player this season.

Brett Hambright was 3-for-3 and reached base four times on Saturday.

Aaron Payne extended his consecutive games reaching base streak to 14 after getting hit by a pitch in the third inning. Garlick extended his streak to 11 with his double.

J.J. Altobelli has been ruled out of any action for Sunday's game with an injured shoulder according to Horton. Aaron Jones is listed as day-to-day with his sprained ankle. He might be available for an at-bat on Sunday.


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