Cougars dismantle Ducks in series finale

When it was all said and done on Sunday afternoon at PK Park, the No. 8 ranked Oregon Ducks (27-12, 11-7) found themselves on the wrong end of a 10-6 drubbing by Washington State (20-16, 7-7), in a game riddled with errors, injuries and lost tempers. And that's before you factor in the hitting display put on by the Cougars, who handed the Ducks their first series loss in nearly a month.

Translation: whatever could've gone wrong for the Ducks, did go wrong.

Despite that, Oregon somehow found themselves with the tying run at the plate in the ninth inning following a three-run rally. However, Cougars reliever Anthony Drobnick got catcher Shaun Chase to ground out to second base to end the game.

"They outplayed us, they threw more strikes, they played better defense, they put the ball in play more consistently, they sustained the effort and, as you could tell, my guys didn't roll over," UO head coach George Horton said.

Cougars first baseman Taylor Ard did most of the damage, blasting two home runs and racking up five RBI on his way to a 3-for-5 afternoon at the plate. The dangerous first baseman put his team up early with a three-run home run before Ducks starter Jeff Gold (5-3) could even record an out in the first inning.

The Ducks responded on Brett Thomas' two-run single off of Cougars starter Tanner Chleborad (3-0) with two out in the bottom half of the inning, but it was as much of a fight as they would put up offensively until it was too late.

Ard sparked a scoring streak in the fifth inning with two outs that saw five straight Cougars reach base en route to four runs. A two-run double by third baseman Patrick Claussen with the bases loaded and a two-run single by second baseman Tommy Richards marked the end of Gold's day, and put the Cougars in firm control.

"All these teams in the Pac will come out and beat you if you let them," Ducks third baseman Thomas Walker said. "I'm not saying we did that, I'm just saying that it's tough to lose a series at home, a series that you need to have, but we're going to get right back on it and be ready on Tuesday."

As a result, the Ducks pitching was stretched thin for the second consecutive game as four relievers saw action, including Jordan Spencer, who pulled double duty as the designated hitter as well.

The relief staff couldn't stop Ard, who went deep again in the eighth inning, clanging the ball off of the light post in left field to put the Cougars up 10-2 and seemingly putting the game out of reach.

To add injury to insult, Thomas and shortstop Kevin Shepherd collided going for a fly ball in the seventh inning, sending both players to the turf. Thomas took the brunt of the hit and remained down for a few minutes before being escorted back to the locker room. Shepherd said he was a little fuzzy after the collision, but remained in the game.

"It was a pretty crazy play," Shepherd said. "Just both going hard for it, both running full speed, called it at the same time."

Horton then got ejected after disputing balls and strikes following a Kyle Garlick strikeout in the eighth inning. He argued that Garlick checked his swing on strike three, but first base umpire Travis Katzenmeier saw differently.

"Part of my heartburn on that particular call was I thought the umpires thought that we were just going to roll over and the game was over and I wanted to make sure he realized that my athletes will never roll over and never quit, and they put themselves in position to tie the game with the tying run at the plate and I'm very proud of them for that," Horton said.

The ploy nearly worked as Andrew Mendenhall, Thomas' replacement, stroked a solo home run that set up the attempted rally an inning later. But, it was too little too late.

"We're never going to quit on a ball game so that's our mentality, that's our mantra," Walker said.

Though the losses could be reflective of the injury bug finally catching up with Oregon, they won't have time to dwell as they prepare for a non-league matchup against rival Oregon State on Tuesday night at home. The Beavers took two out of three games against No. 11 UCLA over the weekend.

"The fact that it's a really good baseball team should help motivate us to be ready and come back to practice tomorrow and be ready on Tuesday," Horton said.

GAME NOTES –

Attendance at PK Park was 2,004.

Horton said he was not sure if Thomas had suffered a concussion on the collision. There is no timetable for how long he will be out.

Horton said that while Aaron Jones (ankle sprain) may not be available on Tuesday against Oregon State, he should be available in time for the Cal series next weekend. J.J. Altobelli (shoulder) is still listed as day-to-day and will be evaluated by a doctor on Monday.

Walker said this of the collision between Shepherd and Thomas: "I got a pretty good look at it actually, and it looked pretty severe. I mean, Brett got his head hit pretty hard by Kevin and then it hit the turf pretty hard too. You know, I'm really praying that he's alright and hopefully he'll get back in the lineup soon because he's a big part of this team."

Ryon Healy extended his hit streak to 10 games with a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning.

Aaron Payne extended his consecutive games reaching base streak to 15 games with a single in the first inning, which is tied for a season high with Jones. Garlick extended his streak to 12 games with a walk in the third inning.


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