The last time Oregon advanced this far was 1954, when the NCAA used a similar district format. That team made it to the College World Series. Ducks left fielder Brett Thomas led the Ducks offensive attack with a 2-for-4 day with three RBI. The run support was more than enough for starter Jake Reed, who pitched seven innings of two-hit shutout baseball with four walks and a career high eight strikeouts.
After blanking Cal State Fullerton behind a masterful three-hit shutout by Casey Delgado in the early afternoon game, the Governors earned their rematch against the Ducks in the day's second game, needing a win to force a winner-take-all playoff on Monday night.
The first meeting was clouded by controversy as the Ducks scored twice in the ninth inning, aided by a controversial call by the umpires that allowed them to tie the game and eventually win. Governors head coach Gary McClure stated after Friday's loss that he wanted another shot to avenge the loss.
There would be no controversy in this one.
The Ducks, playing as the away team, posted six runs on five hits in the first four innings, forcing two trips to the bullpen for the Governors. Starter Kacy Kemmer (2-1) lasted only two innings before McClure pulled him in favor of reliever Zane Leffew. Overall, six Governors relievers saw action during the course of the game.
Outside of Thomas, the Ducks manufactured additional runs via Horton's patented small ball approach with stolen bases and sacrifice bunts. Connor Hofmann made his walk count in the fourth inning, stealing two bases before Aaron Payne knocked him in with a safety squeeze bunt that led to two more runs in the inning.
Senior catcher Brett Hambright, who spent most of the weekend setting up runs with sacrifice bunts as little brother Ryan had a career weekend, added the dagger in the seventh inning with a two-run home run, which was also his first in a Ducks uniform.
"I knew he was coming with a fastball, so I cheated in," Hambright said. "He threw it right where I was looking and I was lucky enough to get the barrel on it."
Meanwhile, Reed (7-4) was unaffected by the long innings his offense was putting together, setting aside Governors batters with ease. When asked where it ranked on games he's personally witnessed, Horton lauded the young freshman pitcher.
"It's on the short list of one of the most spectacular efforts ever," Horton said.
Reed and reliever Joey Housey prevented the Governors from picking up where they left off against Fullerton, where they racked up nine hits and several more hard hit balls. According to McClure, the lack of firepower early on put his team in a hole they couldn't climb out of.
"If we could've got out to a good start swinging the bats it might have been a different game," McClure said.
Oregon now looks toward a matchup with Kent State next weekend after they beat Kentucky 3-2 on Sunday. The Golden Flashes tore through the Mid-American Conference with a 24-3 record, anchored by two 10-game winners in David Starn and Tyler Skulina, and four hitters with at least a .340 batting average.
Horton said that he has never competed against Kent State and doesn't know much about them, outside of his consideration of hiring Golden Flashes associate head coach Mike Birkbeck to mentor the pitching staff after assistant coach Andrew Checketts left to take over the UC Santa Barbara program this season.
But Horton added that he isn't selling them short, having followed their rise over the past couple of seasons.
"I do know they are an excellent pitching and defense program," Horton said, adding, "When any team can pitch and play defense you've got your hands full."
GAME NOTES —
Attendance at PK Park was 2,425.
The Ducks left 11 batters on base to the Governors seven.
Five Ducks batters were hit by pitches. Aaron Jones was plunked three times alone.
The official announcement of whether the Ducks will host a Super Regional will be made Monday at 8 p.m.