The victory sets up a winner-take-all matchup on Monday night for the chance to advance to a Super Regional in the 2013 NCAA Division-I baseball championships.
Ryon Healy, led the way for Oregon with a 4-for-4 performance at the plate against the Owls, registering four RBI and two runs. Right fielder Scott Heineman followed with a 2-for-4 performance and three RBI of his own for the Ducks, a night after the offense put up only two hits against Rice starter Jordan Stephens.
Already with a sore back, Healy continued to do what he's done all season and put the Ducks ahead early with a solo home run in the first inning off of Rice starter John Simms. Simms lasted only four innings, giving up six runs on four hits, before a steady rotation of relievers came on for the Owls.
"He had a huge day," Oregon head coach George Horton said. "Courageous effort, obviously, by him."
The Ducks scored there times in the fourth inning, twice in the fifth and four times in the seventh to build a large lead. Healy often provided the spark, adding RBI doubles in the fifth and seventh innings before leaving the game for a pinch runner.
"The hitters, collectively, felt like we needed to step it up today," Ducks left fielder Tyler Baumgartner said.
The offense was enough for the pitching staff as right-hander Jeff Gold stifled the Rice offense. Having found out that he would be starting during the seventh inning of the previous game, Gold quickly readied himself to go. He was able to throw five strong innings, giving up only two hits, striking out four and walking none.
"I didn't want to lose," Gold said. "I didn't want the season to be over for all these guys."
From there, the Ducks turned to senior right-hander Darrell Hunter, who retired each of the nine batters he faced in order. Left-hander Jordan Spencer came on to close the combined three-hit shutout of the Owls. Thanks in part to Cole Irvin pitching a complete game earlier, Horton was able to execute his pitching strategy differently.
"I think it allowed us to pitch differently, more aggressively," Horton said.
An Oregon win on Monday would make it their second straight regional championship, and they would host North Carolina State, who won their regional, next weekend at PK Park.
With momentum seemingly back on their side, the Ducks are chomping at the bit to carry it over to Monday night.
"It's easier to come out the next day after a good performance and stay hot," Baumgartner said. "You don't have to go to bed worrying about what you did wrong."
The Owls and Ducks face off at 6 p.m. at PK Park.
GAME NOTES -
Attendance at PK Park was 1,467
Ducks left fielder Brett Thomas (hand, hip) was ruled out by Horton for Monday's game.
Horton revealed that catcher Shaun Chase was not supposed to start today's games, but was inserted into the lineup when Josh Graham showed up late to the ballpark, and was benched as a result for violating team rules. Chase had a home run to put the Ducks ahead in their 6-1 victory over USF