Oregon and Illinois State met up today at noon for the final game of a chippy four-game series. The Red Birds dropped the first two games of the series 8-5 and 4-2 before grinding out a ninth inning 3-2 win against the Ducks yesterday. Even though the score seemed close in yesterday’s matchup Illinois State was on base constantly and the Ducks pitchers were continuously having to get themselves out of jams. Red Birds senior pitcher Steve Heilenbach turned in a gem of a performance going 9 1/3 innings and walked away with the win.
The 12th ranked Ducks sent 6’6” junior David Peterson to the hill to make a grab at the series win for Oregon who would surely face a decent drop in the rankings if they allowed the Red Birds to leave Eugene with a split in the four-gamer. Peterson took on ISU’s David Meade who got roughed up in his last start giving up five runs on five hits in just 3 1/3 innings.
Peterson’s first inning started out kind of funky with a bloop single to right by leadoff man Daniel Dwyer that probably should have been caught by second basemen Daniel Patzlaff. Two batters later a dribbler came back to Peterson that he bobbled twice allowing Owen Miller aboard on an error. Both runners moved up when first basemen Phil Craig-St. Louis opted not to attempt a double play on a ball hit back to him and set up runners on second and third with two outs. A wild pitch then scored Dwyer from third and Peterson was able to get out of the inning on the next batter.
Craig-St.Louis and DH Steven Packard responded for the Ducks in the bottom of the second hitting two quick back-to-back doubles to lead off the inning, but Oregon went down swiftly after scoring the run.
In the top of the fourth Peterson ran into trouble immediately, giving up a double to Red Birds catcher Jean Ramirez who was leading off the inning and then walking the next batter Joe Kelch. ISU center fielder Sean Beesley then sac bunted over both runners over leaving Peterson with runners on second and third with one out.
Ryan Hutchinson then hit a fly ball out to Jakob Goldfarb in right field who completed the catch and then made what may have been the play of the series when he fired a laser beam to catcher Tim Susnara to gun down Jean Ramirez who was trying to score on the fly ball—getting Peterson out of a stressful inning damage free. After the game while discussing the play Peterson said, “I went to back up [the play] but I could’ve walked off the field. That kid has got an unbelievable arm; it’s just insane.”
The Oregon bats were quiet again for the majority of the game after scoring early and didn’t record a hit after scoring in the second until Jakob Goldfarb singled in Austin Grebeck in the sixth who had walked and moved into scoring position via an A.J. Balta groundout. The Ducks went up 2-1 but couldn’t muster any more offense in the inning. ISU starter David Meade left the game after giving up the run and finished with a line of three hits, three walks, and two earned runs in 5 and 1/3 innings.
After Peterson’s sketchy fourth inning he settled in and retired 12 Red Birds in a row striking out the side in the fifth while bringing his strikeout total to nine for the game later in the sixth—matching a career high which he’s hit twice and last did against UCLA in 2015. Peterson set a new high for innings pitched and the rest of his stat line read two hits, two walks, and only one earned run, bringing his ERA all the way down to 0.69 on the year. When asked if there was any thought of letting Peterson return for the ninth, head coach George Horton said, “No. I wasn’t even really going to let him go out for eight because of his pitch count… but he came off and looked right at me and said, ‘I want the eighth coach.’ So we let him out there and boom, boom, boom, he got us back in.”
The Ducks built their lead to 3-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth after loading the bases twice and Steven Packard knocking in an RBI with a sac fly while the Red Birds cycled between three pitchers in the inning.
Stephen Nogosek came in for the save in the ninth and quickly dismissed any notion of a comeback by setting the Red Birds down in order and sealing the Ducks win and the series win as well.
The Ducks return to PK Park Friday to kick off a three-game series with UC Santa Barbara before heading to the south for a week to take on Alabama and Ole Miss.
Two Ducks pitchers recorded career highs this weekend against Illinois State with Cole Irvin recording 12 K’s on Friday night and David Peterson going eight innings today besting his previous high of seven and a third innings which he did twice. Peterson also matched his career high for strikeouts with nine, which he has done three times now.
Travis Moniot was the only Duck to receive an at-bat this weekend and not record a hit in the four-game series.