After taking three of four games from Illinois State at home last weekend the Ducks returned to PK Park for a three-game series against the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos come into PK Park as hot as anyone in college baseball right now on the heels of an 11-6 single game victory over UCLA and winning eight of their last nine games.
The Gauchos sent junior Shane Bieber to the mound to face off with Oregon’s own junior pitcher, Cole Irvin. Bieber’s last appearance came against Kentucky and was a solid outing in which he finished six and a third innings of work with seven hits no walks and giving up three earned runs. Not to be outdone Irvin is coming off a big appearance of his own last weekend. He dominated in the Ducks 4-2 win over Illinois State going seven innings allowing two runs on two hits and striking out a personal high 12 batters.
After the first two innings, it looked like the Ducks & Gauchos were headed for a pitchers duel with both sides being retired in order; Irvin retiring three via strikeouts and Bieber striking out two of his own. The defense was also superb throughout the entire game for the Ducks and later provided one of the plays of the afternoon.
The first hit of the game didn’t come until the bottom of the fourth when Oregon third basemen Matt Kroon jumped on a pitch from Beiber early in the count, lining a ball up the middle for a single. Kroon’s seemingly harmless single was the precursor to the hit parade that followed and effectively ended a stretch of great pitching on both sides.
Kroon advanced to third on an error on a pick off attempt and a groundout by shortstop Travis Moniot . Kroon made it home on the next batter beating out a throw to home on Daniel Patzlaff's sac fly to center making the score 1-0 Oregon.
The Gauchos started to make some noise in the top of the fourth when second basemen J.J. Muno hit a one-out double down the left field line early in the count. First basemen Kyle Plantier then hit a single to left and had Muno tearing around third to score but Oregon left fielder A.J. Balta came up throwing and gunned down Muno at the plate who collided with catcher Tim Susnara. Plantier took off for second seeing the collision but Susnara recovered quickly and his throw beat Plantier to second in plenty of time for an electric 7-2-4 double play to end the inning with no runs scored and getting Cole Irvin out of a jam.
Phil Craig-St. Louis responded to the electric defense in the following inning by hitting a two-out solo shot to deep right field that landed on top of the bullpen overhang moving the score to 2-0 for the Ducks.
The surge of hitting continued when UCSB’s Michael McAdoo doubled to left center in the top of the fifth and advanced to third on an A.J. Balta fielding error in left when he mishandled the ball. McAdoo scored when catcher Thomas Rowan flew out to deep left to put the Gauchos on the board.
With the game at 2-1 headed into the bottom of the fifth the Ducks bats kept rolling. Tim Susnara singled to right center and immediately scored when Matt Kroon took another early count pitch to deep left center for a double. Shane Bieber then gave Kroon another free base when he balked on a pickoff attempt. Two batters later Daniel Patzlaff knocked in his second run of the game by way of the sac fly, lifting the ball to left field leaving Kroon plenty of time to scamper home building the Ducks lead up to 4-1.
Both pitchers were finally able to settle down in the sixth after three consecutive innings of scoring. Cole Irvin faced four batters in the sixth and got a double play to keep his pitch count low at an impressive 67 pitches headed into the seventh. Shane Bieber also turned in a quick inning and left Phil Craig-St.Louis stranded at second after he recorded his second hit of the night with a double.
Beiber couldn’t sustain his sixth inning success, as he got into a quick jam in the bottom of the seventh inning. Tim Susnara led off with a bunt single and Matt Kroon followed him up with his third hit of the afternoon through the hole between third and short. Beiber responded by striking out Travis Moniot on a third strike bunt attempt and then striking out Daniel Patzlaff looking. With two outs and a chance to get out of the inning with no damage, Beiber walked the Ducks’ leadoff man Austin Grebeck to load the bases. A.J. Balta, who had been scuffling at the plate a bit as of late, took two quick strikes before singling down the middle scoring two runs with the help of a ricochet off the end of J.J. Muno’s glove at second. Balta also advanced to second during the confusion of the play and the Ducks lead sat at 6-1 when the play ended.
After the Balta hit, Beiber was pulled from the game for reliever Kenny Chapman who immediately reloaded the bases by walking Jakob Goldfarb and then walked in a run with Phil Craig-St.Louis at the plate moving the score to 7-1. Steven Packard came up with a chance to turn the bottom of the seventh from a good inning to a great inning. Packard capitalized on his shot with a bases-clearing double on a full count making it 10-1 Ducks. Oregon batted around back to Travis Moniot’s spot in the order before the inning came to a close.
The Gauchos then cycled through two more relievers the rest of the way while Ducks head coach George Horton replaced his lineup top to bottom save for the struggling Travis Moniot and center fielder Austin Grebeck. The late inning replacements were able to string together three more runs in the bottom of the eighth with the help of a Mark Karaviotis single to pad the lead at 13-1.
The bulky lead allowed freshman pitching addition Matt Mercer to get in a very impressive season debut in the bottom of the ninth setting down the Gauchos in order and recording a strikeout.
Tomorrow's game two matchup has been moved up from 2 PM to Noon in an effort to beat some expected rain later in the evening.