EUGENE Ore—The Ducks (8-5) returned to PK Park tonight after a less than fortuitous trip to SEC country last weekend. Oregon’s solo game against Alabama was rained out and then the Mississippi State Bulldogs swept the Ducks. The offense was serviceable but less than sensational in the Mississippi State series and for the first time, this season the Ducks pitching was roughed up as all three of the Ducks starters were tagged with their first losses of the 2016 campaign.
Looking to bounce back in just about every facet of the game the Ducks opened Pac12 play against the Utah Utes (4-11) who has underperformed thus far in the year. The Utes have dropped six consecutive games against the Ducks with their last win coming on May 26th, 2013 in Salt Lake City.
Cole Irvin, who pitched in a season-low 5.1 innings and allowed 5 runs (3 earned) in last Friday’s loss to Miss. State, got into trouble quick allowing a leadoff double to Utes’ DH Kody Davis who scored after a sac bunt and a ground out to quickly put Utah up 1-0. Ducks center fielder Austin Grebeck walked to lead off the Ducks half of the first inning keeping his streak alive of reaching base in every game this season—and making it 27 consecutive games reaching safely going back to last year. The Ducks went down quietly after Grebeck reached.
Oregon responded in the bottom of the third after loading the bases with one out courtesy of a walk, single, and a hit batter. A.J. Balta lifted a high fly ball to left deep enough to allow Travis Moniot to reach home on the ensuing throw, knotting the game up 1-1.
Both starting pitchers cruised through most of their starts. Irvin allowed only two hits through his first six innings of work and Utah’s Jayson Rose looked strong throughout his start with his fastball sitting between 91-93 mph and used an effective slider that induced a lot of swing and misses. Rose got himself out of a jam in the bottom of the sixth when he allowed two consecutive two-out singles who then were moved into scoring position due to a passed ball. Rose recovered to strike out Jakob Goldfarb to end the inning without any damage. The Utes starter finished with 6 2/3 innings nine strikeouts and one earned run on three hits.
Irvin couldn’t avoid damage in the seventh after allowing a leadoff triple to Utes’ third baseman Dallas Carroll and then threw a wild pitch while facing the ensuing batter that allowed Carroll to score, putting Utah up 2-1. Irvin finished the seventh but labored through the inning throwing a lot of pitches but ultimately avoided letting the lead grow any further.
He returned to pitch the top of the eighth and gave up a leadoff single and the next runner reached on a throwing error by third basemen Matt Eureste on a sac bunt attempt. Irvin pitched to the next batter who sac bunted and then he was relieved by sophomore, Brac Warren. Warren walked the first batter he faced but catcher Tim Susnara let ball four get by him to allow a run in and moving the score to 3-1 before heading into the bottom of the eighth. Irvin’s final line read, 7.1 innings pitched, six hits, and two earned runs and he left the game on the hook for the loss.
The Utes added to their lead after left fielder Chandler Anderson turned an infield single into two stolen bases and scored on yet another passed ball on a ball four call.
“It’s almost like a vacuum when you get behind like that, you get a wild pitch or a ball up that we don’t catch or Brac isn’t throwing for strikes and it’s deflating,” George Horton said of the frustrating course of the game. With the score at 4-1, Horton brought in Jacob Bennett to spell Brac Warren. Bennett got a pop out to second and then picked off Ellis Kelly at first to end the inning.
Dylan Drachler who came in for Rose struck out five of the 13 batters he faced to wrap up the win for the Utes and extend the Ducks losing streak to four games. “One of our formulas is to win the seventh, eighth, and ninth and they went picket fence and we went zeros,” said Horton.
Game two of the series starts at 2 P.M. tomorrow afternoon where Matt Krook will look to get his up and down season on track and break the Ducks out of their current slump.
Photo Credit: Ryan Lund