There was a reason why Hawai’i's broadcast team called J.J. Altobelli “the pest.” The senior shortstop tortured the Rainbow pitching staff in all four games of the opening series, and led the Ducks to a fourth straight victory over Hawai’i 4-2. Oregon (4-0) used timely offense and consistently effective pitching to sweep the Rainbows (0-4), and start the season off the right way.
Altobelli was unstoppable over opening weekend, batting .462 (6 for 13) from the bottom spot on the lineup. His position in the batting order was crucial in many of Oregon’s two out rallies over the weekend. The game started the same way as yesterday, as the Rainbows worked out a run in the very first inning off of Oregon’s veteran starter Jeff Gold. Gold shook off the early deficit, and shut the Hawai’i offense down for four additional innings.
In the top of the fifth inning, Oregon finally cracked Hawai’i's starting pitcher Corey Mac Donald (0-1). Steven Packard worked a walk to start the inning, then a Shaun Chase double moved runners to second and third. Altobelli started his big day with an RBI single to center, scoring Packard, and moving Chase to third. Altobelli moved to second on the throw, setting the table for the top of the lineup. Aaron Payne pushed home another run with a sacrifice fly to centerfield. After Scott Heineman grounded out, Brett Thomas hit a two out RBI double to push the score to 3-1.
Gold entered the bottom half of the fifth with the lead, and plenty of confidence. After getting two outs in the inning, Austin Wobrock hit a ground ball right back up the center of the diamond. The comebacker ended up drilling Gold in the left ankle. After receiving medical attention on the field, Gold was helped off the field by his teammates.
The junior pitcher was injured at a most inopportune time, as he only pitched 4.2 innings (one out short of the required minimum innings pitched necessary to receive a win as a starter). Jordan Spencer (1-0) quickly warmed up and relieved Gold nicely, finishing the fifth inning to receive the win.
The Oregon bullpen would only allow one run following Gold’s departure as Darrell Hunter, Christian Jones, and Jimmie Sherfy closed the series out for Spencer and Gold. With a scoreless ninth inning, Sherfy earned his second save of the season.
Opening weekend was a spectacular showcase of everything that Oregon will need to win in a competitive Pac-12 conference. The Ducks used their elite pitching staff to keep the opposition from scoring in bunches, and used their disciplined offense to take advantage of basically every mistake the Hawai’i pitching staff made. By leveraging extra opportunities through perfectly placed bunts, hard hit ground balls, stolen bases, and smart at bats, Oregon made it hard for the Rainbows to put up a consistent fight all weekend long. If the Ducks can execute like they did this weekend all season long, they will definitely be a contender for not only the Pac-12 title, but a bid to Omaha.
PK Park will open its gates for the first time this season on Friday night as the Ducks will return for their home opener against LMU. Stay tuned on FishDuck.com for more coverage of the 2013 Oregon Baseball team.