There’s nothing like an early season nail biter as Oregon’s pitching staff came through with some big outs late in the game against a pesky Hawai’i squad to win 5-4. After a low scoring affair to start the season, both Oregon (2-0) and Hawai’i (0-2) saw a little more offensive production in game two of their opening series.
Hawai’i's starter Quentin Torres-Costa had a decent outing, but the Rainbow pitcher made plenty of mistakes in his outing, and the Ducks took advantage of nearly every extra runner Torres-Costa allowed. Reliever-turned-starter Tommy Thorpe (1-0) pitched his way out of several jams in his season debut, while the rest of the Oregon bullpen closed out the game in heart pounding fashion.
Ryon Healy led the way offensively for Oregon as the junior went three for three, and knocked in his first run of the season. Ryan Hambright, Kyle Garlick, and Brett Thomas each added one RBI as well.
Oregon’s first runs came in the second inning, when the Ducks applied pressure and took advantage of Hawai’i mistakes early in the game. A Kyle Garlick sacrifice fly, followed by timely wild pitches pushed two runs across in the inning. Hawai’i quickly responded, scoring its first run of the season in the bottom of the second off of a Tyler Young single. Thorpe was able to strand two batters on base, ending the Rainbow rally, and holding the score at 2-1 Oregon.
The Ducks scored again in the third inning, taking advantage of more Hawai’i mistakes. Brett Thomas walked, advanced into scoring position off of a wild pitch, and scored off of a Healy RBI double, pushing Oregon’s lead to 3-1.
Thorpe was able to strand two runners in scoring position in the third inning, dancing out of danger for the second inning in a row.
Following a quick fourth inning, Oregon got another rally going in the fifth. Torres-Costa made another mistake, hitting Aaron Payne to concede another base runner. Payne proceeded to steal second, and promptly scored off of a Brett Thomas double to left field. After an intentional walk, Brett Hambright singled to right, scoring Thomas to push Oregon’s lead to 5-1.
Matt Cooper came in to relieve Torres Costa to close out the fifth leaving the starter’s line at 4.2 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, just three strikeouts, and three crucial walked batters.
Thorpe continued his tightrope act in the fifth inning, stranding the bases loaded to end another Hawai’i threat. With the score held at 5-1, the new starter’s outing ended after a quality five innings. Thorpe allowed seven hits, but only gave up one run to the Rainbows in what we could call a promising debut.
Cole Wiper made his first appearance of his young career in relief of Thorpe in the sixth inning, and immediately got into trouble. The redshirt freshman gave up three consecutive hits, allowing two runs without recording an out in his debut performance. Darrell Hunter made his season debut in relief of Wiper, and Hawai’i turned up the heat even more. Hunter hit the first batter he faced, then gave up a single, loading the bases with no outs.
With the tying run at second base, Hunter got the next batter to pop out to right field, freezing the runners with one away. The LCC transfer then dialed up a clutch double play ball to the shortstop to get out of the inning with the lead in tact. After the dust cleared, Oregon kept a 5-3 lead.
In the eighth inning, Garrett Cleavinger became the third reliever to make their season debut with the Ducks, earning a clutch 1-2-3 inning in his first inning pitched to keep the score at 5-3. Cleavinger’s hold set the stage for the All American closer Jimmie Sherfy’s to shut things down in the ninth.
The Rainbows had a different idea; the Hawai’i second baseman Andre Real singled to lead off the inning, then pinch hitter Marc Flores worked a walk. A passed ball moved the runners to second and third, with the latter representing the tying run. Sherfy dug deep and got Pi’ikea Kitamura to pop out to center field for the first out, keeping the runners at bay. The next batter Trevor Podratz grounded out to second base, scoring Real on the fielder’s choice (an unearned run for Sherfy), making the score 5-4 Oregon. With the tying runner just 90 feet away at third base, Sherfy got the final Rainbow batter to fly out to left field, ending the game.
Although Wiper’s debut was a little shaky, Oregon’s bullpen looked as composed as ever, coming through with their backs against the wall multiple times in the late-going. If Oregon can score five runs for this bullpen every night, the Ducks will win a lot of games this season.
Game three of the series is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, when Oregon’s star recruit Cole Irvin will make his debut against Hawai’i's right hander Connor Little.