Perhaps Oregon’s offense goes as the weather does: the sunny beaches of Hawai’i left Oregon’s bats hot, but the frigid rain in Eugene left the Oregon bats cold on Friday night at PK Park. The Ducks dropped their home opener to LMU 7-2 in rather disappointing fashion.
Jake Reed (1-1) had flashes of brilliance in his second start of the season, striking out batter after batter, and stringing long strings of consecutive outs together. That is, until the fifth inning. After getting Reed to consistently work deep into the pitch count, and relent an early run, the Lions took advantage of the starter’s fatigue, and pelted Reed for four runs in the fifth. Reed’s second start had some great, and ugly numbers. Reed’s five runs allowed ballooned his ERA to 3.27, but the sophomore also tied his career high in strikeouts with eight batters fanned in the home opener. If Reed can find a way to keep his pitch count down, and perhaps seek ground balls as opposed to strikeouts, the effectiveness we saw in the early innings should be more consistent late in games.
On the other side, Oregon’s offense was torched by the LMU starter Colin Welmon (1-1). The Lion ace threw six shutout innings, striking out nine batters. Any time half of a team’s outs in the first six innings are on balls not put in play, an offense is going to struggle to put runs on the board. And that is precisely what happened: Oregon seemed to have a good beat on Welmon in the early innings, loading the bases in the first and second innings, but could not put a run across.
After those early inning blips, Welmon settled down and allowed just one hit for the remainder of his outing. Oregon really had no answer for Welmon’s dynamic arsenal of pitches.
There were a few bright spots in the Oregon offense, however. Scott Heineman had three hits, and worked two walks in the game, giving him a perfect on base percentage for the home opener. J.J. Altobelli was equally impressive, scoring both of Oregon’s runs off of a 2-out hit, and three walks. Altobelli consistently extended innings to bring up the top of the lineup yet again, and continues to prove his value at the bottom of the lineup.
Altobelli now leads the team in batting average (.500), walks earned (5), and on base percentage (.650).
It is ok to have these bad nights on offense every once in a while, but a lowly performance on opening night, especially with two aces facing each other, caught many fans by surprise. If Oregon wants to compete for a Pac-12 title, they will need to be able to work deep into counts, and at least challenge the Pac-12’s many elite pitchers that they will face on Friday nights. With the exceptions of Altobelli and Heineman, the entire lineup struggled, with only one other Duck getting a hit on Friday night. Hopefully we can see some visible improvement against superior pitching on Saturday afternoon.
Game two is scheduled for 2:00pm tomorrow at PK Park. Tommy Thorpe (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will get the start for Oregon, opposite LMU’s Trevor Megill (1-0, 0.00 ERA)