Keeping up with the trend set in yesterday’s article, it seems as if Oregon has gotten into a habit of getting their offense in the most unconventional fashions. After getting six runs on just two hits a day before, the Ducks pushed across six more runs on a beautiful afternoon at PK Park. However, all six runs were credited as unearned runs.
As strange as that sounds, timely errors and miscues by the LMU defense, or the LMU pitching staff put the Ducks in good scoring situations, and Oregon responded with timely hits to bring the runners home. The very core of Coach Horton’s conservative strategy was definitely on display in this one.
Cole Irvin (2-0) was fantastic yet again, earning his second win of the season in the rubber match of the series. The freshman pitched eight complete innings, allowing six hits, and just one run. Irvin also struck out three batters, and didn’t allow a free pass all game. The Lion offense was getting good contact off of Irvin right from the first frame, but the baseballs kept finding Oregon gloves, and more importantly, never allowed the Lions to compound their rallies into big innings.
One way a pitcher can avoid giving up big innings, in which opponents can rack up lots of runs on consecutive hits, is to avoid giving up extra base hits. That requires good accuracy from the pitcher, and stout defense from the outfield, and corner infielders. Irvin, and his defense, allowed no extra base hits on Sunday afternoon.
Another way to avoid those backbreaking innings is to keep a pitcher’s pitch count down. Irvin was able to retire 57% of his batters faced in less than three pitches. He also got the leadoff out in seven of his eight innings pitched. Irvin threw 98 total pitches, giving him an outstanding tally of about 12 pitches per inning, which allowed Irvin to stay fresh all day on the mound. Getting even deeper into those statistics, for every batter Irvin faced, 60% of them were down 0-1 in the count on the first pitch. Irvin would go on to get outs on nearly 78% of those at bats, showing that once Irvin is ahead in the count, he is doing a pretty good job of being in control of nearly every at bat. With that kind of efficiency, Irvin will be a fantastic pitcher for years to come.
On the other side of the script comes the Oregon offense, that has been somewhat of an enigma for the past few days. On one hand, taking advantage of your opponents mistakes is a perfectly good way to score runs, but Oregon will need to find a way to create its own offense, rather than waiting for the defense to mess up. LMU starting pitcher Aaron Griffin (1-1) was pegged with the loss despite pushing his ERA down with his outing.
Griffin was just as dominant as Irvin for most of the game, starting 54% of his batters faced with a first pitch strike, and then going on to retire a remarkable 85% of those batters. However, the Ducks were able to really wear Griffin down throughout his outing. Nearly 70% of Oregon’s at bats took more than three pitches, pushing Griffin’s pitchcount up to 18 pitches per inning, which really cost Griffin when he needed an out the most.
That moment came in the sixth inning, when the top of the Oregon lineup finally cracked the LMU starter. Trailing 1-0, Aaron Payne started the inning off by working a walk. Scott Heineman would follow with a sharply hit ground ball to short. LMU’s shortstop would make a nice snag to field the ball, but would fire an errant throw to second base in an attempt to start a double play. The ball pulled the second baseman off the bag, leaving both runners safe with no outs. As expected Brett Thomas laid down a perfect bunt to move the tying and go ahead runs up to second and third with no outs.
After starting Healy’s at bat with two balls, LMU’s manager decided to intentionally walk the Oregon slugger to load the bases and set up a potential double play ball to get the Lions out of the inning. Brett Hambright, who has been struggling out of the gate this season would strike out for the second out. The Oregon fans could sense yet another rally dying as Tyler Baumgartner came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded.
Baumgartner had been quietly having a very good day at the plate, despite being hitless to this point. The Junior had popped out to the short stop, and grounded out to the catcher in his first two at bats, but had seen seven pitches, and six pitches in each of those respective at bats. By his third at bat, Baumgartner had seen basically every one of Griffin’s pitches, and used that to his advantage in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After battling Griffin to a full count, Baumgartner finally got a pitch he could handle, and crushed the ball into deep left field. The towering double would score all three runners on base, and gave Oregon a 3-1 lead that they would not surrender.
The Ducks would add two more runs off of a pickoff error and balk in the 7th inning to push their lead to a final 6-1 count.
Strange things can happen in baseball, and Oregon got a good taste of it in the opening series at PK Park. Hopefully the Ducks will be able to get some runs in a bit more conventional fashion when they get their first midweek game of the season against Portland (2-6) on Tuesday evening at PK Park.