Oregon was due for a day like this. After being dominated by the Fullerton pitching staff in the first two games of the series, the Oregon offense kicked into overdrive as the Ducks (8-3) salvaged game three of their series with Cal State Fullerton (10-1) 9-1. Cole Irvin was also dominant, limiting the deadly Fullerton offense to just one run.
Irvin’s seven inning outing was good enough to earn him his third win of the season, and he improved to a team best 3-0. Irvin allowed eight hits and a walk but stranded eight Fullerton batters throughout his outing in an incredibly productive outing. Batters could not get find a way to make good contact all game, as Irvin forced 60% of his batters faced to hit ground balls. The freshman has been performing as advertised, and then some so far this season.
The real story of the day was resurgent Oregon offense, and the Ducks pushed across nine runs off of fourteen hits. This performance truly came out of nowhere; not only was the Oregon offense struggling coming into the game, but the Fullerton pitching staff has been dominant in nearly every game they have played so far this season. That would all change in the top of the second on Sunday afternoon, when an error from the Fullerton shortstop kept an early Oregon rally alive. With Brett Thomas and Kyle Garlick on second and third respectively, Brett Hambright came through with his first RBI single of the day to give Oregon a 1-0 lead. Connor Hofmann executed a successful squeeze play in the next AB to give Oregon a 2-0 lead. In keeping up with the trend of the weekend, a mistake set up yet another bunch of Ducks runs.
In the bottom half of the second inning, it seemed as if there was some additional tension in a fairly uncritical part of the game. Perhaps it was because Cal State Fullerton hadn’t trailed at the end of an inning all season. That means tehy have goen 90+ innings without trailing once (color me impressed)! But, all streaks have to end at some point, and Fullerton’s streak ended as Irin made quick work of the Titans after giving up a one-out hit.
The Ducks struck again in the fourth inning, when Fullerton mistakes again set up more Oregon opportunities. After walking Kyle Garlick with one out, Titan starter Grahamm Wiest threw an errant pickoff to first base. The ball scooted by the first baseman, and found its way into right field. Garlick advanced all the way around to third as Ryan Hambright came up again with runners in scoring position. Hambright came into the game with just two hits in 36 at bats, and was desperate for some sign of hope with the bat. After getting an RBI single in the second inning, Hambright came through with a second RBI single in the fourth. The third baseman earned yet another RBI single in the sixth inning, easily making him the offensive MVP of the game. Late in the game, Shaun Chase got his first homerun of the season, and the Ducks went on to rout the Titans in the series finale.
The offensive MVP of the series, however, was Ryon Healy, who went 6-13 over the weekend; knocking in an RBI, scoring two runs, and hitting two doubles in the process. If the two leadoff hitters were anywhere near as productive as Healy had been this weekend, Oregon probably wouldn’t have been in such dire situations earlier in the series. Aaron Payne had just one hit over the weekend, and really struggled to just get the ball out of the infield. Scott Heineman struggled against Fullerton as well, going 2-12 against the Titans.
Today, the middle of the lineup truly carried the Ducks in the critical middle innings, as the fourth, fifth, and sixth hitters were responsible for four of the nine runs scored on the day, and all four of them were crucial in putting Fullerton in an early hole. Their outburst today will go a long way in setting the tone for a huge week of baseball in Eugene, because Cal State Northridge, and #3 Vanderbilt are pegged for visits to PK Park.