Let me tell you, it is much easier to watch this Oregon team when coach Horton’s small ball is working like it has been over the past few games. Just like in game one, Oregon’s starting pitcher was dominant for six innings, and the bullpen closed the game out in clean fashion yet again to top the Arizona Wildcats 5-1. The win clinches Oregon’s second consecutive Pac-12 series victory, and the Ducks really seem to be hitting their stride as the season grinds on.
Oregon’s (17-6, 4-1) starting pitcher this time around was Tommy Thorpe (3-2), who had a very similar line to Reed’s in game one; 6.2 innings pitched, six hits, and just one run allowed. Obviously, if Oregon’s starters can pitch this well every weekend, the Ducks won’t lose very many games. Because the starters are more likely to perform at a more mortal level at some point, it’s also good to know that the Oregon offense is starting to pick up the pace a bit as well.
Horton-ball came through early in the matchup, as Shaun Chase executed a perfect squeeze bunt up the first base line to score Scott Heineman who was pushed into scoring position through a single of his own, and another base hit by Tyler Baumgartner. This type of small ball, where runners are moved into scoring position by the way of hits instead of sacrifice bunts, is infinitely easier to understand from the stands, and shows just how Oregon can mask its offensive deficiencies with tactical bunts and base running. The other type of small ball, that has had Oregon’s best hitter in Ryon Healy bunting with a runner on first and one out in the inning, is not easy to grasp from the stands. Hopefully we see a lot more of the former type as the season progresses.
Arizona responded in the fourth inning to tie the game up at 1-1, but the Ducks answered right back in the next inning as Aaron Payne picked up Brett Thomas with two outs to regain the lead, 2-1. The Wildcats and Ducks were locked in a tight battle into the eighth inning, but it was time for Oregon’s bats to light up again.
Brett Thomas hit a single up the middle to start the inning, then moved up to second on a wild pitch, and was finally moved up to third as Aaron Payne executed a sacrifice bunt. Payne ended up reaching thanks to an Arizona error as they fielded the sacrifice. The miscue would bring Ryon Healy up to the plate with no outs and a runner in scoring position. The first baseman came through with a three run home run (4) over the left field wall to put the Wildcats away for good.
The Ducks will go for the sweep of the conference’s defending champions on Sunday at noon as Cole Irvin (3-1) looks to really settle into Pac-12 play.