The date was March 10. The time, about 1:45 p.m. Jimmie Sherfy had just given up a run in the top of the 8th, and Vanderbilt’s lead was now 5-2. The Ducks were going to get swept out of their own ballpark, and their record would fall to 10-6.
That’s where the game appeared to be headed, anyway.
In the bottom of the 8th, the Ducks took advantage of multiple Vandy mistakes, taking a 7-5 lead on two-run single by Scott Heineman. Sherfy sealed the victory in the ninth. Oregon’s record was now 11-5 and they could say they beat #2-ranked Vandy (once, at least).
Fast-forward 35 days and the Ducks’ record is 27-8 (17-3 since the Vandy win). The bats have come alive. The pitching, which had been solid before March 10, has also improved. The Ducks are just plain rollin’, and that March 10 victory sure seems like it propelled them in this direction.
After that game, Heimeman spoke to reporters (including me, working for KWVA).
“We’ve been playing hard, stuff just hasn’t really been going our way,” Heineman said.
He could see what many at the time were thinking: the team’s record wasn’t indicative of their true talent level. Maybe that is the only explanation for this blistering 20-game stretch. The Ducks might’ve just had a tough schedule and weren’t catching breaks those first 15 games, so some positive regression was in store.
But Heineman also said this: “It’s starting to turn around.”
I doubt he makes this quote if the Ducks lose that game.
In reality, there are several reasons why the Ducks have gone 17-3 since March 10, but I’m willing to bet the comeback over the #2 team in the nation is one of them. It certainly didn’t hurt.