The number 1 seed Oregon Ducks used a critical two-run 8th inning to come from behind and beat South Dakota State 3-2 in their first game of the Eugene Regional Friday night.
Junior first baseman Ryon Healy delivered the go-ahead two run double with one out in the 8th that lit up PK Park and ultimately set up All-American closer Jimmie Sherfy to finish out the 9th.
Aaron Machbitz put the Jackrabbits on the board first with an RBI single in the 2nd inning, scoring Daniel Telford from third. Telford would put South Dakota State up 2-0 in the fourth after a slow roller was mishandled.
The Ducks would score an important run in the 5th inning to make the score 2-1. Connor Hofmann came around to score on a wild pitch after reaching on an error to lead off the inning.
Coach George Horton made an interesting starting pitching choice, deciding to go with Jake Reed on the mound in game one instead of ace Cole Irvin or hot-handed Tommy Thorpe.
In an interview at practice on May 29th, Horton mentioned that he chooses his rotation to win the tournament and that he has confidence with the young righty in big games.
Reed didn’t disappoint, though he has had struggles with command in his past few outings, the sophomore bounced back, going seven strong innings allowing just one earned run on five hits. Garrett Cleavinger received the win after a scoreless 8th.
The Jackrabbits controlled most of the game primarily due to the resilient pitching from ace Layne Somsen. The senior right-hander did a good job keeping the Oregon batters off-balanced, mixing in first pitch breaking balls for strikes and keeping fastballs low in the zone.
Somsen went seven innings, allowing two runs on just one hit, but his night ended after a leadoff walk led to a call to the bullpen.
Relief pitcher J.D. Moore was called on with the tying run on first and that’s when the nerves set in.
Senior shortstop J.J Altobelli willed the Ducks to victory, leading off the 8th inning with a walk. Presuming batter Brett Thomas moved Altobelli over with a sacrifice bunt, putting the tying run into scoring position.
After a pitch hit Aaron Payne, slugger Ryon Healy cleared the bases with a double to right center field, giving Oregon the lead 3-2. Healy came to the plate 0 for 3 on the day but with fresh meat on the mound, we knew he wouldn’t go quiet for long.
Jimmy Sherfy closed out the game in the 9th, picking up his 21st save of the season.
Healy’s magical hit may be the spark Oregon needs heading into a tougher bout Saturday, as they face the 20th-ranked Rice Owls, who are coming off a 3-2 extra-inning win over San Francisco on Friday in the winner’s bracket at 6 p.m.