The Ducks battled their way to a 3-2 win in 11 innings to win the first of several pivotal series to finish their regular season. Mitchell Tolman had a career night going 3-4 with a walk and a run scored. The Oregon victory was a team effort as head coach George Horton used 20 different players to finish off the Huskies.
Josh Graham had his first start of his college career Sunday afternoon and was exactly what the Ducks needed. Graham allowed only one run on three hits through five innings of work while striking out four. The middle reliever/catcher has excelled in the utility role this season giving up just seven runs over 32 innings. He needed only seven pitches to retire the Huskies in order to start the game.
The scoring opened up in the third when Joey Morgan hit a double to deep left-center, plating Jack Meggs to put the Huskies up 1-0.
The Ducks answered back in the bottom half when Mark Karaviotis stroked a triple to right-center. Jakob Goldfarb got his bat working, following two nights of stellar defense, smacking an RBI single to tie the game at one apiece.
Graham mixed together pin-point control and some wildness in the 4th as he struck out three of the four batters he faced. Branden Berry reached base with one out after being hit for the second time in as many innings. A wild pitch followed by a passed ball would move him all the way to third; however, Graham overpowered Alex Schmidt and Chris Baker to keep Washington off the board.
The Ducks’ bats were working tonight but they struggled to drive in runs. They left 16 men on base, including a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth. To their credit, the bullpen excelled once again as they stranded six runners and allowed only a single run.
The biggest scare for the Ducks was a bases-loaded, no out jam in the 6th. Trent Paddon was called in and quickly forced a double play that scored Bishop from third, giving the Huskies the lead 2-1. Washington did not score again as Schmidt grounded out to second on the next play.
Tolman helped the Ducks strike back in the 7th, hitting his 48th career double — his second of the day — placing him second on the all-time list for Oregon. capitalizing on Washington mistakes, Tolman advanced himself to third on wild pitches twice on Sunday. He had failed to get home in the 5th, but Phil Craig- St. Louis hit a hard bouncer to first, allowing Tolman to even the score for the Ducks.
It looked as though Oregon would put the game away in the ninth as Goldfarb reached third on a dropped ball in deep center to start the inning. Walks issued to Tolman and Craig- St. Louis loaded the bases for Scott Heineman with one out. A high fly ball to left appeared to give Austin Grebeck, who was running for Goldfarb, a chance to win the game for the Ducks; however, a strong throw from the outfield and a controversial call at the plate doubled up Grebeck and forced the game into extra innings.
Garret Cleavinger (3-1, 1.80 ERA) continued to dominate, picking up the win while striking out six batters over two innings, a new career high for Oregon’s stud closer, who now has 46 K’s on the year.
The Huskies’ mistakes ultimately led to their demise. Troy Rallings issued a walk to Nick Catalano, hit Tolman and walked Craig- St. Louis in the 11th to load the bases once again for the Ducks. Following a Heineman strikeout, Rallings walked pinch hitter J.B. Bryant to seal the Huskies’ fate, giving Oregon the series win.
It may have not been the ideal way to finish the game but coach Horton was happy to come away with the win. “It would have been nicer with a crisp line drive or a clean single,” he said after the game, “but heck, we’ll take it.”
Oregon has five more series to play as well as two individual games against Oregon State. The Ducks need to win each of those series if they are to have an outside chance at making the playoffs. Horton did not have a specific number he was aiming for but told us, “One of the magic numbers typically is 35.” Oregon is now 25-19 following today’s victory. With 16 games left on the schedule; ten more wins is not impossible and the resilient Ducks are up to the challenge.
Top Photo by Dave Peaks