Uncharacteristic mistakes and some bad luck caused the Ducks to drop game three against Stanford, costing them the sweep and a precious win.
Trent Paddon started in place of the suspended Josh Graham but his nerves showed early, giving up three lead-off singles through 3 2/3 innings pitched.
Drew Jackson opened the game by punching a single up the middle. Beau Branton laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Jackson into scoring position, setting up a Tommy Edman RBI single to get the scoring started for the Cardinal.
Edman made his way to third on two wild pitches but failed to score, forcing Stanford to settle for a 1-0 lead.
Oregon showed great patience at the plate all day, drawing two walks to start the game. Jakob Goldfarb worked his way back from an 0-2 count to draw a lead-off walk and Austin Grebeck followed suit, putting two men on with no outs for Mitchell Tolman.
Stanford’s defense continued to keep the Ducks under control however, forcing Tolman to ground into a double play and handling a hard grounder by Phil Craig- St. Louis to end the first.
Quinn Brodey jumped on the first pitch of the second inning, singling to left field. Paddon showed some heads up playmaking ability as he took Alex Dunlap‘s sacrifice bunt and threw out Brodey at second, keeping Stanford out of scoring position. Two more grounders prevented the Cardinal from extending their lead.
Paddon started to find his groove by the fourth inning, but a solo home run by Brodey put Stanford up 2-0. A single by Jesse Kuet brought an end to Paddon’s day as head coach George Horton called on Cooper Stiles with two outs in the fourth inning. Stiles forced Jack Klein to ground out to third and put an end to Stanford’s threat.
The Ducks offense was quiet until the fourth as their patient approach at the plate started to pay off. Grebeck drew his second walk of the day, Tolman sliced a single to left and sacrifices by Craig- St. Louis and Scott Heineman brought Grebeck home, keeping the Ducks in the game 2-1.
Thanks to a clean inning in the top of the fifth by Stiles, the Ducks offense capitalized on the opportunity to strike back, scoring four runs in the bottom of the inning, taking the lead 5-2.
Daniel Patzlaff got things going with a single up the middle and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Mark Karaviotis reached on a fielder’s choice as Patzlaff was thrown out at third. Goldfarb hit a single to left-center and Grebeck worked his third walk of the day to load the bases for Tolman.
Tolman ripped a two RBI double for his 29th career multi-RBI game, tying him for second all- time with Kyle Garlick. Craig- St. Louis joined in the barrage, hitting a single to score Grebeck from third. Tolman scored on the same play on a throwing error at first, scoring his 93rd run, reaching another career milestone tying him for 10th all- time with KC Serna.
With a series sweep in sight the Ducks bullpen was called on to seal another victory. Stiles retired the first nine batters he faced but was removed in the 8th after Branton reached first on an infield single.
Stephen Nogosek was not on form today issuing a walk to the first batter he faced. A wild pitch then moved Branton and Edman to move into scoring position. Zach Hoffpauir took advantage of the situation by smacking a 2 RBI double off the left field wall, cutting the Ducks lead 5-4 forcing Oregon’s strong man Garret Cleavinger to be called in and put an end to the bleeding.
Coach Horton told us after the game that “there could be a second guess at taking Stiles out.” Oregon’s formula this year has been to go to Nogosek in the 8th inning but with Stiles “cutting them to shreds” and Nogosek working in the previous two games Horton said he “took a little bit of the blame there.”
Cleavinger, who has been nearly unhittable this season, got right to work, striking out the first batter he faced and retired Dunlap to get the Ducks out of the inning.
The game came unraveled in the top of the ninth however as Kuet lined a single into center field to open the frame. Jonny Locher was brought in to run for Kuet and scored on a Branton single. J.B Bryant nearly gunned down Locher at home on the play but the ball came out of Tim Susnara‘s glove as he applied the tag, tying the game for Stanford 5-5. The throw home allowed Branton to reach second, setting up the go ahead run.
The next play was eerily similar as Edman ripped an RBI single, plating the winning run and reached second on the throw home. The Ducks were unable to answer back in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Cardinal a 6-5 win.
While the sweep wasn’t a necessity according to coach Horton the loss definitely stings, “you know, when you’re 2-0 and you don’t get a sweep and you have a 5-2 lead heading into the ninth, you’re crushed” he told reporters after the game.
The Ducks did what they needed to do this weekend by winning an important Pac-12 series despite missing the sweep. Oregon has 13 games left on their schedule and their “magic number” now hovers around eight. They are headed to Corvallis Tuesday night to face the Beavers in a nonconference game.
Even if their Pac-12 record is not on the line Tuesday night the Ducks have an opportunity to boost their RPI, pushing them that much closer to Omaha.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove