David Peterson returned to the rotation after missing last weekend with a knee injury suffered against USC. Following the precedent set by Cole Irvin on Friday night, Peterson pitched into the 7th inning, leading the Ducks to a 4-3 victory over Stanford.
Both offenses had big innings, putting all of their points on the board at once, making for a short afternoon of baseball following the spring football game across the parking lot at Autzen Stadium.
The Ducks’ offense exploded out of the gates in the bottom of the second as Scott Heineman, Brandon Cuddy and David Patzlaff hit three consecutive singles, loading the bases with no outs for Tim Susnara. Susnara parked the fourth pitch he saw in the left field corner, doubling home Heineman and Cuddy to put the Ducks up 2-0 early. Mark Karaviotis and Jakob Goldfarb each hit sacrifice flies, emptying the bases and giving Oregon a comfortable 4-0 lead.
Following the outburst in the second inning, much of the afternoon featured a pitchers’ duel between Peterson and Stanford starter, Marc Brakeman, who retired 12 Ducks in a row to finish his afternoon.
Peterson looked comfortable in his return to the mound, throwing 19 first pitch strikes to 25 of the batters he faced. Using just 69 pitches to work through the first six innings, Peterson was efficient, allowing only five base runners while striking out three.
Despite a struggling offense, Peterson was undeterred as they had given him an early lead. “I felt confident that every inning they were going to get something going,” he said in a post-game interview, “even though there were zeroes, they had some good at bats and the defense was behind me the whole game.”
The defense was another area of concern for the Ducks’ post-season chances. Oregon’s 0.964 fielding percentage is tied for last in the Pac-12 with Utah. If the Ducks have found pitching and batting remedies, their next challenge will be to address the defensive mistakes that could cost them games.
Not until the 7th did Peterson and the Ducks run into trouble. Beau Branton drew a one-out walk and was moved into scoring position by a Jonny Locher single. Alex Dunlap proceeded to smack a three-run homer off the scoreboard, cutting Oregon’s lead to 4-3.
The home run forced head coach George Horton to call on his bullpen, bringing in Cooper Stiles, who quickly finished the inning for the Ducks. Stephen Nogosek pitched the 8th, hitting a batter but throwing an otherwise clean inning, picking up his 41st strikeout of the year in the process.
Chris Castellanos relieved Brakeman for Stanford in the seventh and continued his streak of retiring Oregon batters. The two combined to retire 18 in a row, silencing the bats after Oregon’s seven-run performance the night before.
One big inning was enough to give Garret Cleavinger a chance to earn his seventh save of the year, retiring the side in order and striking out Locher in the effort.
For Oregon to make a post-season run, the improvements by the pitching staff will have to continue and Susnara is confident that they will. “You can see it coming together now as the tail end of the season comes in,” he said after the game. “They want to win and that’s really what we’re doing, we’re fighting for our lives every day.”
Oregon will continue the fight for its playoff life tomorrow afternoon at 12:00 to conclude the three-game series against Stanford before taking on Oregon State Tuesday night.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove