The Ducks put together a long rally this weekend and won a crucial series in an ever-tightening Pac-12 race.
The match-up with the bottom-dwelling Cougars was the ultimate must-win series for Oregon. Entering the weekend, the Ducks were a mere two games out of first place. Mathematically, dropping this series couldn’t have eliminated the Ducks from a conference title but blood in the water would have sent the rest of the country on a Duck hunt.
On Friday night, two Washington State pitchers turned in a gem of a performance. Holding the streaky Oregon offense to two hits, taking game one 4-0. Matt Krook failed to pitch past the third inning for the second straight start and it appeared that fans were in for a painful weekend.
Matt Mercer turned in a solid performance in relief of Krook. The freshman didn’t allow a run in his 5.1 innings of work. He struck out five batters and allowed just four hits. Head coach George Horton said after the game that Mercer hasn’t shown the ability to go more than once per weekend, but his performance bodes well for a bullpen that is settling in nicely down the stretch.
Krook on the other hand is having his leash shortened. When asked whether he could be moved to the pen, Horton said it was a possibility. “I haven’t given up on Matt Krook, I haven’t,” he said, “but he’s gotta get off to a better start.”
Come Saturday, some of the energy from the spring game must have seeped across the parking lot. Cole Irvin notched his fourth career complete game and struck out a career high 13 batters in the process.
The offense rebounded nicely as well, racking up 11 hits and scoring in five different innings. That slow and steady approach is the most sustainable way to keep the ball rolling.
Kyle Kasser, Tim Susnara and Daniel Patzlaff all had multi-hit games, and Travis Moniot launched his fifth homer of the year.
Sunday offered another tight contest until a six-run 8th busted the doors open for the Ducks. Washington State had held on to a tenuous lead using just two pitchers through the first 7.2 innings. Oregon seized on an opportunity early in their big inning, forcing the Cougars to go to the pen three times.
Stephen Nogosek was well-rested, not making an appearance in the first two games and picked up his second win of the year, recording seven outs, using two strikeouts and a soft pop-up to end the game in the ninth.
On Friday night, Horton said that he didn’t like the energy his team came out with. The rest of the weekend showcased a team with fight. Now they just need to keep their heads on straight and finish the season strong.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove