The fears that amassed in the LMU series really came around Friday night when Oregon opened its series at Cal State Fullerton. The Ducks (7-2) seemed to be settling into a pitchers duel when the Oregon defense, and pitching staff fell apart at the seams in the middle innings. Fullerton pushed across three runs in the fifth, and four more in the sixth, putting Oregon in a hole that their offense could not possibly carry them out of against CSUF’s ace pitcher Thomas Eshelman.
Oregon’s Friday night pitcher Jake Reed (1-2) seemed to be back into the swing of things right off the bat, as the sophomore retired the entire Titan lineup in order, and emerged right at the minimum amount of batters faced through three innings.
The Oregon offense started the scoring in the fourth inning, when Ryon Healy came through with a 2-out RBI double to give Reed an early 1-0 lead. Reed fought through the fourth inning unscathed, but the Fullerton offense would respond in the fifth inning. After allowing a leadoff single, Reed retired the next two batters he faced, and seemed to be on the way to another clean inning when he walked a Fullerton batter with two outs. Against good teams, two out walks will come back to haunt you pretty close to every time. That theory held true last night, as Fullerton came through with a two out RBI single to tie the game up at 1-1.
After Oregon was turned away in the top of the fifth, Reed’s outing started to fall apart. A single, walk, and sacrifice bunt set Fullerton up to score the go ahead run, then a wild pitch, and two passed balls in succession pushed across three runs without a swing of a Titan bat. Obviously, this turn of events really hurt the Ducks, as Reed was really having a decent outing up until the pitching battery started to get mixed up. In the sixth inning, a routine single to right field somehow got lost in foul ground, allowing the Fullerton batter to get an elusive inside the park homerun. Oregon argued that the ball was inaccessible and lobbied to turn the play into a ground rule double, but could not convince the umpires otherwise. Now down 5-1, Reed’s solid outing suddenly turned into a nightmarish appearance. After Reed hit a batter and allowed another single, the Oregon defense flubbed up a perfect double play ball, allowing another Fullerton run to score.
Darrell Hunter relieved Reed after 5.2 innings, and the Oregon offense failed to produce even a threat of a comeback.
It’s simple, if Oregon’s pitching staff (and defense for that matter) aren’t having a good game, Oregon’s offense will need some help from the opposing pitching staff to get enough runs to give the Ducks a shot at winning. Against an elite ball-club, that simply won’t happen often enough for Oregon’s style of play to carry them to victory. While it would surprise plenty of people, Oregon fans are still optimistic that this offense will start clicking soon.
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