Remember when we were pleading for Oregon to have a good performance against an elite starter? Well, the Ducks just delivered in spectacular fashion against one of the premier starters in all of collegiate baseball. It’s no mistake – Mark Appel has been ranked as the number one draft prospect by various scouting services for a while now. Ever since turning down a big signing bonus from the major leagues, the righty has been the premier prospect in college baseball, far and above the rest. With a complete arsenal of velocity, control, and movement, Appel represented the ultimate challenge for the Oregon offense on Friday night. After a grueling battle against the ace, the Ducks were able to load the bases in the ninth inning with the score tied a 1-1. Aaron Payne came to the plate with one away and delivered a walk-off single to defeat Appel and #21 Stanford, 2-1.
It might seem a bit odd that a two run performance from the Oregon offense is receiving so much praise, but after the Ducks’ previous performances against the nation’s most elite pitchers, this is a very impressive victory for the Ducks. Vanderbilt’s Kevin Ziomek, and UCLA’s Adam Plutko had no problem chaining up the Oregon offense, but the pitcher with the nation’s best proven arsenal in Stanford’s Mark Appel was finally cracked by the Duck offense on Friday night.
The Ducks etched their first run to tie the game at 1-1 in the third inning, after Stanford had taken a 1-0 lead in the top half. Ryon Healy picked up Aaron Payne with an RBI single for the Duck’s first tally. After that, both pitchers really settled into grooves, and neither team found any offense until Payne delivered in the ninth inning with the bases loaded.
By no means does this prove that Oregon can chalk themselves up as true contenders just yet, but it does provide a real sense of relief for this team. All of the ridiculous offensive performances that Oregon has put together over the past few weeks weren’t just fluke performances; those were actual strides that the Ducks were making, and it’s nice to see their efforts pay off in a big gime like this one after getting blanked a week ago against UCLA.
Tommy Thorpe’s performance was equally important to the statement win. The lefty scattered nine hits over 6.2 innings, allowing just one run in his no-decision outing. The Oregon bullpen was perfect for the final two innings as Darrell Hunter and Garrett Cleavinger pitched perfect outings in relief of Thorpe.
This win definitely places a set of expectations on this Oregon team now, and formally brands the formula for an Oregon win against elite competition: lockdown pitching, and timely “Horton” offense can truly defeat any caliber of opponent.