Gary Breedlove Photography
After going through a colossal hot streak through the middle of their PAC-12 schedule, the Oregon offense fired blanks yesterday against the picture perfect mechanics of UCLA’s ace Adam Plutko. In fact, the righthander took a no hitter into the sixth inning in his dominant scoreless outing against the Ducks. Oregon tried their best to push across a lone tally in the late going, but fell short in a 1-0 loss to UCLA on Friday night at PK Park.
Baseball can be a cruel game, and while it seems the offense stepped on a rake for the first time in a few weeks, Tommy Thorpe got wrapped up in a bad-luck loss tonight. Thorpe pitched seven strong innings and gave up only three hits and allowed a lone, but crucial, game-winning run. Thorpe actually danced out of trouble while conceding that run; in the top of the fifth inning, a walk and a single put runners at the corners with none away. Tommy served up a great ground ball pitch and earned a double play to clear the bases, but the runner from third was able to score. It would prove to be a valuable trade for the Bruins, and that one run was enough to beat the Ducks.
Oregon found a way to make the Bruin pitchers sweat a bit in the late innings, but good defense and a few timely strikeouts hushed any Oregon comeback. UCLA submariner David Berg pitched two shutout innings in relief of Plutko, earning the conference’s leader in ERA (> 0.92) his ninth save on the season. Ryon Healy was the only Duck to get a hit off of Berg in the ninth.
The story of the game starts and ends with the lack of production from the recently resurgent Oregon offense; however, Plutko might be the best pitcher Oregon has faced this season (after Vanderbilt’s Kevin Ziomek). While the perfect storm was brewing for Oregon to come up empty, this game really seemed to be the Ducks’ chance to take over the conference. Instead, they got shutout, and in convincing fashion. As Oregon did two weekends ago in Tempe, it seems that they will need to take this game with a grain of salt as well — a series win will prove that Oregon belongs at the top of the PAC-12 just as much as a sweep would have.
Cole Irvin will be the man tasked with evening the series out on Saturday night. Irvin has a solid 3.45 ERA this season, and boasts the team’s best pitching record (7-1). He’ll face righthander Nick Vander Tuig (5-3, 2.09 ERA). All three of Vander Tuig’s losses have come in games where UCLA has been shut out, and will be yet another major challenge for the Oregon hitters.