A 9-4 victory Tuesday night was a much tougher battle for Oregon than the box score might reveal. Both offenses kept the pressure on all night as Gonzaga tallied 12 hits compared to Oregon’s 13. All of the damage was done early on with every run coming off the starters in the first four innings.
The Ducks offense got right to work, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. Two quick outs to open the frame were followed by back to back singles by Mitchell Tolman and Phil Craig- St. Louis. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position for Scott Heineman who drove them both home to put the Ducks on top 2-0.
A rocky first inning energized Gonzaga pitcher Tyler Frost at the plate as he helped his cause by taking Kohl Hostert deep to put the Zags on the board in the second. Rallying behind their pitcher, Gonzaga proceeded to score three more runs, taking the lead 4-2.
Hostert failed to find a rhythm in the second following a quick first inning. Caleb Wood hit a one-out double down the third base line and Hostert hit Joey Harris to put two men on. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and a walk issued to Dustin Breshears loaded the bases. Sam Brown took advantage of the situation, smacking a two RBI double down the third base line. That double was the end of Hostert’s night as Brac Warren was called in to stop the bleeding. Jeffrey Bohling quickly hit a sacrifice fly, driving in the Bulldogs’ final run of the night and putting them up 4-2.
Hostert started the night strong, using just 12 pitches in the first but let a couple mistakes rattle him. “He was like a whole different guy [after Wood’s double],” head coach George Horton said after the game. “I wish he showed a bit more tenacity and stayed with it a little bit longer.”
Oregon came roaring back in the third following a silent bottom half of the second. In answer to Gonzaga’s four run inning the Ducks scored four of their own to retake the lead.
Austin Grebeck opened things up with his first of four hits on the night. A hit and run play off a Craig-St. Louis single moved him all the way to third. A wild pitch brought Grebeck home, reducing the deficit to a single run.
The wild pitch also moved Craig- St. Louis into scoring postion for Heineman who worked his way back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk and start one of the wildest series of events this season.
Brandon Cuddy smacked a single to score Craig-St. Louis and tie the game for the Ducks. As Heineman attempted to take third on the play, the throw from the outfield got past the third baseman, pushing him home for the go ahead run and allowing Cuddy to take second. Daniel Patzlaff joined the hit parade with an RBI bloop single to left, putting the Ducks up 6-4.
Tolman continued to cement himself in the history book at Oregon with yet another career performance. The preseason All-American third baseman hit his third home run of the season in the fourth, a three run blast to put the game securely out of reach. The homer gave him his 31st career multi-RBI game, tying him for first at Oregon with Ryon Healy. The hit also gave him his 52nd career multi-hit game (tying him for third all time) and his 97th career run (tying him for seventh all time).
The Ducks bullpen continued its strong play, allowing eight hits, giving up zero runs and striking out six.
The Bulldogs threatened in the sixth as they loaded the bases with no outs, forcing Warren out of the game. Cooper Stiles put up an excellent performance using just four pitches to end the threat. He struck out Brown on three straight pitches and forced Bohling to hit into a double play. Stiles closed out the game for the Ducks, finishing with four innings pitched, no runs on four hits, one base on balls and four strikeouts.
The win was what the Ducks needed after splitting the four games on their road trip. A sense of urgency continues to weigh on the club as only eight games remain for them to fight their way into the post season. “We’re gonna try to win all eight,” Horton told reporters. “That’s easier said than done, but we have to start with just tomorrow.”
Oregon continues the fight tomorrow night at 6:00 before heading to Salt Lake City for a three game series with Utah this weekend.
Top Photo by Dave Peaks