Cole Irvin delivered a stellar performance Friday night, going a season high 7.1 innings, giving up just 3 runs while walking 3 and striking out 4. Although the offense managed to get him off the hook for the loss in the bottom of the eighth, the Ducks bullpen struggled to keep UCLA off the base paths, as they dropped Game 1 of a must-win series, 4-3.
Scott Heineman put Oregon on the board in the bottom of the second, working his way back from an 0-2 count to rip a solo homer over the left field fence to lead off the inning giving the Ducks a 1-0 lead. The Ducks continued to challenge UCLA starter James Kaprielian early, putting runners on the corners before Jakob Goldfarb grounded out to third to end the inning.
Scott Heineman hits a SCREAMING line drive over the fence in left field to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead over No. 2 UCLA! pic.twitter.com/f47YYNcdj0
— Oregon Duck Baseball (@OregonBaseball) May 22, 2015
Irvin was in command early, striking out the first batter of the night, and retiring the side in order. A walk in the second was dealt with by solid defense, turning a double play, keeping the hard-hitting Bruins at bay.
A bumpy third inning was Irvin’s sole blemish on an otherwise solid performance.
The third inning opened with Heineman flashing his glove, catching a Sean Bouchard pop-up over his shoulder for the first out of the inning. Irvin then walked the next two batters as he struggled with his control, throwing 17 of his 28 pitches out of the zone.
The Bruins took advantage of Irvin’s inconsistency, scoring three runs to take the lead 3-1. Christoph Bono drew a one-out walk and moved all the way to third on a wild pitch, followed by a passed ball. Trent Chatterton walked on four straight pitches, putting runners on the corners for Brett Stephens, who laid down a squeeze play to score Bono from third, tying the game 1-1.
Kevin Kramer made Irvin work for the second out of the inning, running the count full before grounding out to second. Another four pitch walk put runners on the corners once again for UCLA. This time Luke Perisco came up big with a two RBI single to right, putting the Bruins on top 3-1.
Head coach George Horton said that the decision to walk Ty Moore was an attempt to, “get to what [they] felt was not the good as RBI guy, Persico but he hurt [them]” with the base hit.
Aside from the 28-pitch third inning, Irvin kept UCLA quiet, moving through the next four innings with just three hits and no walks. He was relieved in the eighth after hitting Moore with one out. Cooper Stiles answered the call, forcing Chatterton to ground to second and striking out Stephens to end the inning.
With the game on the line in the eighth, Heineman came up big for the Ducks for the second time of the night, opening the inning by scorching a single to left field. Brandon Cuddy entered the game as a pinch hitter for Daniel Patzlaff and smacked a single to center, putting two runners on with just one out for Tim Susnara.
Horton replaced Cuddy on the base path with Spencer Smith, and used his speed right away, pulling off a double steal, moving Smith and Heineman to second and third with just 1 out. Susnara took advantage of the situation, lining the fourth pitch of the at-bat up the middle to score both runners, tying the game for the Ducks 3-3.
Stephen Nogosek was called on in the ninth to hold off the Bruins, but couldn’t get the job done. With their backs against the wall, Darrell Miller Jr. started the ninth for UCLA with a single to left.
Kort Peterson pinch hit for Bouchard, sacrificing Miller into scoring position. In a rare fit of lack of control, Nogosek walked the next two batters, loading the bases with just one out, forcing the Ducks to bring in Garrett Cleavinger.
The usually reliable Cleavinger struggled as well, recording two outs but walking home the winning run. Stephens hit a hard grounder to third that Mitchell Tolman fired back to Susnara, stopping the run from scoring but keeping the bases loaded. Cleavinger then walked Kramer, forcing home the winning run as the Bruins took the lead, 4-3.
Tolman led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, giving the Ducks one more chance to rally for the important win. Phil Craig- St. Louis laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Tolman into scoring position but Heineman and Matt Eureste both grounded out to finish the night for Oregon.
Tomorrow is a new day, with a new set of challenges of Oregon but Horton told me that today’s game “validated” their belief that they can play with anyone in the country. Scoring runs off of Kaprielian, Grant Dyer and David Berg is a feat that few teams have accomplished this year.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, moral victories don’t show up in the win column, or resonate with the playoff committee. A strong performance against one of the top teams in the country will only help their case if they can come away with a win. Heineman told reporters after the game that, “we know we’re one of the top teams in the country.” Tonight’s performance, “helps our morale, but we definitely need to get a win,” he explained.
The Ducks will take their second shot at UCLA tomorrow night against Grant Watson (8-4, 2.02 ERA), by trotting out freshman David Peterson (4-6, 4.62 ERA) who leads the team with 72 K. As their season hangs in the balance, look for another fierce competition, tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck