Left fielder Brett Thomas led Oregon offensively with three doubles in his first three plate appearances. First baseman Ryon Healy and catcher Brett Hambright also recorded multi-hit games. The crowd, which spilled over from the spring game for the Ducks football team, included Nike founder Phil Knight and former Oregon athletic director (and PK Park namesake) Pat Kilkenny.
“As I said today to my staff, ‘we’re going to coach harder today and play harder today because our two “team owners” are here.’” UO head coach George Horton said.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Ducks second baseman Aaron Payne knocked a two-out single off of Cal starter Matt Flemer (6-3) that scored Hambright from second base with the eventual winning run.
“I think we had a lot of confidence in that game,” Healy said. “Winning a 3-2 ball game against probably one of their better arms, it was a lot of fun to grind out.”
The Ducks jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Thomas’ first double. The hit, aided by an error in the outfield, allowed Healy to score all the way from first base, while Thomas made it all the way to third.
Thomas and Healy combined for another run with back-to-back two out doubles in the third inning to break a 1-1 tie. The duo registered five of the Ducks nine hits and Thomas’ three doubles tied a Ducks single game record as he continued to show promise in the fourth spot of the batting order.
“His skill set isn’t a typical four-hole hitter, but he sure has assumed that role pretty successfully,” Horton said.
Jake Reed pitched seven strong innings for the Ducks, giving up seven hits and two runs in a winning effort. He struggled with control, registering four walks to three strikeouts, and said that he had trouble throwing his slider effectively, forcing him to rely on his other pitches for big outs.
“My changeup was working really well for me today, especially to right-handers which we normally don’t throw,” Reed said.
The biggest problem for Reed, and the rest of the pitching staff for that matter, was Cal first baseman Mitch Delfino, who went 4-for-5 with two RBI. Delfino tied the game in the third inning with a RBI single, and did it again in the fifth inning with a RBI groundout to shortstop with the bases loaded.
Reed (5-2) faced more trouble after giving up back-to-back singles in the seventh inning with one out, but he calmly retired the next two hitters, giving way to reliever Tommy Thorpe in the eighth inning.
Thorpe gave up a leadoff single to Danny Oh in the eighth inning, but Cal was unable to capitalize, eventually stranding him on third base. Thorpe retired the first hitter of the ninth inning before Jimmie Sherfy came on to face the middle of the order for Cal. Sherfy retired Tony Renda and, after an infield single by Delfino, struck out Chadd Krist to end the game.
“I think it was scripted perfectly for them to come out and finish this game,” Reed said.
The performance gave Sherfy his conference leading 10th save of the season, but was also a moment of redemption for the shaken reliever after blowing a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning of last Saturday’s game against Washington State.
With the win, Oregon moved mere percentage points behind conference leader Arizona in the Pac-12 standings. Since Arizona is playing a non-conference series against East Tennessee State, Oregon could move into first place by finishing up a sweep of the Golden Bears on Sunday. The Ducks and Wildcats square off in Tucson next weekend in a series that could go a long way in determining who emerges as the conference champion.
The Ducks and Golden Bears finish up their series at noon on Sunday.
GAME NOTES –
Ryon Healy pushed his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 13.
Connor Hofmann snapped his eight game hitting streak with a 0-for-3 day at the plate.
Horton said that injured shortstop J.J. Altobelli has taken part in batting practice over the past two days as he continues to rehab his injured right shoulder. There is still no date set for his return.