Four-run first lets Oregon cruise to victory

Jack Hunter

Another opener, another win.

In the season-opening game of the completed PK Park, the Oregon Ducks easily beat the visiting Washington Huskies 6-2 Tuesday night under the lights.

It wasn’t a sold-out crowd — the attendance was 2,609 — but the rain stopped, and fans enjoyed the new amenities of Oregon’s state-of-the-art baseball park.

“I guess I need to give a speech that every game is our first game,” joked a happy head coach George Horton after the game.

Oregon flew back from a four-game series at Hawaii, and didn’t make it back until early Tuesday morning.

“That was a really long road trip,” Horton said. “I can tell you, Coach Horton was tired. We took the red-eye home and I had a tough time getting to the office this morning. Those guys were very much ready to play, and I commend them.”

Led by the pitching of Oregon native Alex Keudell, the Ducks (5-4) held the Huskies to two runs on six hits. Keudell (2-0) went seven innings, striking out six and walking three to go along with the two earned runs he gave up.

Keudell started the first game of his collegiate career last year against the Huskies on March 4, 2009, giving up three runs on five hits in four innings of work.

“(The Huskies) are probably the same team as last year,” Keudell said. “They still swung the bat pretty well, but I thought I hit my spots well and controlled tempo. They weren’t hitting my off-speed stuff at all.”

It was a change for Oregon, which went 1-6 against the Huskies last year, and it started in the very first inning with Oregon getting four runs off Husky starter Ben Guidos.

After Keudell got the Huskies out in four batters, leadoff hitter KC Serna started the bottom of the frame with a single to left field. That was followed by a bunt single from second baseman Danny Pulfer, and a sacrifice bunt by right fielder Jack Marder to move the runners to second and third.

Designated hitter Nick Wagner singled home Serna and Pulfer on the very first pitch he saw. Third baseman J.J. Altobelli then laid down a bunt single, and after a single from catcher Eddy Rodriguez loaded the bases, left fielder Andrew Mendenhall drew a walk to score Wagner. An RBI single from Shawn Peterson followed the walk.

“We came out real juiced,” Serna said. “First game at home and we were real pumped.”

It was a nice thing to see for Horton, who sat through a lot of games last year where Oregon was unable to score more than two runs in an entire game, let alone an inning.

“Guidos, their pitcher, was effective against us last year,” Horton said. “I think we had a better plan. We did enough things to put a crooked number up there and be successful.”

Oregon took a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when Peterson hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Rodriguez from third. Rodriguez finished the game 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

But in the top of the fourth inning, the Huskies made an attempt at a comeback. Catcher Pierce Rankin led off with a double, and Keudell walked the next batter, then hit a batter. The bases were loaded with no one out, and third baseman Jacob Lamb delivered, slapping a line drive into left field for an RBI single. Right fielder Sean Meehan followed suit with an RBI hit to center field, to inch Washington to within 5-2.

However, Keudell was able to get shortstop David Bentrott to strike out swinging, and lead off hitter Andy Smith grounded into a double play to end the inning.

“That was a really good two,” Horton said. “They had two runs in with the bases loaded and no outs and we held them.”

Oregon added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single from Rodriguez.

The Huskies were held scoreless over the final four innings, and didn’t even get a hit after the fourth inning. Reliever Joey Housey came in to close out the game in the eighth, striking out three.

The win left every player happy. The first win in the finished stadium was a relief. But they knew there was a game waiting for them tomorrow at 2 p.m. against this same Husky team.

“It’s always encouraging to get the first win at home,” Serna said. “Good win today.”

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