Oregon’s 15-game Pac-10 losing streak ends in Tucson

Jack Hunter

The Oregon Ducks baseball (18-8) team hit a bit of reality after finishing the non-conference season with a 17-6 record. Squaring off with Arizona in its Pacific-10 Conference opener, Oregon dropped two of three against the blazing Wildcats, who are 20-5 this season.

The series opened Friday in Tucson, with sophomore lefty Tyler Anderson on the mound for Oregon. Anderson had recently been named to the pitcher of the year watch list after he started the season 4-1 with an ERA fewer than two runs a game. However, Anderson didn’t even make it out of the second inning. He pitched just 1 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on seven hits.

Reliever Zach Thornton saved the bullpen by pitching the next 6 2/3 innings, but the Wildcats dominated in the field and from the plate, winning 9-3, to end Oregon’s five-game win streak. From the plate, Marcus Piazzisi got four hits, but Arizona’s hot start was too much to overcome.

Things didn’t get much better on Saturday evening for the Ducks. The Wildcats scored five runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined to easily win 8-4. Oregon starter Justin LaTempa went 6 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits, but reliever Scott McGough gave up three runs on four hits and couldn’t get the Ducks out of the seventh inning.
In the second game, second baseman Danny Pulfer led the team in hitting, getting two doubles in four at-bats.

It wasn’t until the final game of the series that Oregon was able to get its first Pac-10 win of the season, and the Ducks did so in comeback fashion. Arizona used a four-run first inning to run out to a 5-2 lead through the first three innings. The Wildcats chased Oregon starter Alex Keudell after the fifth inning, nailing him for 11 hits and eight runs.

But Oregon continued to chip away at the lead, getting runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings to creep to within three runs at 8-5. That set up the dramatic comeback in the top of the ninth, when Oregon scored four runs to take a 9-8 lead. Dylan Gavin started off the inning by grounding out, and Piazzisi flew out to center field for the second out. But Pulfer rallied with a single up the middle, and Eddie Rodriguez singled up the middle to move Pulfer to third. Shawn Peterson singled home Pulfer, and freshman Jack Marder did what very few Ducks were able to do last year: come through in the clutch with power. Marder hit a 1-2 pitch over the right field wall for a three-run home run to give Oregon the 9-8 lead and to cap the four-run, two-out rally.

The dramatic finish stunned the high-flying Wildcats, who had won 15 straight games coming into Sunday’s contest. It also snapped a 15-game losing streak in conference by Oregon, which hadn’t won a Pac-10 game since May 1, 2009.

Next up for the Ducks is a three-game series at home with the undefeated, No. 1 ranked Arizona State Sun Devils (23-0, 3-0). ASU swept Cal over the weekend. Game one is set for Friday at 5 p.m.

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