Making a run at No. 1

Jack Hunter

After the final out in Oregon’s 1-0 loss to the No. 1-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils, freshman Jack Marder walked up the tunnel to the locker room. He paused in the door, looking back at the field, thinking about just how close the game was.

“Tough loss,” he said, visibly disappointed. “We are just as good as them.”

The Ducks (18-9 overall, 1-3 Pacific-10 Conference) played perhaps the best baseball of the season against the No. 1 Sun Devils (24-0, 4-0). Sophomore Tyler Anderson (4-3) did everything and more, throwing the complete game and giving up just one run on four hits, while striking out 10 batters.

His one mistake was a pitch up in the zone that was hit for a home run. Coupled with a great defensive effort by Arizona State, and the Sun Devils were just good enough Friday night at PK Park.

“Championship baseball teams don’t get very far along without good pitching and defense, and they can cover some ground,” head coach George Horton said.

From the plate, third baseman J.J. Altobelli was 2-for-3 to the lead the Ducks, but he grounded out with a man on second in the ninth inning and two outs to end the game.

“We had a couple of shots at them,” Horton said. “The unfortunate thing is that we didn’t put too many quality at-bats together when it really mattered.”

Arizona State’s pitcher, Seth Blair (5-0), went seven innings, giving up five hits, but he kept Oregon’s hitters off balance, and it was evident that this one was going to be a battle for runs.

Oregon was set down in order in the bottom of the first, then ASU threatened again in the top of the second. Designated hitter Zach Wilson lined a double into the left field corner with one out, but Anderson set down the next two batters to get out of the inning.

However, Anderson made his only mistake in the third inning. He left a pitch up in the zone, and lead off hitter Drew Maggi hit his first home run of the season to left field.

“(I feel like I pitched) pretty well,” Anderson said. “I just left that one pitch up that cost us the game.”

The home run was a dark spot on an otherwise stellar game by Anderson. For the rest of the game he allowed just one more hit, a single to Torrez. That marked the last batter to even make it to first base. Anderson set down the next 15 Sun Devils before hitting second baseman Zack MacPhee with one out in the ninth. But that didn’t even matter, as he got the next two batters to fly out to center to complete the inning.

“He balled out,” infielder KC Serna said. “Especially after his last outing. That’s a great bounce back. I was excited that he went all nine for us. A strong nine.”

The Ducks actually outhit the Sun Devils 5-4, but Blair got enough clutch outs to keep Oregon at bay, and the team stranded eight runners on base.

“I feel like we played a good ball game,” Serna said. “We had a couple of lineouts that could have gone either way. I felt like we played hard all nine innings.”

The closest Oregon got was in the seventh inning when designated hitter Shawn Peterson reached third on a single from Altobelli. But center fielder Curtis Raulinaitis struck out to end the inning.

The game wasn’t without a little controversy. In the sixth inning Serna was hit by a pitch, but the home plate umpire said he didn’t try to get out of the way of the ball and made him continue the at-bat. The next pitch he grounded out, and left fielder Marcus Piazzisi lined a double that would have scored Serna.

“The umpire thought he went into it, and that’s always a tough call,” Horton said. “I thought KC was just protecting himself, but the umpire different. Their leadoff hitter got called back on one, so it all tends to even out.”

Oregon’s fight against the Sun Devils instilled more confidence in the team than it took away, however. It was ASU’s lowest scoring game of the season, and Anderson says the Sun Devils can lose.

“It gives everyone the confidence that they are beatable,” Anderson said. “That they should be beaten and I think we are going to do it tomorrow.”

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