Ducks take series from Washington behind Mercer’s strong performance
Oregon baseball continues to defy expectations.
Behind another stellar performance from starter Matt Mercer, the Ducks topped Washington 1-0 on Saturday night at PK Park to collect the series win. Oregon has now won ten of its last 11 games, including its first two series of conference play.
The Ducks pitchers, Mercer, followed by Connor Zwetsch and Kenyon Yovan out the bullpen, were the story of the game. Together, they stymied a Washington offense that averages about five runs a game.
“He competed,” Oregon head coach George Horton said of Mercer. “His breaking stuff wasn’t as sharp tonight but his changeup was really a good pitch. You go from 93 to 84 with arm speed and location, against a good hitting team … we feel fortunate enough to win.”
Mercer went a full seven innings and threw well over 100 pitches. He allowed six hits, walked one and struck out seven to pick up his fourth win of the season. Not bad, considering he said his arm felt sore during practice this week.
“I felt alright,” Mercer said. “This week, in my bullpens, my arm was kind of tired, a little sore, which is unusual. But tonight I felt really good.”
Once Mercer was pulled after the seventh, Zwetsch worked a perfect eighth inning to set up Yovan for the close in the ninth. The freshman closer came out a little shaky, but rallied after walking two batters to get the save.
“The real positive is we figured out a way to win the game,” Horton said. “Kenyon bobbled a little bit but showed great courage.”
After trading offensive blows against the Huskies on Friday, one run was all Oregon would need to put them away on Saturday. The one run came courtesy of a two-out double from freshman Gabe Matthews in the first inning. Matthews has been one of Oregon’s hottest hitters in recent weeks and is now batting a team-high .345.
The Ducks had multiple chances to add to their lead but failed to do every time. They left six runners on base in the game.
“Tip your cap to Jason Kelly, their pitching coach,” Horton said. “He cut us up. He made us not have very good at-bats. It was a frustrating night for us offensively. Seemed like the at-bats that got away from us most frequently were RBI at-bats which makes it doubly frustrating for the players.”
Washington starter Chris Micheles only went two innings before Noah Bremer took over on the mound. Bremer was at the top of Washington’s rotation last year, and bringing him in as a long reliever has been a strategy the Huskies have used this season.
Bremer finished the game for Washington. He allowed three hits and struck out six over his six innings of work.
Horton credited him as the main reason for Oregon’s lack of run support.
“Our guys seemed confused at the plate,” Horton said. “Again, that’s attribute to their pitching coach and to him. That’s what good pitchers do.”
But once again, Oregon used their timely hitting, solid defense and lockdown pitching to keep their surprise season rolling.
The Ducks will try to wrap up the sweep of Washington on Sunday at 2 p.m. at PK Park.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris
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