Ducks’ late rally not enough, lose 5-4 to Oregon State

While a rocky season has Oregon’s postseason aspirations hanging in the balance, head coach George Horton turned to his one positive constant: David Peterson.

On Friday night, however, the big left-hander did not have his A-game. That, combined with a slew of errors, walks, errant pick-off throws and wild pitches in the early innings resulted in the Ducks falling to Oregon State 5-4 in the second of a three-game series at PK Park

With the Ducks leading 3-2, Oregon State made its move in the top of the fifth. Steven Kwan’s two-RBI double put the Beavers ahead 4-3 before scoring on an sacrifice fly from KJ Harrison later in the inning to make it 5-3. The Ducks made it close late, but the fourth lead change of the game would be the game’s last.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” said Horton. “They’ve had an excellent year and made more plays than us.”

Before surrendering the lead in the fifth, some sloppy play in the game’s early innings allowed the Beavers to hang around.

It was Oregon that started the scoring on a chilly Friday night with an early run in the bottom of the first. Following a Gabe Matthews strikeout for the second out of the inning, a pick-off throw from Beavers catcher Adley Rutschman went down the left field line, allowing Matthew Dyer — who doubled earlier in the inning — to come in to score from third to make it 1-0.

Oregon State responded right away in the top of the second, manufacturing a run to even the score at one. A walk, error, sacrifice bunt and fielder’s choice put runners on the corners with two outs. Running on first, the Beavers’ Christian Donahue took off towards second. Oregon second-baseman Carson Breshears couldn’t handle the throw over from Peterson, failing to tag out Donahue, which allowed Rutschman to score from third.

Unfortunately for the Ducks, the pick-off troubles didn’t stop there. An errant pick-off attempt from Peterson in the top of the third inning went by first-baseman Matthews, allowing the Beavers’ Cadyn Grenier to advance to second base and eventually score on a well-executed bunt from Kwan.

“We gave [Oregon State] their runs early, and they capitalized on it,” said Horton.

Despite the early inning miscues, the Ducks kept battling. After leading off the fourth inning with a pair of walks, Matthews and Tim Susnara both scored on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly, respectively, to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead.

For the second time on the night, Peterson could not get the shutdown inning and gave the lead right back. The Beavers proved why they are the No. 1 team in the country with the three-run fifth inning that ended up being Peterson’s final frame of the night. In five innings of work, the Ducks’ ace allowed four earned runs on five strikeouts and four walks. The four walks was a season high for Peterson.

“Peterson got tired,” said Horton. “He uncharacteristically walked [four] guys, and it hurt him. But he’s a warrior and continued to battle.”

After a string of three hits in the bottom of the eighth cut the deficit to 5-4, the Ducks threatened again in the ninth inning. Two hit batsman and a single loaded up the bases for the Ducks with two outs. It came down to Ryne Nelson — a pitcher hitting only .174 on the season — at the plate with a chance to tie or win the game for the Ducks.

Instead, Nelson struck out swinging, clinching not only the game, but a fifth Pac-12 Championship for Oregon State.

The Beavers are well on their way to playing more baseball after the end of the regular season. The Ducks hope that salvaging a win in the series finale on Saturday will help their case to do the same.

Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @ckundich

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Cole Kundich

Cole Kundich