Ducks ride explosive seventh inning to victory against Gonzaga
Since the start of the season, Oregon baseball head coach George Horton has talked about winning the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
On Tuesday night, the Ducks showed that they’d taken his words to heart in a comeback 6-3 win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Hunter Breault picked up the win, his first of the year, while Kenyon Yovan dealt his fifth save of the season. Calvin LeBrun took the loss for Gonzaga.
The win brings the Ducks’ record to 12-4 going into conference play, topping their mark of 11-5 from 2017. Over the last three seasons, the team has faced Gonzaga four times, winning two of those games.
“We were very frustrated,” Horton said. “Our guys had some resiliency and stuck with it – that was a big inning. Without that, I’d be in there yelling at them that we got dominated. We had the will to win, and they found a way to do it.”
Down 3-0 in the seventh inning, the Ducks made their move. After Gabe Matthews and Jakob Goldfarb walked to lead off the inning, designated hitter Dan Patzlaff stepped up to the plate and proceeded to rip a double into deep right field.
“It’s a pretty good feeling obviously, but I couldn’t have done it without the two guys getting on in front of me,” Patzlaff said. “I was just trying to put it in the outfield, hit a ball hard.”
The Zags managed to get the Ducks down to their last out of the inning but couldn’t close them out. Evan Williams added a double of his own to send Patzlaff home to tie things up. Kyle Kasser went on to reach base after his ground ball bounced off the foot of Gonzaga second baseman Carson Breshears, which allowed Williams to score the go-ahead run.
As if to add an exclamation point, Spencer Steer smashed a double of his own into deep left-center field to score two more runs. All told, the Ducks hit .417 with two outs and .556 with runners on base in the seventh.
The Bulldogs struck early, doing most of their damage in the first inning. Third baseman Ernie Yake led the order off with single to shallow left field, while center fielder Branson Trube followed up by poking a single into right field.
Stephens appeared to recover, retiring the next two batters on a fly out and fielder’s choice, respectively.
The Zags would gash Stephens for a pair of singles to score twice, opening up an early 2-0 lead. Over the next several innings, the Ducks went through four more pitchers – which Horton said the team had planned for – and collectively allowed just one more run.
In what has become a regular occurrence, it was the ace closer Yovan who took to the mound to defend his team’s lead. While he pitched two innings as opposed to his normal one, the sophomore star said that he’s always ready to go longer if needed. The Bulldogs looked like they might mount a late charge in the ninth, leading off the inning with back-to-back singles. Yovan clearly wasn’t phased however, and dealt three straight strikeouts to seal the win.
The Ducks will kick of Pac-12 play when they travel Phoenix to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils on March 16th.
Follow Aaron on Twitter @aaronalter95
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