Oregon catcher Ray Soderman had gone 19 at bats without a hit. On Sunday, in the bottom of the tenth, he broke out of that slump with a clutch, one-out opposite field walk-off double to score Daniel Patzlaff and lead the Ducks to a 2-1 win over USC to win the series.
After the game, Soderman immediately credited Patzlaff for getting on base and Taylor Travess bunting him over, but was interrupted during his interview by multiple Gatorade baths and shaving cream pies.
“That pitcher was throwing all fastballs,” Soderman said as he wiped shaving cream from his face. “Basically I swung and found some green, barely, and it worked I guess.”
There was some debate on whether to pinch-hit for the eventual hero, but head coach George Horton trusted Soderman would be able to get the job done.
“There’s nobody who works harder on the team than Ray,” Horton said. “I am kind of corny when it comes to that. I think the game rewards guys that work hard and he works hard.”
Starting pitcher Kolby Somers pitched well in an attempt to get his first win since his first career start against UC Davis, March 10. The lefty used the confidence of having the lead for the first time since the UC Davis win to go a career-high 6.1 innings without giving up a run.
“It’s always nice to get runs on the board,” Somers said. “It gives you more confidence going out there. … I couldn’t care less what our offense is doing honestly.”
Somers only allowed two hits and struck out four before giving way to Parker Kelly during the seventh inning. Kelly dominated in his 1.2 innings, which put Horton in a bind on whether to stick with him or put in closer Ryne Nelson.
“When you have an electric arm like that, you’d second guess yourself not going to Nelson,” Horton said. “At least Nelly made them earn it. It could have been worse. We could have gone behind there and lost the game.”
Nelson switched from shortstop to the mound, looking to close out the win. He got the Trojans down to their final out, but two straight singles tied the game at one. The Trojans then loaded the bases, but Nelson was able to escape further damage.
The Ducks led early, executing their small-ball approach to perfection. After a Jakob Goldfarb lead-off single in the first, Johnny DeLuca came to the plate looking to get him over.
The center fielder had a perfect bunt toward first base that was able to pull USC first baseman Dillon Paulson far enough off the bag where he was able to beat second baseman Ben Ramirez to the bag.
“We’re not swinging the bats great,” Horton said. “We do pride ourselves on executing. When you get leadoff hitters on and you can execute a bunt like DeLuca…. That ended up being the reason we got one run.”
After a Kyle Kasser strikeout, Goldfarb and DeLuca both stole in order to get into scoring position for Spencer Steer. Steer was able to get the job done with a sac-fly to right, which gave the Ducks the 1-0 lead.
Oregon will try and use this win as momentum toward a late-season push. The Ducks play No. 7 Oregon State this Tuesday as they look to get their first win over the in-state rival since May of 2016.
Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @mavpallack