Oregon baseball (22-17, 7-9), fresh off being swept by Pac-12-leading Stanford, was defeated by Cal 8-7 Friday night, blowing a one-run lead in the ninth inning on two solo home runs, one being a walk-off home run by catcher Korey Lee.
The game looked to be over. Oregon, a team that has excelled in one-run games all season, going 8-5 in those situations, had one of its best pitchers on the mound to close out the come-from-behind win.
Reliever Ryne Nelson struck out two batters in a scoreless eighth inning. However, the right hander made two huge mistakes in the ninth inning.
Following a quick first out, Cal third baseman Quentin Selma tied the game on a 2-1 home run to right field.
The game was still salvageable. If Nelson could get Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn and Lee out, the game would head to extras, something Oregon has shown it can handle.
Nelson got Vaughn to ground out but could not get Lee. The catcher walked it off on a 3-1 count, hitting a home run over the left field wall and to give his team the 8-7 victory.
Oregon starting pitcher Cole Stringer did not have his best stuff. Stringer allowed four runs in five innings and reliever Brett Walker allowed another two runs in the sixth.
Despite the pitching struggles, the Oregon offense was able to get back in the game, scoring three runs in the sixth inning on a Gabe Matthews solo home run and a Jakob Goldfarb two-run home run.
Matthews continued his hot season, homering again in the seventh inning to make it a 6-4 ballgame. Matthews created another run when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. The Ducks tied the game one batter later when center fielder Jonny DeLuca was walked.
Oregon took its first lead of the game on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Aaron Zavala, which scored freshman outfielder Tanner Smith.
The loss will surely hurt the Ducks as winning in clutch situations has been their calling card in 2019. However, they will have two more chances to defeat the Bears, with the series still very much in reach. The Ducks will play game two against Cal on Saturday, April 27 at 3:05 p.m.
Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @mavpallack