While Oregon baseball’s (26-24, Pac-12 9-15) bullpen has struggled recently, they delivered in a big way during the sixth inning against Gonzaga (28-21, WCC 16-8).
It looked like Oregon was going to give up yet another lead, when Christian Ciuffetelli gave up a single and two walks to load the bases in the sixth inning. With Oregon up 7-2 he was replaced by Peyton Fuller, who walked in a run before getting a popup to left field and a strikeout to limit the Bulldogs to just a single run in the inning.
“I was happy with the consistency of the offense and I thought some pitchers made a statement for us tonight,” head coach George Horton said.
Instead of the Ducks bullpen imploding, it was the Bulldogs’ pen who struggled in the bottom of the sixth where they gave away three runs to the Ducks. Gonzaga's implosion helped secure a 10-3 win for the Ducks.
After A.J. Miller drew a walk and Sam Novitske singled, Tanner Smith came to the plate. Smith hit a single into short right field. Miller scored from second, and as the ball kicked off Gonzaga second baseman Josh Bristyan, Novitske advanced to third. As Novitske took third Smith took off for second.
Novitske, upon seeing Smith take off for second, attempted to run home. He got caught in a run-down and would have been tagged out, but Bulldogs catcher Austin Pinorini errant throw went into left field allowing Novitske to score. Smith was also able to score, sprinting all the way around the bases and Oregon lead 10-3.
Oregon used six pitchers throughout the game. Kolby Somers started and went four innings for the Ducks, giving up two runs on four hits and also had four strikeouts. On the night the Ducks totaled 10 strikeouts and four walks and had some pitchers who despite recent struggles, stepped up in crucial spots.
“Nico looked really good, and I thought Kolby said hey look at me,” Horton said. “I thought that was a real positive outing for Kolby.”
It wasn’t just Somers and Tellache who pitched well for Oregon, Hunter Breault and Cole Stringer delivered solid outings.
“Hopefully the pitching [staff] is gaining momentum,” Horton said. “We are getting better starts and the bullpen is functioning better, and that is what it’s going to take to [win].”
Gonzaga would close the gap to 3-2 in the fourth before Oregon would score seven of the next eight runs to take a 10-3 lead.
“They were probably a little more relaxed. I thought it was a very workmanlike performance,” Horton said.
There was some unfortunate news for the Ducks, as Gabe Matthews was unable to start for the Ducks tonight. Matthews snapped a streak of consistent starts that lasted 137 games.
“The iron man we call him…He will have to start a new streak, and we hope to have him back next year,” said Horton.
Up next for the Ducks is a trip to Los Angeles where they will take on USC for three games starting on Friday.