Ducks force Game 3 with rally at PK Park
EUGENE - On Sunday night, the Oregon Ducks faced the possibility of their season ending with an extremely disappointing super regional sweep against Kent State.
In a must-win game two at PK Park, Oregon's season was down to nine outs, with the Ducks trailing 2-0 heading into the top of the seventh inning.
Kent State pitcher Ryan Bores was dealing. He had given up just three hits in six innings and retired the side in the first, second, third and fifth innings.
The Ducks had also made Bores' job easier by running themselves out of the top of the fourth inning, when Kent State catcher David Lyon erased two base hits. Oregon's Aaron Payne led off the fourth inning with a perfect drag bunt between the pitcher and first baseman, but he was thrown out trying to steal second. Ryon Healey then singled to left, before a snap throw by Lyon picked him off first base.
In the seventh inning, though, Oregon rallied with timely base hits, opportunistic base running and small ball that brought three runs across the plate.
In the stretch, the Oregon bullpen was able to hold on for a 3-2 win that breathed new life into the Ducks' season and kept alive their hopes of the College World Series berth that goes to the series winner.
'This is the side of one-run games we enjoy more,' said coach George Horton, whose Ducks had lost 7-6 in Saturday's opening game of the best-of-three series. 'We live another day.'
The deciding third game is at 4 p.m. Monday at PK Park.
Oregon will start Jeff Gold (8-4, 3.50 ERA), while Kent State will throw the program's all-time single season wins leader, Tyler Skulina (11-2, 3.84 ERA).
The Ducks' seventh-inning rally Sunday began with Healy's one-out single up the middle. Oregon left fielder Brett Thomas then laced a first-pitch single between third base and shortstop. Kent State left fielder Alex Miklos misplayed the ball, allowing Healy to score while Thomas went to second.
With the Ducks trailing 2-1, Oregon designated hitter Kyle Garlick drew a walk. Third baseman Ryan Hambright then drove Thomas home with a single to right that evened the score 2-2.
'My pitches got up a little bit at the end, and it just kind of barrel-rolled from there,' Bores said.
The second run chased Bores after 6 1/3 innings (six hits, one walk, four strikeouts, three earned runs). Bores, who wound up as the losing pitcher, was replaced by left-hander Michael Clark.
With runners at the corners, Oregon catcher Brett Hambright laid down a safety squeeze. The ball went to Clark, but his only play was to first, and Garlick came in to score the winning run.
'Once I saw that fastball, I knew I was going to get it down,' Hambright said. 'When I saw Kyle running down the line, there was no better feeling.'
Kent State took the early 2-0 lead behind cleanup hitter George Roberts' solo home run and RBI double.
Roberts' homer came as the leadoff batter in the second inning. Roberts worked the count to 2-2 and then sat on a 78-mile-per-hour hanging slider from Ducks starter Jake Reed. Roberts parked it over the left-field wall.
'He blew me away on the fastball and then he came back with a slider and hung it,' Roberts said. 'I just hit it.'
Lyon began the bottom of the fourth inning with a single to left. Roberts then collected his second RBI of the evening when he short-hopped the center-field fence for a standup double that brought home Lyon and put the Golden Flashes up 2-0.
'It was a fastball out, and I just went with it and drove it,' Roberts said.
Later in the inning, after a single by T.J. Sutton and a two-out walk by Miklos, Kent State had the bases loaded, but Reed was able to get Derek Toadvine to ground out to first base to end the inning with limited damage.
Lefty Tommy Thorpe replaced Reed after a two-out Texas Leaguer single by Toadvine in the bottom of the seventh. In 6 2/3 innings, Reed, the winning pitcher, gave up five hits, two walks and two earned runs, striking out six batters.
Thorpe closed the Kent State seventh by striking out center fielder Evan Campbell on three pitches.
In the bottom of the eighth, Kent State nearly tied the score. Shortstop Jimmy Rider worked the count full against Thorpe. The 3-2 pitch went down the middle of the plate and Rider crushed the ball to deep left. Thomas had a bead on the ball, though, and snagged it just before he crashed into the 375-foot outfield sign.
The Golden Flashes still had a little fight in them in the ninth. Sutton led off with a sharply-hit grounder just inside the first-base bag. The ball went into the right-field corner, and Sutton dove safely into second base.
Thorpe was then able to get Kent State designated hitter Nick Hamilton to strike out before closer Jimmie Sherfy came to the mound.
With PK Park rocking, the Ducks right-hander shut the door on Kent State, striking out Sawyer Polen and Miklos.
'It was kind of an in-the-moment type of thing,' Sherfy said, of his mindset. 'Everyone said it was really loud. But I just clear the mechanism like that movie ('For Love of the Game') and I don't really hear too much.'
With the Ducks facing their second win-or-go-home game in as many days, Horton is confident that his ballclub will come to play on Monday.
'My group will be ready to go again,' he said. 'We'll show up, and hopefully we can play well again and the scoreboard will reward us.'