Oregon opened a 5-0 lead and held on for a 6-3 win over Oregon State Sunday in Civil War baseball, as the Beavers twice sent the tieing run to the plate in the bottom of the 9th, but couldn't come through against the Ducks.
As a result of the win, the Ducks, who had never won a conference game at Goss Stadium since reinstating their program until Friday night's 7-4 victory, took both the 3 game Pac-12 weekend series, their first since 1973, and the season overall series, after the teams had also split the first 2 non-conference games earlier in the season in Eugene.
The game was a threat to cause one to doze off in the early going, as a pitchers dual between starters Matt Mercer and Jake Thompson saw only 2 batters beyond the minimum over the first 3 innings.
Oregon finally got things going in the 4th, when Austin Grebeck led off with a single, and shortly thereafter AJ Balta drove him in with a double. Balta eventually scored as well, on Stephen Packard's RBI single.
The Ducks added another run in the 5th, capitalizing on a rare errant throw by Beaver catcher Logan Ice on Carson Breshears' steal that allowed Breshears to be in position to score on a sacrifice by Grebeck.
Though there would be plenty of additional action, the game was essentially decided in the top of the 6th, after head coach Pat Casey and pitching coach Nate Yeski decided to lift Thompson in favor of freshman Tommy Paul. Paul has had some good moments this season, but none of them came today.
Balta immediately homered, giving him 2 extra base hits, 2 RBIs, and 2 runs scored in the game, after not having had a hit all weekend.
Jake Bennett and Tim Sunsara then wrapped doubles around an out for another run to make it 5-0 Oregon. Even the out was a fly ball solidly hit to left field.
Mitch Hickey came on and did a good job of keeping Oregon State in the game, but Oregon's lead would prove to be too much to overcome.
The Beavers gave it a good try, with 3 runs of their own in the bottom of the 6th, finally getting to Mercer. Christian Donahue followed up Caleb Hamilton's leadoff single with a double to put 2 runners in scoring position, and Steven Kwan's ground out got Oregon State onto the scoreboard.
Donahue's base running error got him thrown out trying to score, but it didn't really hurt anything, as Logan Ice would have been out had Donahue not run when he shouldn't have, but reached 3rd during the ensuing rundown, and so there would have been 1 runner on in any event when KJ Harrison homered to left next, below, making it 5-3.
The blast was Harrison's 2nd round trip in 2 days, and third in the last week.
Both Casey and Oregon coach George Horton went to their closers earlier than some might have expected, with Max Engelbrekt taking over for Hickey with 2 outs in the 7th, and Stephen Nogosek coming on in the to start the 8th inning.
Given Hickey had been solid, there was some rumbling around the stadium when Engelbrekt came on, but a look at the lineup card made it apparent why Casey made the move to his left-hander when he did. The next 5 Ducks due up, and 6 of the next 7, were lefties as well.
Engelbrekt did a decent job, ending the 7th with 1 pitch, and setting Oregon down in order in the 9th. But the Ducks did get an insurance run in the 8th, when Engelbrekt walked Bennett, and then gave up consecutive singles.
Nogosek fared better after Jack Anderson singled in the bottom of the 9th, and pinch hitter Billy King followed with a walk, which meant the Beavers twice sent the tieing run to the plate.
But pinch hitter Trevor Larnach lined out, and then Nogosek struck out Donahue to end the game and get his 13th save of the season. Mercer got the solid win, and improved to 2-0, while Thompson took the loss, and tumbled to 3-3.
The 24th ranked Beavers will no doubt drop far out of the top 25, after dropping 3 of 4 games this week, to 30-18, and 10-12 in the Pac-12. Oregon State has now lost 6 of their last 7.
Oregon improved to 24-22, and 12-12 in conference.
Oregon now sits in 5th place in the Pac-12 race, 3 games behind Utah/ The Utes lead by 1 game over Washington, with Arizona and Arizona State 2 & 2 1/2 games back.
Oregon State sits just 4 games back, but the Beavers are tied with Stanford and California and the loser of this evening's game between USC & UCLA, in a 7th place log-jam.
Oregon State visits USC this coming weekend, in yet another critical conference series. 10 of the 11 teams can still win the conference, and 6 of them, and 7 total, could still finish in last place, in the incredibly tight Pac-12 scramble that this season is.
Oregon has a game to complete against Portland, plus another game, and will then host Arizona.