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Ducks stay alive as bats come alive

EUGENE — By Sunday night, it was hard to believe that the funeral arrangements had been almost finalized for the Oregon baseball season and that the coffin the 2013 Ducks were to be buried in was supposed to be built from their unused baseball bats.

After managing just four hits in the first two games of the NCAA regionals, Oregon’s bats came alive.

The Ducks extended their season with a 6-1 Sunday afternoon victory over San Francisco. Then, Oregon pounded out 15 hits against five Rice pitchers and won 11-0.

“Collectively, as hitters, we felt we needed to step it up today,” Oregon left fielder Tyler Baumgartner said. “Hitting is contagious. We were relaxed. You wouldn’t expect it in an elimination game, but we were looser than yesterday.”

The Ducks (48-15) will play Rice (43-18) again, at 6 p.m. Monday, for a berth in next week's super regionals.

Rice had put Oregon in the losers' bracket with a 1-0 win on Saturday. Now, everything will come down to one final game between them.

“It’s a do-or-die for both of us,” Oregon coach George Horton said. “One thing is for sure, the team that is the most mentally tough will be the one that moves on."

First baseman Ryon Healy led the Ducks in Sunday's rout of Rice. He was 4 for 4 with a homer and two doubles, knocked in four runs and scored two runs.

Baumgartner added a triple and a single, drove in a run and scored two runs.

Against San Francisco, Baumgartner had two RBIs and two runs scored on three hits — a single, homer and double.

“We had a lot more fight in us,” Baumgartner said. “Our swings were a lot shorter. At PK Park, our pitchers always keep us in the game.”

Being called on for a spot start, Oregon’s Jeff Gold (4-0) got the win against Rice, keeping the Owls scoreless over five innings, on two hits, no walks and four strikeouts.

“I didn’t want the season to be over,” Gold said. “I went out and executed my pitches. I was able to go about my business, and it was a lot of fun.”

Rice pitcher John Simms (8-4) suffered the loss. In four innings, Simms allowed four runs, all earned, six hits and no walks, and struck out two.

The Ducks jumped on Rice in the first inning. With two outs, Healy hit a shot to left-center that just cleared the fence for a home run.

Oregon gave itself more of a cushion in the fourth. Healy started things off with a single to center. Mitchell Tolman sacrificed Healy to second base. Scott Heineman then hit a laser up the middle to bring Healy home.

After Ryan Hambright singled to right, the Ducks had runners at the corners. Shaun Chase then laid down a perfect safety squeeze to make the score 3-0.

With two outs, Connor Hoffman sent a ball down the right-field line. Right fielder Michael Ratterree gave chase and laid out for the ball. It hit off the heel of his glove and got past him, allowing Hambright to come around to score.

In the bottom of the fifth, Aaron Payne reached base with a leadoff single. Baumgartner then hit a shot to straight away center. Center fielder Leon Byrd tried to make a diving, over-the-shoulder catch, but the ball landed beyond his reach and rolled to the wall. Payne scored to give the Ducks a 5-0 lead as Baumgartner cruised into third for a triple.

Healy then doubled down the left=field line, bringing Baumgartner around to make the game 6-0.

With one out and Healy on third, Heineman tried a safety squeeze. Relief pitcher Matt Ditman fielded the bunt and tossed it to catcher Geoff Perrott, who tagged Healy out on a bang-bang play.

Healy finished his night with a two-run double into the left-field corner that brought in Baumgartner and Payne and gave the Ducks an 8-0 lead.

Healy, who has been dealing with a sore back, was lifted after the hit to a standing ovation.

Heineman then piled on, smacking a two-RBI double to right-center.

The Ducks a final run in the eighth. Kevin Minjares, who entered the game as a pinch runner for Healy, hit an RBI single down the right-field line that brought Desmond Santos to the plate.

The big question for Monday is, after 24 hits in one day, do the Ducks have enough left in their bats to carry them to another victory?

“They’ll be anxious to get back in the batter's box,” Horton said of his players. “But it’ll be a different pitcher.”

The big question for Rice is, how do the Owls bounce back from such a beat down?

“If you’re an athlete, you’re resilient, period,” Rice coach Wayne Graham said, with a shrug. “Tomorrow is another day.”

Graham said Rice will start a right-handed pitcher Monday.

“I don’t know who yet,” he said. “I’m processing.”

After hearing that Rice will start a right-hander, Horton winked and said: “We’re going to throw a right-hander too, then.”