Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Light Rain

47°F

Portland

Light Rain

Humidity: 90%

Wind: 15 mph

  • 28 Nov 2014

    Rain to Snow 54°F 37°F

  • 29 Nov 2014

    Rain/Snow Showers 43°F 28°F


Owls pounce on Ducks, end Oregon's season

EUGENE — After out-pitching Oregon on Saturday, the Rice Owls outhit the Ducks on Monday, beating them 11-4 at PK Park to end their season.

Ninth-ranked Oregon got nine hits in the NCAA baseball regional final, but the Ducks didn't have enough effective arms to keep the No. 20 Owls in check.

“Tonight’s game was uncharacteristic of most of the year,” Oregon coach George Horton said. “We didn’t pitch very well, unfortunately."

And the Owls "were on it," he added. "They hit some balls hard, and the balls they mishit found holes.”

The Ducks (48-16) had done everything they could on Sunday to extend their season, winning both ends of a doubleheader against San Francisco (6-1) and Rice (11-0). All the momentum Oregon built up was not enough, however.

“We would’ve been better off if we had played a doubleheader (against Rice),” Horton said. “The fact that we were well-rested, we got stunned. We flinched, and then because of their character and their will to win, they started trying too hard.”

Rice (44-18) will move on to play at North Carolina State in a best-of-three super regional next weekend.

Oregon ran right-hander Jake Reed out to the mound to start Monday's game. He started on Friday, going seven innings and allowing one earned run against South Dakota State. But with just two days rest, Reed was not sharp.

Reed allowed three runs (two earned) in the first inning and was pulled after giving up two hits in the second inning. He was charged with two more runs, both earned, and wound up as the losing pitcher.

“We’re not real deep,” Horton said, of his pitching staff, which had carried the team most of the season. “He (Reed) threw 74 pitches in (Friday's) seven innings. He assured us he felt strong. In a perfect scenario, we could get about four or five innings from him. Unfortunately, it backfired on us. Jake was out of character. He was missing."

Rice started righty Zach Lemond — normally the Owls' closer. Lemond faired much better, going 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs, all earned, eight hits and one walk, while striking out seven.

Rice put pressure on the Ducks in the first inning with a hit that was like a Little League-style home run.

With one out, Christian Stringer tagged a double down the first-base line. Keenan Cook then walked.

After a long meeting on the mound with Horton, Reed served up a pitch down the middle of the plate to Shane Hoelscher. The Owls' cleanup hitter drove the ball to the wall, knocking in two runs.

Hoelscher slid headfirst into third base for a triple, but Oregon center fielder Connor Hofmann’s throw skipped past third baseman Ryan Hambright. Hoelscher was on his feet in an instant and raced to the plate on the error to give the Owls a 3-0 lead.

The Ducks answered in their half of the first, doing what they do best: manufacturing runs.

Leadoff man Aaron Payne hit a towering infield pop-up that should have been a routine play. But the ball fell in between Lemond and third baseman Hoelscher, and Payne was aboard.

Payne moved to second on a fielder's choice and stole third. Mitchell Tolman hit a sharp grounder between the first and second basemen to bring Payne home.

With runners on first and second and one out, Scott Heineman hit a grounder to second base. Rice's Stringer tried to tag Tolman. Heineman stopped running, forcing Stringer to throw the ball to first base. After Heineman was forced out, the Owls threw the ball to second base. Tolman got into a rundown. Scott Healy, the runner at second, continued running as Rice tried to tag out Heineman. Healy was able to cross the plate to make the score 3-2, and Rice was so distracted that Tolman slid safely into second base.

The Ducks were unable to bring Tolman around, though, and the game went into the second inning with Rice clinging to a 3-2 lead.

Horton pulled Reed for left-hander Christian Jones with two outs in the second inning.

Jones walked Stringer to load the bases, then walked Keenan Cook on four pitches to bring a run across and make the score 4-2.  Hoelscher then hit a ground ball to third base. Hambright tried to touch the bag for a force, but Stringer beat him to it and another run crossed the plate, giving Rice a 5-2 lead.

With two on and one out in the top of the third, Owls No. 9 hitter Hunter Kopycinski blooped a ball over the Ducks' first baseman, scoring a runner from secon.

With the score 6-2, Horton yanked Jones in favor of right-hander Clayton Crum. With the bases loaded, Crum gave up a single to Cook, which brought home another run. The Ducks threw out Kopycinski at the plate to end the inning, but Rice had taken a 7-2 lead.

“We had some good bullets,” Horton said. “Unfortunately, they just didn’t do what they’ve done all year long.”

The Ducks cut the lead to 7-3 in the bottom of the third, when Tyler Baumgartner tagged up on a sacrifice fly by Tolman.

In the fifth, Kopycinski gave the Owls an 8-3 lead when he blooped a ball into shallow center field. The ball dropped, and Leon Byrd came around to score.

That was the end of Crum’s night. Lefty Garrett Cleavinger was the fourth Ducks pitcher, until he gave way to closer Jimmie Sherfy with two outs and a runner on second in the eighth inning.

Baumgartner cut the lead to 8-4 with an RBI single to right in the bottom of the seventh, ending Lemond’s night, but that was all the scoring for Oregon.

Sherfy gave up two runs in the ninth.

“Rice played like a championship baseball team tonight,” Horton said.

While the Ducks were disappointed, Horton said the Ducks could be proud of what they accomplished the past two seasons.

“We all have a feeling of emptiness,” he said. “The fact that we won 94 baseball games in the last two years, hopefully they can reflect on that. Tonight and in the next several days, I’m going to have to convince my guys to reflect on what they’ve done for the university, the community and me. Unfortunately, we play a sport that’s measured on winning.”