Bats Come Alive, Ducks Win Again

ARLINGTON, Texas — Playing the first game of the day Saturday in the Shriners Children’s Showdown, it took the Oregon bats a few innings to wake up. The Ducks’ bullpen once again provided ample time to do so.

After Baylor scored the first four runs of the day, the UO baseball team responded with seven unanswered to win for the second day in a row at Globe Life Field, 7-4. The Ducks got scoreless relief pitching for the second straight game, and six different hittersdrove in a run as Oregon scored all seven of its runs in the middle innings.

“I didn’t think we prepared very well,” said UO coach Mark Wasikowski, who thought the Ducks let down starting pitcher Kevin Seitter with their play over the early innings. “That’s on us as coaches. But they came back and they didn’t quit, so that was really good. …

“It seems like we’ve tried to make it a little bit bigger than it is, and you can imagine why — playing in front of 10,000, 11,000 people in the place where (the Texas Rangers) just won the World Series. … So this is a great opportunity for our ball club in week one, two games in, and to have the experiences we’ve had — the good and the bad — it’s a blessing.”

Bennett Thompson drove in Justin Cassella for Oregon’s first run of the game in the bottom of the fourth, and two three-run innings followed. Jeffery Heard’s RBI single capped the three-run fifth to tie the game, and Mason Neville led off the sixth with a double before scoring the go-ahead run on a base hit by Ryan Cooney, sparking another three-run frame.

“Obviously we were off to a slow start, but good teams don’t give up in situations like that,” said Heard, a transfer from Sacramento State. “We just kept doing what we had to do to get back in on pitches we needed to attack, and we did a good job.”

The comeback made a winner of left-hander Bradley Mullan, a transfer from Gonzaga who threw scoreless fifth and sixth innings. JC transfer Jaxon Jordan followed with a scoreless frame before veteran Logan Mercado struck out three to complete a two-inning save.

That gave the UO bullpen 9 2/3 scoreless innings through two games this season.

“We really preach just going after it, each and every day,” Mercado said. “We don’t define success by wins and losses; we define success by if you felt you went for it that day. Just giving your best effort every day is all we can do.”

How It Happened: The first three-and-a-half innings were all Baylor. A triple and a homer made it 2-0 in the second, and the Bears used a hit batter and two singles to add another run in the third off the Quinnipiac transfer Seitter, who did strand the bases loaded to end the inning. But a two-out error followed by another triple made it 4-0 in the top of the fourth.

Oregon started to chip away in the bottom of the fourth. Cassella led off with an infield single for the Ducks’ first hit of the day. Two batters later he was at second base for a Bennett Thompson single that plated Cassella to make it 4-1.

“Comebacks are due to making small adjustments, and the sooner we make those the better off we’ll do,” said Cassella, a transfer from Elon. “Bad teams will make game-to-game adjustments, but we were able to do it pitch by pitch and at-bat by at-bat.”

After Mullan struck out the side to open the fifth, the UO hitters really broke through. Carter Garate capped a 10-pitch at-bat by working a one-out walk, and a Drew Smith single followed. Jacob Walsh’s 31st career double — tied for 10th in UO history — brought Garate home, Cassella followed with an RBI single to plate Smith and Heard’s two-out base hit brought around Walsh with the tying run.

Smith’s fifth-inning single extended his career reached-base streak to 28 games, which includes every game in which he’s had a plate appearance.

Mullan pitched around two one-out walks in the sixth, and the Oregon bats got back to work. Four straight hits — Neville’s leadoff double followed by run-scoring singles from Cooney, Garate and Smith — made it 7-4. Garate’s was a bunt single followed by a two-base error, bringing Cooney around from first.

Baylor put two on to open the seventh, before Jordan ended the inning with a bases-loaded strikeout. Mercado got three straight groundball outs in the eighth and struck out the side in the ninth for the save.

Saturday’s game was the second in a row in which one of Oregon’s starting pitchers from last season’s NCAA Regional series was outstanding in relief to open this season — first Grayson Grinsell in Friday’s win over Oklahoma, then Mercado on Saturday.

“It’s about the team all day,” Mercado said. “You have to put yourself aside and really play a role for the team. And when you’re selfless, you get to shine.”

Up Next: The Ducks close out the Shriners Children’s Showdown against Texas Tech on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. PT.