Ducks Drop Super Regional Opener

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — It’s must-win for the Oregon baseball team as the Ducks try to stay alive for a College World Series berth.

The Ducks will need to win games Sunday and Monday to advance through the NCAA Super Regional round after dropping the first game of a best-of-three series at Texas A&M on Saturday, 10-6. Oregon will try to force a decisive third game Monday by squaring the series on Sunday (4:30 p.m. PT, ESPN2).

Oregon will look to play a cleaner game Sunday after jumping out to a 6-3 lead in the second inning Saturday before nine walks and two errors contributed to a comeback by the Aggies.

“It’s a tougher pill to swallow when you don’t play up to the level you know you can play up to, and traditionally have played up to,” UO coach Mark Wasikowski said. “So it was disappointing. We got off to a good start but didn’t play a complete game today whatsoever.”

Anson Aroz got the Ducks started with a two-run homer in the first, and then had an RBI single during a four-run second inning. Oregon contended with not only the Aggies but temperatures that felt like over 100 degrees due to humidity, and a crowd of 7,835 at Blue Bell Park that was chirping at the Ducks well before first pitch.

“We got it good out there, and enjoyed it,” said Aroz, who played left field Saturday. “I don’t think it fazed us too much. In the dugout morale was high — we never thought we were out of it. It’s cool to experience stuff like this; we’ve just got to play better baseball.”

How It Happened: Mason Neville singled to open the game and Aroz followed with his fifth homer of the year, a deep drive to left field. In the bottom of the inning, UO starter RJ Gordon walked two of the first three hitters, and an RBI single made it 2-1. The next batter also singled, but Aroz threw out Texas A&M’s No. 3 hitter, Braden Montgomery, at home on the play; Montgomery was injured trying to avoid the tag and will miss the rest of the series, the Aggies announced after the game. 

Still, Texas A&M tacked on two more in the first to lead 3-2. In the top of the second, Bennett Thompson singled to lead off the inning, Carter Garate put runners at the corners with a one-out single and Bryce Boettcher was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Neville plated Thompson with a sacrifice fly, Aroz put Oregon up 4-3 with an RBI single and Chase Meggers followed with a two-run double.

“Starts like that definitely fuel the fire,” Aroz said. “Baseball’s a long game and you see those middle innings can be tough to continue scoring in; you see that in games all the time. We would have loved to have kept the fire lit and continue it.”

Meggers’ double chased Texas A&M starter Ryan Prager. On came Chris Cortez, who limited the Ducks to two hits and three walks while striking out 10 as he pitched into the eighth inning.

Gordon kept the Aggies off the board in the bottom of the second to protect Oregon’s 6-3 lead. But a leadoff double in the third resulted in a run, and four of the first five hitters in the fourth reached — with the Ducks committing two errors as well. That ended the day for Gordon, and an inherited runner scored an unearned run to make it 7-6 through four.

Gordon threw 103 pitches while recording 10 outs, including 43 in the extended first inning.

“You earn trust, and you stick with guys when they earn trust,” Wasikowski said. “He’d definitely earned plenty of trust.”

Three straight walks by UO reliever Ryan Featherston ended his outing in the fifth. Logan Mercado entered and walked the next hitter to force in a run, before retiring the next three straight — two on RBI groundball outs that pushed the Ducks’ deficit to 10-6.

That ended up being the final, with the Ducks unable to solve Cortez. A single by Garate and walk by Neville brought Aroz up with two outs in the sixth, looking to add to his big day, but he struck out. In the eighth, Thompson walked and Garate was hit by a pitch with one out to end the day for Cortez, but the next two UO hitters were retired to end that threat.

“We didn’t play a clean baseball game,” Wasikowski said. “I think we have a better game in us, for sure.”

On Deck: The Ducks will send left-hander Grayson Grinsell (7-2, 3.82) to the mound Sunday to face Shane Sdao (5-1, 2.61) in game two (4:30 p.m. PT, ESPN2).