Ducks will go for series sweep Saturday

EUGENE, Ore. — Another strong start on the mound, production throughout the lineup and some spectacular defense all added up to a 9-2 win for the Oregon baseball team over Seattle at PK Park on Friday night, clinching a series win for the Ducks entering Saturday’s finale.

Grayson Grinsell (3-2) allowed one run over six innings while striking out nine, Springfield native Maddox Molony hit his first career homer as part of a three-hit night and Bryce Boettcher had yet another diving catch in center field for the Ducks. Oregon (18-7) has won seven of eight entering Saturday’s weekend finale scheduled for 12:05 p.m.

Molony’s home run in the fifth put the Ducks ahead for good and sparked the first of two four-run innings by the UO baseball team. The other was in the eighth, in the midst of Ryan Featherston’s seven-out save, the first of his career.

“There’s a lot (to like),” UO coach Mark Wasikowski said. “I thought we bunted well; I thought Maddox Molony played really well, hit his first career home run; Grayson gave us a good start; Ryan Featherston came in at the end and pitched very well. I thought it was pretty complete, in terms of offensively we were able to pull away at the end. I thought that was really good.”

Molony is a graduate of Thurston High School in Springfield, whose grandfather played for the Ducks. An injury sidelined him for the beginning of the season, but he’s making up for lost time with his second three-hit day in a row Friday, and his first career home run.

“I grew up watching these players at this stadium,” Molony said. “The fence was a little farther out; but hitting it in this uniform was really cool.”

How It Happened: Following on the heels of solid starts from Michael Freund and RJ Gordon to open the series, Grinsell matched his career high by going six innings and struck out nine, one off his career best. Seattle led off the third with a double and a walk, but Grinsell allowed only a one-out RBI single to minimize the damage as his start set the tone for Oregon’s well-rounded performance.

“Being a starter, there’s a standard set by Waz and (pitching coach Blake Hawksworth) to go out there and dominate, and that’s what we try to do,” Grinsell said.

The UO offense had Grinsell’s back, knotting the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third. Carter Garate led off with a bunt single, moved up two bases on a walk and a single, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Bennett Thompson.

After Grinsell stranded two runners in the top of the fifth, the Ducks gave him the lead. Molony led off the bottom of the inning by pulling his first career home run to left field for a 2-1 lead. It might have come earlier in the season if not for an injury, but Molony kept himself ready for when his time came.

“It was just being there for my teammates, loving their success,” Molony said. “Like my buddy (and fellow freshman infielder) Ryan Cooney, I live with him, and seeing him succeed is like the best thing ever. … It keeps me locked in and keeps me ready to go, so when I get a chance it’s right there for me.”

A one-out single by Thompson and a two-out base hit for Jeffery Heard put runners at the corners, and Anson Aroz brought both home with a double. After a walk, Drew Smith singled to plate Aroz for a 5-1 lead.

The Redhawks added another run in the seventh, which Featherston closed out by coming in and getting out of a two-on, two-out situation. He then faced the minimum in the eighth when, with one on and one out, Boettcher made a diving catch in center field and threw to first to double off the runner and end the inning.

Boettcher then came up in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and nobody out, and made it 6-2 with a sacrifice fly. Thompson followed with a two-run triple, and he then scored on a single by Jacob Walsh.

Featherston retired the side in order in the ninth to complete the save, and put a bow on a game in which pretty much everyone who saw the field contributed for the Ducks.

“We talk a lot about just sticking to the process and taking everything one pitch at a time,” said Featherston, a freshman right-hander. “So I think not getting ahead of yourself and thinking, ‘Oh, I have to close this game out, I have to do this.’ It’s just committing to this pitch and letting everything else take care of itself.”

On Deck: The Ducks and Redhawks close out the series Saturday at 12:05 p.m.