Gritty Ducks battle back to beat Beavs

By: Rob Moseley

EUGENE, Ore. — When the Oregon baseball team salvaged a win Sunday in its weekend series at Oregon State, Mark Wasikowski wasn’t surprised. Hisprogram, the UO coach made clear, was never going to roll over and accept defeat, despite a couple of closely contested losses to open the series.

If that wasn’t completely clear Sunday, it sure became so Tuesday. In a nonconference matchup against those same Beavers, the Ducks fell behind by five runs in the top of the second, then stormed back to win, 9-5, before 4,130 fans who tied the sixth-biggest crowd in PK Park history.

Bryce Boettcher hit two home runs, Brock Moore and three other relievers combined to get the final 24 outs of the game without surrendering another run, and the Ducks won their second straight against the Beavers to even the season series at 2-2. 

“These guys battle,” Wasikowski said. “Some teams might have just rolled over and said, you know, we’re getting beat and this is embarrassing at home, it’s not the start we want. That wasn’t our team. Our team decided to take a different approach and that was nice to see.”

Boettcher was 3-for-3 with five RBIs, and he had an assist from the outfield as well. The senior and two-sport standout from South Eugene High has only two more regular-season series left at PK Park, beginning this weekend against Utah.

“Let me tell you, today was definitely a special moment,” Boettcher said. “To go out with a win against the Beavers means a lot to my family and I. Obviously you’ve got to stay about business and one game at a time. But I’m definitely taking a couple extra steps around the field and looking around and taking it all in.”

How It Happened: A run of three straight encouraging midweek starts by Ian Umlandt came to an end Tuesday, as the sophomore left-hander endured a 54-pitch first inning. Three of the first four batters he faced walked, and a long grand slam to left field made it 4-0. The next two batters also reached, but Umlandt dug deep to get the final two outs of the inning and limit the damage.

Moore took over for the second, and allowed a leadoff home run to OSU star Travis Bazzana. But Moore got the following hitter to ground out before striking out the next eight batters he faced, matching a feat Moore said he accomplished last season while at Menlo College.

“He’s a good player, and he put a good swing on that one,” Moore said of Bazzana’s homer. “I just had to move on from that one. I was able to settle in pretty well and give my team a chance. Bryce came up huge — he was electric all day. It was just really fun to be a part of.”

Jeffery Heard got a three-hit day going with a single to lead off the bottom of the second. With runners at the corners and two out, Carter Garate reached on an error that scored Heard. Boettcher then followed with a three-run homer, getting the Ducks within 5-4.

With Moore still cruising on the mound, Heard tied the game in the third on an RBI single to score Mason Neville, who hit a leadoff double. Garate singled to lead off the fourth and Boettcher gave the Ducks the lead with a two-run homer — his third home run in three at-bats, going back to his final plate appearance in Corvallis on Sunday.

Heard homered to lead off the fifth, and Maddox Molony followed with a single, eventually coming around to score on a wild pitch for a 9-5 lead.

The Beavers best threat was in the seventh, when Tanner Smith walked to lead off the inning and Bazzana followed with a single. But Boettcher threw out Smith trying to go from first to third, keeping Bazzana at first as well, and the threat fizzled.

“He’s always been known as a really elite go-catch-the-ball defender who can run it down, and he’s really been working on his throws from the outfield,” Wasikowski said. “He’s got a very, very good arm, a strong arm, and you saw it tonight.”

On Deck: The Ducks open a three-game series against Utah at PK Park on Friday at 6 p.m.