Marathon Night Ends with Walk-Off Win

EUGENE, Ore. — The Ducks were strong at the start and strong at the finish, which allowed the UO baseball team to overcome some mid-game lapses and open a four-game series against Seattle with a 5-4 win in 10 innings on Wednesday at PK Park.

Michael Freund made his first start for the Ducks and threw five scoreless innings, leaving with a 1-0 lead. After a weather delay of more than an hour, Seattle tied it in the eighth and hit a three-run homer in the top of the 10th. But the Ducks sent seven men to the plate in the bottom of the inning, with Drew Smith lashing a two-run single past the third baseman to give the Ducks a walk-off win.

Freund’s first eight appearances of this season all were in relief, and none was as long as three innings. But he threw five strong frames Wednesday, and got to celebrate an Oregon victory by night’s end.

“I trust our guys — we do a lot of high-pressure stuff in practice,” said Freund, a transfer from Umpqua Community College. “So you kind of have a feeling going into the last inning, we’re down three but it doesn’t really feel like we’re down three. We had good energy in the dugout, and it was just a good team win, for sure.”

How It Happened: Freund allowed a leadoff single and a one-out double in the first, but he pitched out of that jam and allowed just two more baserunners the rest of his outing. The Ducks gave him the lead in the third, when Carter Garate singled with one out, reached third with two out and scored on a wild pitch.

Ryan Featherston followed Freund with two scoreless innings of relief, but Seattle was able to get two runners on with one out in the eighth against Logan Mercado. That’s when a storm rolled past PK Park, delaying the game for an hour and 16 minutes.

Bradley Mullan took over on the mound after the delay, and he got the second out of the inning before consecutive walks brought in the game-tying run. The Ducks were unable to capitalize on a leadoff single by Bennett Thompson in the bottom of the eighth and a one-out double by Smith in the ninth, which ended with Oregon hitting 1-for-10 to that point in the game with runners in scoring position.

Mullan took the mound to start the 10th, which opened with a single, an error and a three-run home run. On came reliever Matthew Grabmann, who hit the first batter he faced and allowed a two-out walk before getting out of the inning with the Ducks still down 4-1.

“Honestly, with this offense anything can happen,” Grabmann said. “I knew we were gonna win; we’ve come back from a lot worse. I’ve seen it, so it’s kind of just giving us a chance to win.”

The bottom of the 10th opening with infield singles by Bryce Boettcher and Chase Meggers, and Anson Aroz made it 4-2 with a sharp single up the middle that deflected off the pitcher and past the shortstop. Meggers took third on the play, and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Mason Neville.

Down 4-3 with one out in the inning, the Ducks loaded the bases when Justin Cassella and Jacob Walsh were hit by pitches. To that point Aroz had the only hard-hit ball of the inning, but UO coach Mark Wasikowski had used a timeout during the frame to reiterate the message that, sometimes that’s all it takes.

“That was one of our messages, was just, we don’t need a hero,” Wasikowski said. “Just give us a good at-bat. … We’re just trying to settle guys down to where they can function and operate like we see them when they have their emotions under control.”

The Ducks may not have needed a hero, but Smith got to enjoy that role after driving a ball through the infield to score Aroz and then Cassella. The Ducks chased Smith into center field to celebrate the win.

“That was awesome,” said Smith, who had a three-hit night. “It was my first college walk-off, so I was pretty excited to be able to enjoy that with my teammates. Walk-offs are always fun.”

Notable: Walsh doubled in the second to move into a tie with Spencer Steer (2017-19) for seventh on the Oregon career doubles list with 36 … Boettcher batted in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career … The walk-off was the second in three games for Oregon … Grabmann picked up his first win since May 20 of last season at Utah.

On Deck: The Ducks and Seattle play the second game of the series Thursday at 5:05 p.m.