Offensive explosion fuels midweek win

EUGENE, Ore. — Two days after scoring but a pair of runs and failing to complete a series sweep of USC, the Oregon baseball team bounced back in a big way Tuesday.

The Ducks (26-10) tied a program record with six home runs Tuesday, with Jacob Walsh hitting a pair as part of a four-hit day in Oregon’s 14-9 win over Gonzaga at PK Park. Chase Meggers also had four hits, and he hit the last of the Ducks’ half-dozen homers as they fended off a comeback attempt by the Bulldogs.

Oregon entered this week third in the Pac-12 with 47 home runs this season, but the Ducks hit just one in their series win over USC this past weekend. They still managed to produce runs well enough to win twice over the weekend, but Tuesday’s power surge was a welcome sight on the heels of Sunday’s two-run, five-hit performance.

“The other day the lineup didn’t look very long, and then today it looks like, man, it just kept going,” UO coach Mark Wasikowski said. “There’s a lot of talented players here; they’re just young and they haven’t played a full college baseball season. So unfortunately, some days you just feel like it’s a little light or inconsistent. And then other days like today you go, holy cow, that was something else.”

The offensive explosion backed another strong start from sophomore left-hander Ian Umlandt. Six days after allowing four runs across seven innings to beat Sacramento State in his first collegiate start, Umlandt (3-0) limited Gonzaga to two runs on three hits in six innings Tuesday.

“The difference between this year and last year has been huge,” said Umlandt, who threw 17.1 innings as a freshman across 17 appearances, all in relief. “Both on and off the field — making changes with diet, when I’m going to bed, being on time for certain things, or early. Those obviously play a big tole in transforming things on the field.”

How It Happened: The Ducks gave their starting pitcher an early lead, scoring twice in the first. Jack Brooks singled to lead off the game for Oregon, and two batters later he came around to score on Walsh’s first hit of the game. That base hit also moved Meggers into scoring position, and Anson Aroz drove him in to make it 2-0.

The Ducks broke the game open in the third. Meggers doubled with one out, and Walsh followed with a towering home run to right-center field. Jeffery Heard doubled, Aroz walked and Maddox Molony made it 7-0 with his fourth homer of the year. After a pitching change, Mason Neville doubled and Bryce Boettcher hit his own fourth home run of this spring, giving Oregon a 9-0 lead.

Heard doubled again to lead off the fourth, and Neville made it 11-0 with his sixth homer of the season. Gonzaga finally touched Umlandt for two runs in the fifth, but he limited the damage after four of the first five hitters in the inning reached base.

“There’s been moments that I’ve had the last two starts that would have kind of snowballed last year — getting runners on and getting out of it with two runs rather than four or five,” Umlandt said. “I think that’s a testament to just my growth and maturity. From a pitching standpoint, being able to get soft contact when I need it, keeping balls in the infield and keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate has helped me avoid damage the last two starts, definitely.”

It was still 11-2 entering the seventh, when Gonzaga put together its own seven-run inning off three UO relievers. But Walsh’s 14th homer of the year made it 12-9 in the bottom of the seventh, giving him his fifth career multi-homer game and third of the season. 

“I’m feeling good,” Walsh said. “Just sticking to my approach, getting good pitches to hit and putting good swings on balls.”

Meggers hit his second homer of the year in the eighth. Walsh followed with a double and Heard’s RBI single made it 14-9, before Logan Mercado struck out the side in the ninth. 

“Our hitters are really good, and we haven’t been acting like it,” Meggers said. “And even when we’re not acting like it, we’re still winning games, which means we’re really good. And we can be better. I think today it was a glimpse of it — but I still think we can get better.”

On Deck: The Ducks open a three-game series at Stanford on Friday at 6:05 p.m.