Just days removed from a troubling three-game skid, it didn’t take long for the No. 23 Oregon baseball team to get back on track.
The Ducks (18-8, 6-3 Pac-12) came away with a narrow 4-3 victory on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep over No. 14 Arizona State (16-12, 3-6 Pac-12). Oregon led throughout the afternoon, and though the Sun Devils threatened in the ninth inning, it proved to be too little, too late as the Ducks put the finishing touch on an impressive weekend.
“That was special,” Oregon head coach George Horton said. “Obviously, we didn’t think it would be easy today, and it looked fairly easy — at least from the mound and defensively — until the prideful Sun Devils just wouldn’t go away and put us in a precarious position … Luckily for the Ducks we got it done. Another milestone for our program and a nice sweep against a very, very good team.”
Oregon starter Brando Tessar (4-0) made up for a lack of control (six walks) by holding Arizona State scoreless through 6 1/3 innings and giving up just two hits to earn a victory. Closer Jimmie Sherfy, meanwhile, persevered through an eventful ninth inning to pick up his sixth save on the year.
“It’s always good when you’re going for the sweep,” Tessar said. “That doesn’t happen very often, especially against a great team like this. Just to go out and throw strikes and compete against a team like this is a great privilege.”
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third inning, when second baseman Aaron Payne and center fielder Connor Hofmann pulled off a double steal of third and second base to set up an RBI sacrifice fly from catcher Aaron Jones. Payne was thrown out trying to advance to third in the process — ending the threat — but the damage was done; Oregon had a 1-0 lead it would not relinquish.
Indeed, it would take until the fourth inning for Arizona State to register its first hit, and Tessar never faced much trouble before being taken out with one out in the seventh. A two-run double from Jones gave the Ducks a bit more of a cushion, though the Sun Devils did manage a run in the top of the seventh on an RBI single from centerfielder Andrew Aplin.
Oregon’s fourth and final run of the day came in the bottom of the eighth when first baseman Ryon Healy singled Jones home from second base, putting the finishing touches on what seemed to be a sure victory. But the Sun Devils refused to go away quietly in the ninth inning, pushing across two runs against Sherfy and loading the bases before finally falling on the heels of a strikeout.
Tessar, for his part, was never worried.
“I’ve got confidence for days with Jimmie,” he said. “Any time he goes out there, I know he’s going to get the job done.”
With the win, the Ducks remain slotted at third place in the Pac-12 behind No. 6 UCLA (20-5, 7-2 Pac-12) and No. 8 Arizona (21-7, 7-2 Pac-12).
Sunday’s win, of course, came on the heels of a doubleheader on Saturday. In the second game and with two swings that afternoon, Oregon outfielder Kyle Garlick became the team’s co-leader in home runs and also helped Oregon secure a series win over Arizona State. Garlick hit two solo home runs (his first homers of the season), freshman Jake Reed pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings and the Ducks topped the Sun Devils 3-1 in the second game of the doubleheader.
Garlick gave Oregon the lead in the second inning with a one-out solo homer. He led off the seventh with another solo shot, and Duck catcher Brett Hambright added an RBI double in the same inning to increase Oregon’s lead to 3-0.
Arizona State second baseman Joey DeMichele broke up the shutout with a one-out, solo home run off Ducks closer Sherfy in the top of the ninth, but Sherfy rebounded to strike out two batters in a row to end the game.
Garlick’s offensive outburst helped Reed, who allowed only six base runners over 7 1/3 innings, earn the second victory of his Oregon career. Sherfy pitched the final 1 2/3 innings to notch his fifth save of the season.
Despite allowing only three runs over seven solid innings, Arizona State starter Trevor Williams (5-2) suffered his second loss of the season.
In game one of the doubleheader, senior Alex Keudell picked a great time to pitch perhaps the best game of his Oregon career. While Oregon’s offense mustered only one run and four hits off Sun Devil starter Brady Rogers, Keudell threw a complete game, four-hit shutout to lead Oregon to a 1-0 win over Arizona State in the series opener Saturday afternoon.
Keudell allowed six baserunners in his nine shutout innings and faced only 30 batters (three over the minimum).
Oregon scored its lone run in the sixth inning. After second baseman Aaron Payne opened the inning by popping out, catcher Aaron Jones blasted a solo home run to left.
Arizona State’s best chance to score was in the fourth inning when centerfielder Aplin hit a leadoff double and later advanced to third but was stranded. In the sixth inning, Arizona State again maneuvered a runner into scoring position, but Aplin was picked off second base by Keudell.
Keudell improved to 3-3 with the win, while Sun Devils ace Rodgers was tagged with his first loss of the year.