The Oregon baseball team (25-10) handled the UC Riverside Highlanders (14-15) by a final score of 7-2 Friday night at PK Park, thanks mainly to starting pitcher Tommy Thorpe and right fielder Tyler Baumgartner.
Thorpe was sharp throughout the night, finishing with seven strikeouts in seven innings while giving up two hits, a walk and an unearned run.
“Everything was working, even my curveball, which normally is never on but today it was,” Thorpe said postgame. “I was going to it more than my slider sometimes.”
Thorpe said he rarely throws curveballs in games, but for reasons even he couldn’t explain, the pitch felt good out of his hand on Friday. He said he threw it about six or seven times during Friday’s start, which he said was one of his best this season.
Oregon head coach George Horton was impressed with Thorpe but still had some concerns.
“He still, unfortunately, threw some fat pitches with great count leverage,” Horton said. “I sure wish he wouldn’t do that, but we’d rather throw too many strikes than not enough.”
Baumgartner finished 2-for-4 with a game-high four RBIs, all coming with two outs.
Oregon had runners on base the first two innings but each inning ended with a runner caught stealing, the second one being a strike-him-out-throw-him-out with Shaun Chase at the plate and Mitchell Tolman running.
The third inning went much smoother for the Ducks. After an Austin Grebeck strikeout to lead off, Desmond Santos and Mark Karaviotis got hit by pitches in back-to-back at-bats. Aaron Payne struck out next, but A.J. Balta drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases with two outs. Baumgartner came up next and drilled a 2-1 pitch to left center field, clearing the bases.
“When I got to the plate, there wasn’t any room for me,” Baumgartner said. “I knew I was going to be getting a good pitch, so I was just able to put a good swing on it.”
Tolman got hit by a pitch – the third HBP of the inning – next to bring up Kyle Garlick. Garlick lined a shot up the middle that caromed off the second baseman, Joe Chavez, for an RBI single. That would be the final hit of the inning, in which the Ducks scored four runs to take a 4-0 lead.
The Highlanders got their first run in the fifth inning. David Andriese reached on Balta error to lead off the inning and Thomas Walker followed that up with a single. Shuyo Chang moved both runners over with a bunt and Matthew Ellis drove Andriese home with a groundout to Payne.
The Ducks increased their lead back to four in the bottom of the sixth. In a 1-1 count, Garlick launched a fastball over the Riverside bullpen in left field to make the score 5-1. It was his third home run of the year and one of the longest hit by a Duck this season.
“It felt really nice,” Garlick said. “I watched that one go out for sure.”
The Ducks would tack on a run an inning later. Baumgartner came up with two outs and, yet again, delivered an RBI double. This time he hit a sharp line drive to right center, just out of the reach of a diving Devyn Bolasky, to score Payne from first.
Oregon’s final run came in the eighth on a Grebeck single that brought home Nick Catalano from third. Catalano pinch-ran for Garlick earlier in the inning.
The Highlanders got their second run in the top of the ninth on a long home run by Andriese off Jack Karraker to right field.
Jeff Gold will take the hill for the Ducks Saturday for the second game of this three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.
- Oregon left-handed starting pitcher Matt Krook received an MRI at 10 a.m. on Friday, but Horton said he hasn’t seen the results yet. Krook left last Saturday’s game against Washington in the third inning with stiffness in his throwing arm.
- Tolman — normally Oregon’s third baseman — was the designated hitter on Friday, causing regular DH Garlick to move to left field and Santos to start at third, his second start of the season (the other came at second base on March 9 against Ohio State). Horton said Tolman’s arm isn’t 100 percent and might not play defense all weekend, but the issue isn’t serious.
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415