The Oregon baseball team could hardly hit the ball out of the infield the first five innings, much less score. Arizona starter James Farris got ahead of seemingly every hitter, like he did against catcher Shaun Chase in the bottom of the fifth inning. But after taking a first-pitch strike, Chase unloaded on a fastball, hitting it over the center field wall with room to spare.
“I didn’t really see it because I was sprinting,” Chase said. “I didn’t think it would actually get out to center in PK, so I was going for a triple.”
The blast, which gave the Ducks (32-13, 11-8 Pac-12) a 1-0 lead, was one of two home runs on the night for Chase, who scored and drove in three runs during Oregon’s 4-1 win over Arizona (18-26, 7-15) Friday night at PK Park.
The win comes less than a week after Oregon State swept the Ducks out of Corvallis, and the Oregon coaching staff wasn’t happy with the Ducks’ early performance against Arizona. Head coach George Horton said hitters had “giveaway at-bats” early in the game, and hitting coach Mark Wasikowski gave them an earful in the dugout, calling them “soft” and “selfish,” among other things.
“There was just a bad feeling of trying too hard, I don’t know what it was, ‘woe is me’ — kind of a hangover of getting cut up the previous weekend,” Horton said. “I went to Coach Waz and said, ‘We’ve gotta do something.’ Coach Waz got way up underneath them and started yelling and screaming.”
Farris shut down first 14 Oregon batters, striking out five and allowing just one hit (and baserunner). But the game swung Oregon’s way after Chase smashed a fastball well over 400 feet to put the Ducks up 1-0 in the fifth.
“I just saw a spotlight on him,” Oregon starter Tommy Thorpe said of Chase. “I didn’t really call it but I just thought about it and thought he was going to hit a home run, and he did.”
Austin Grebeck came up directly after Chase and laid down a bunt on the first pitch. Third baseman Willie Calhoun barehanded the ball but he threw wide left of first base and down the right field line. Grebeck advanced to third on the error. Mark Karaviotis came up next and singled to center on the first pitch he saw to drive in Grebeck for a 2-0 lead.
Arizona got a run back in the top of the seventh. Tyler Krause led off the inning with a bloop to left field and Kyle Garlick nearly made an impressive running catch, but the ball bounced off his glove, resulting in a double for Krause. The next batter, Calhoun, swung away on the first pitch and lined it past the diving A.J. Balta at first base for a single to drive in Krause.
The Ducks answered immediately. Chase led off the bottom of the seventh with a long double to left over Krause’s head. Balta followed that up with a single to put runners on the corners and Grebeck drove in Chase with a soft groundout to first base. Balta moved to third on a wild pitch and scored a couple of pitches later on a Karaviotis single, putting the Ducks up 4-1.
Thorpe threw into the eighth and got the first two outs of the inning, but two straight singles prompted Horton to replace Thorpe with Garrett Cleavinger. Thorpe pitched 7.2 innings, allowing five hits, two walks and one run (earned) while striking out five.
“I was telling (Horton) I wanted to stay in but, obviously, my pitch count was up,” Thorpe said.
Chase hit his second home run — a towering fly to left field — in the bottom of the eighth to give Oregon its decisive 6-1 lead.
“Chase is a guy who’s basically in scoring position every time he’s up,” Karaviotis said.
The Ducks are back in action Saturday at 3 p.m. Jeff Gold (2.30 ERA) will toe the rubber for Oregon, facing Cody Hamlin (2.94 ERA).
“That was a good victory tonight to build on,” Horton said. “Hopefully, we can get back into balance again and — knock on wood — maybe we can roll off a few in a row.”
- Chase now leads the Pac-12 with seven home runs on the season.
- This is also the first time an Oregon player has hit at least two home runs in a game since Ryon Healy blasted two against Stanford on April 27, 2013.
- Cleavinger’s last appearance came on Saturday against Oregon State, when he came in with a lead and left trailing. He gave up four runs (all earned) in the eighth inning during the Ducks’ 4-2 loss and allowed a single to the first batter he faced Friday night, loading the bases. But Cleavinger got pinch-hitter Zach Gibbons (.347 batting average on the season) to flyout and keep the score at 4-1.
“I’m sure he had a little bit of revenge on his mind from the previous week,” Horton said.
Chase went to the mound after the single Friday night and told Cleavinger not to worry about the hit.
“I have the utmost confidence in Cleav,” Chase said. “He’s going to be in the bigs one day.”
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415