The Oregon baseball team trailed 6-2 and was running low on outs and innings. But with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the Ducks rallied against Arizona and tied the game on a Steven Packard home run. The rally propelled the Ducks (33-13, 12-8 Pac-12), who walked off in the bottom of the 10th on a single from Austin Grebeck to take the game and the series over the Wildcats (18-27, 7-16 Pac-12), winning 7-6.
“Probably on the short list of as good of comebacks as we’ve had late in the ballgame,” Oregon head coach George Horton said.
After a pair of strikeouts to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Tyler Baumgartner (3-for-3, two RBIs, one walk) kept the inning alive with an infield single. Then, Mitchell Tolman got hit by a pitch to bring up Kyle Garlick, who smashed a triple into the right center field gap. The hit cut Arizona’s lead in half to bring up Packard. Packard crushed a 2-1 breaking ball into the Oregon bullpen in right field, topping off the improbable comeback.
“I was actually a little bit out in front of that slider, curveball, whatever it was, and I was able to keep it fair,” Packard said.
Horton said he spoke to administrative assistant Mitch Karraker before Packard’s blast.
“I said, ‘I know Packard’s going to get up but I don’t have a feeling for what he’s going to do,’” Horton said. “Maybe that was it because he hit a home run and that’s not a usual thing for Steve Packard.”
Arizona struck shortly after the game began. The second batter of the game, Kevin Newman, smoked a double down the left field line and scored three pitches later on a single to left by Scott Kingery.
Oregon answered in the bottom of the third. Mark Karaviotis led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Aaron Payne. Baumgartner followed the bunt up with a single up the middle, scoring Karaviotis to tie the game 1-1.
A similar scenario occurred in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Arizona starting pitcher Cody Hamlin hit Karaviotis in a 1-2 count. Payne didn’t bunt this time, but he moved Karaviotis to second with a groundout to first. Baumgartner plated Karaviotis with a single – to right field this time – to give Oregon a 2-1 lead.
The lead didn’t last long. In the top of the sixth, Kevin Newman led off with a single to center. After a flyout from Kingery, Trent Gilbert singled to right and Willie Calhoun doubled over Baumgartner’s head in right to score Newman. Tyler Krause then singled to left field to score Gilbert and knock Oregon starter Jeff Gold out of the game. Jordan Spencer came in but couldn’t limit the damage, giving up a single to score Calhoun and put Arizona up 4-2. Riley Moore came up next and laid down a squeeze bunt. A.J. Balta’s glove toss home wasn’t in time, scoring Krause.
Newman sparked another rally in the seventh. After he hit a one-out single off of reliever Stephen Nogosek, Kingery doubled down the left field line, advancing Newman to third. Porter Clayton replaced Nogosek after the double and gave up a sacrifice fly to give Arizona a 6-2 lead.
The Ducks got two runners on in the ninth, but other than that, neither team threatened after Oregon’s four-run seventh inning, so the game went into extra innings.
Shaun Chase (2-for-5) led off the 10th inning with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Desmond Santos, who moved to third on a single from A.J. Balta (3-for-5). Grebeck lined his single past the diving Newman at shortstop to complete the comeback.
“I’ve been trying to work on getting good at-bats earlier in the game but I guess I like the big show,” Grebeck said.
“We can’t win nine in a row but we have a chance to win three in a row,” Horton said.
- This was Oregon’s 15th straight win at home, dating back to March 15 against USC.
- Garlick’s triple in the seventh was the 12th of his career, breaking the Oregon career triples record. Going into the game, Garlick was tied with George Shaw, who set the record in 1955. Payne currently has 10 career triples.
- Gold was battling the flu, according to Horton, who didn’t want to make excuses for Gold’s struggles (5.1 innings, eight hits, five runs) even though he said the sickness might have had an effect.
“Just didn’t seem to have his real sharp breaking stuff, and they (the Wildcats) had their hitting shoes on,” Horton said.
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415