The Oregon baseball team kicked off the Nashville Regional in explosive fashion, demolishing Clemson 18-1 Friday afternoon.
Besides Oregon’s 20-4 rout of Ohio State on March 9, the No. 2-seeded Ducks haven’t scored more runs in a game all season. Against No. 3 seed Clemson, the Ducks compiled 20 hits, two home runs, three triples, four doubles, five stolen bases, five hit batsmen and three walks. The Ducks even trailed at one point, albeit briefly.
Oregon starting pitcher Tommy Thorpe walked the first batter of the game, Tyler Slaton, who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by the second hitter. Thorpe struck out the third hitter but cleanup man Steve Wilkerson singled to center to score Slaton and give Clemson an early 1-0 lead.
The Ducks were held scoreless by Clemson starter Matthew Crownover in the bottom of the first but they answered in the second. Tyler Baumgartner (3-for-6, two RBIs, three runs) hit a leadoff triple and scored during the next at-bat on a Kyle Garlick (1-for-4, one RBI) groundout to third. After back-to-back singles from A.J. Balta (2-for-5, one RBI, two runs) and Josh Graham (2-for-2, two runs). Mark Karaviotis (0-or-1, one RBI, one run) laid down a bunt following Graham’s single and Balta beat Crownover’s toss home to make the score 2-1. Aaron Payne came up next and singled to left field, scoring Graham from second.
After a scoreless third, the Ducks piled on the runs in the fourth. Graham led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Karaviotis. Payne then hit an infield single to put runners on the corners and Nick Catalano (3-for-4, three RBIs, two runs) drove in Graham with a squeeze bunt to make the score 4-1.
Payne and Catalano then executed a double steal but Mitchell Tolman (1-for-3, two RBIs, on run) couldn’t drive them in, striking out swinging. The left-handed Crownover was replaced by lefty Zach Erwin, who came in to face the Pac-12 home run leader, Shaun Chase (2-for-5, four RBIs, two runs). Chase squared up for a bunt on a 1-1 pitch but took it for a ball. On the next pitch, Chase blasted a home run to left field, putting Oregon up 7-1. The next batter was Baumgartner, who made the score 8-1 on a home run to right field. It was Baumgartner’s third home run of the season and the first from an Oregon batter not named Shaun Chase since May 11.
Baumgartner's homer was also the first for Oregon by someone other than Shaun Chase in nearly three weeks, on May 11. Payne, of all people.
— Rob Moseley (@GoDucksMoseley) May 30, 2014
The Ducks didn’t stop there. In the bottom of the fifth, Payne led off with a hit-by-pitch and scored on a double down the left field line from Catalano. Tolman drove in Catalano in the next at-bat on a triple down the right field line to make the score 10-1. Tolman came in to score two batters later on a groundball to shortstop off the bat of Baumgartner, who finished a double shy of the cycle. Clemson’s shortstop Jay Baum threw home on the play but it was off-target, allowing Tolman to score easily and giving the Ducks an 11-1 lead.
The Ducks led off the sixth inning with a baserunner again, this time on a single from Steven Packard. Karaviotis then got hit by a pitch and both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch. Payne got hit by another pitch, loading the bases, and Catalano walked to bring home Packard. Tolman followed that up with a sacrifice fly (Catalano was thrown out at second on the play) and Chase doubled down the left field line to drive in Payne, giving Oregon a 14-1 lead. Baumgarter, Garlick and Balta hit three straight singles following Chase’s double to increase the score to 16-1. Packard came up again and completed the scoring with a two-RBI triple.
Thorpe went seven innings, giving up one earned run on five hits and four walks with four strikeouts. Porter Clayton pitched two scoreless and hitless innings in relief.
Jeff Gold will get the ball for the Ducks in game two of Regionals, which will be played Saturday. Oregon will face the winner of Friday night’s game between No. 1 seed Vanderbilt and No. 4 seed Xavier.
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415