Kafka, Walker dominate on the mound
EUGENE — Oregon starters Cullen Kafka and Brett Walker combined to strikeout 25 hitters to lead No. 19 Oregon to a doubleheader sweep, 2-1 and 6-1, of New Mexico State on Saturday at PK Park.
Kafka and Walker both posted career-highs in strikeouts while not allowing an earned run between them to finish a four-game nonconference sweep of the Aggies (10-14). The Ducks' (16-6) pitching staff combined to strikeout 33 Aggies in the two games, including 20 in the nightcap.
Game 1: Oregon 2, New Mexico State 1
Kafka allowed just two hits in 8.1 innings and Oregon rallied late to clinch the series with a come-from-behind win.
New Mexico State took the lead in the second inning with an unearned run, but the Ducks answered with single runs in the sixth and eighth innings to come away with the win.
How It Happened: NMSU capitalized on one of just two hits it would get off Kafka in the second inning with a little help from the Ducks.
Austin Duffy singled with two outs in the inning for the Aggies and came around to score from first when Oregon centerfielder Bryce Boettcher dropped a ball for an error.
NMSU starter Rorik Maltrud made the run hold up until the sixth inning, before Oregon scored the tying run. Tanner Smith led off the inning with a triple that had cue-ball spin that evaded NMSU leftfielder Zerek Saenz and skipped into the outfield corner. Pinch-hitter Anthony Hall tied the game with a single to left-center field to plate Smith.
The game stayed tied until the bottom of the eighth when Oregon finally took the lead. Tristan Hanoian, who came off the bench on defense in the top of the eighth, singled to start what turned into a one-man rally. He moved to second on a Smith sacrifice bunt, before moving to third and then scoring on wild pitches.
Kafka go the first out of the ninth, before Kolby Somers came in to get the final two outs for his fourth save of the season.
Game 2: Oregon 6, New Mexico State 1
Walker dominated for six innings allowing no runs on just two hits with a career-best 13 strikeouts. The Ducks' one-two punch of Kenyon Yovan and Aaron Zavala both homered to give the Ducks' pitching staff all the offense it would lead.
How It Happened: The Ducks did not waste any time jumping on top in game two scoring two runs in the first. Hanoian, making just his second career start, and Yovan had back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. Zavala followed with a two-RBI double to give the Ducks the early lead.
Oregon picked up two more runs in the third thanks again to Yovan and Zavala. Yovan singled with two outs before Zavala blasted a two-run home run for a 4-0 lead.
Oregon scored an unearned run in the fourth on a Josh Kasevich single before Yovan made it 6-0 in the fifth when he hit a one-out solo home run.
Walker, who entered the game with 15 strikeouts all season including a then career-high five at Arizona last Sunday, combined with Hunter Breault and Andrew Mosiello to strike out 20 Aggies. Breault fanned two in an inning of relief, while Mosiello struck out five of the nine batters he faced in two innings.
Doubleheader Notes: The 33 strikeouts by the pitching staff were the most in back-to-back games by the Ducks this season … Oregon has four double-digit strikeout games from its rotation this season (Kafka-2, Walker-1, Ahlstrom-1) … Zavala reached base five times in the doubleheader going 1-for-3 with a walk in game one and 3-for-4 with four RBI and a run scored in game two … Yovan reached base four times, walking in the opener and then going 3-for-4 with a RBI and three runs scored in the nightcap … Kasevich and Hanoian both went 2-for-4 in game two.
Series Notes: Oregon swept it's second four-game series of the season, while winning its fourth series in the last five weeks … Oregon's pitching staff allowed just one earned run in 36 innings pitched in the series for a 0.25 ERA … The Ducks' staff fanned 55 hitters with just 14 walks while allowing only 18 hits … Thirteen Oregon pitchers held NMSU to a .141 batting average … Zavala led Oregon batting .364 (4-for-11) with a home run, four RBI and two runs scored … Kasevich batted .357 (5-for-14) with a RBI and two runs scored … Smith and Yovan both went 5-for-15 … Smith had four extra-base hits (three doubles, one triple), while Yovan had two (home run, double).
On Deck: Oregon meets Portland in a nonconference game Tuesday at 2 p.m. at PK Park before hosting Oregon State next weekend in a three-game Pac-12 Conference series.