Ducks Walk Off Cougs In 10th
EUGENE, Ore. — Brennan Milone's base hit with the bases loaded in the 10th inning Friday gave the Oregon baseball team a series-opening, walk-off win over Washington State, 8-7, before 1,457 fans in PK Park.
Trailing 7-0 through five innings, the No. 10 Ducks (26-11, 11-5 Pac-12) scored runs in the sixth and seventh before rallying for five in the ninth to force extra innings. Gavin Grant, Tanner Smith and Drew Cowley singled in succession with one out in the 10th for Oregon, and Milone drove a ball into the gap in right-center to extend the UO winning streak to seven games.
Milone rounded first base as the winning run scored, then followed the flight of his hit by racing into right-center before being caught by teammates who mobbed him in jubilation.
"Once I hit it, I knew that was the game," Milone said. "And it was just awesome to have everyone celebrate like that, because we worked so hard for that one."
How It Happened: For the first five innings Friday, there was little hint of the jubilation to come. An RBI single followed by a two-run homer gave WSU a 3-0 lead in the second, and the Cougars added a solo homer in the third. A walk and three singles in the fourth made it 6-0 and ended the day of UO starter RJ Gordon, and a leadoff homer in the fifth made it 7-0.
The Ducks had four hits and had stranded two runners in scoring position by that point.
"That was a hard one to get," UO coach Mark Wasikowski said. "Through the first four innings of the game, they hit I think it was seven balls hard; we hit eight balls hard. And they had a seven-run lead. And so, you know, that's baseball. We didn't feel like we were catching any breaks, and we were trying to make our breaks and they made some very good defensive plays on us. We lined out several times. And then, you know, just kind of had to keep going and keep staying with the process, and the kids did a great job doing that."
Oregon had 14 hits over the final five innings, passing the bat from hitter to hitter. The Ducks broke through for their first run in the sixth on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Anthony Hall, before three straight two-out singles in the seventh made it 7-2, with Smith scoring on a base hit by Milone.
All the while the UO bullpen was putting up zeros, and the offense made it pay off in the ninth. Milone singled with one out and the bases loaded to score Grant and Smith as Oregon closed within 7-4, and it was a one-run game after RBI singles by Josh Kasevich and Hall. When WSU's third reliever of the day threw a wild pitch with Colby Shade at the plate, pinch-runner Bryce Boettcher scored from third and the game was tied.
Closer Kolby Somers (4-2) threw Oregon's fifth straight shutout inning in the 10th. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Grant and Smith drove singles past the infield, Cowley beat out a grounder to shortstop and then Milone left no doubt with his walk-off line drive to the gap.
"I thought we hit the ball well all night and we just weren't finding holes, and we just stuck with it," Milone said. "You know, it took until the ninth inning to where stuff started to fall. But once we got that momentum on our side — which we always talk about, is getting momentum back on our side — it's hard to break that, just one guy after another."
On The Mound: The UO bullpen threw 6.1 two-hit innings, the only blemish a solo homer off Christian Ciuffetelli. Stone Churby pitched the sixth, when the Cougars tallied their final hit of the night.
Andrew Mosiello then struck out three in two scoreless innings, perhaps his most encouraging performance of an injury-marred season. Tommy Brandenburg provided a scoreless inning of relief in the ninth, and Somers finished it off by striking out two in a 1-2-3 10th inning.
"It's just always awesome to celebrate a walk-off win, and especially coming back and scoring five runs in the ninth inning," Somers said. "That was a really special game and probably that was the biggest comeback I've ever been a part of."
At The Plate: The top of the UO order was lights out, with Smith, Cowley and Milone combining to go 10-for-17 with five runs and four RBIs. Jacob Walsh and Kasevich added two hits apiece, and Grant had three hits in the nine hole, coming around to score twice.
The ninth-inning rally produced a tie despite an orthodox out recorded by the Ducks. After Milone singled to make it 7-4, Walsh came to the plate with two on and one out. After swinging at two strikes, Walsh was called out when a third strike was assessed for not being in the batter's box in a timely enough manner.
"It's a rule that's in the rulebook, and so the umpiring crew have no choice but to enforce a rule as it's written," Wasikowski said. "And the rule says that the hitter must be in the box ready to hit with 7 seconds remaining (on the 20-second pitch clock) — and our hitter was waiting on their pitcher to engage with the rubber, which is usually a natural thing.
"That happens in the game of baseball, where the pitcher gets on the rubber, the hitter gets into the box and the normal flow of the game happens. The new rule obviously doesn't allow the normal flow of the game to happen at all times. And this was an example of it. I don't think the umpire was thrilled that he had to call it; I wasn't thrilled that he called it, especially in that situation. It was a learning moment. The rule is the rule."
Up Next: The Ducks send Jace Stoffal (0-0, 9.00) to face WSU in the second game of the series Saturday at 3:05 p.m.