by Rob Moseley
An aspiring rapper and relentless chatterbox, Jeff Gold might be the most eccentric personality on Oregon's baseball team — a sport known for its share of eccentric personalities.
There may not be anybody on the roster, UO coach George Horton joked, who is on the exact same wavelength as Gold. If it's anyone, though, it would seem to be junior catcher Shaun Chase, who helped Gold through five innings of an 8-2 victory Tuesday over Portland in the Ducks' home opener at PK Park.
"Me and Jeff have always had a connection," Chase said. "I caught him almost every time last year, and we just work well together. We're thinking the same thoughts."
Gold allowed two runs on three hits in the fourth but otherwise shut the Pilots down, matching his career high with seven strikeouts. Five of those were looking, thanks in no small part to the job Chase did framing Gold's curveball.
Chase said former UO catcher Brett Hambright, now a student assistant coach for the Ducks (8-0), taught him to catch breaking pitches deeper behind the plate, to give umpires a longer look at their movement.
"Shaun got me a lot of pitches back there," said Gold, who improved to 2-0. "… Shaun works hard for me, and I love it. He's a great catcher and he did a really good job tonight."
Chase, who caught Gold's win at Hawaii in Oregon's season-opening series, also struck the biggest blow in Oregon's six-run first inning Tuesday. He jumped on a 3-2 slider from Portland starter Jackson Lockwood for his first hit of the year, a three-run homer.
"We were ready to play tonight," Horton said. "The offensive coaches had them dialed in, and obviously the kids were excited to play."
Staked to the big lead, Gold didn't allow a hit until a leadoff double in the third. A triple and a single followed with two outs, giving the Pilots (2-6) their two runs.
"Good enough to win," Gold said. "I have a very high standard for myself, and I didn't meet it."
Gold may have been pitching with a little more pressure than simply the responsibility of the home opener. With Jordan Spencer having started slowly, the Ducks may go a different direction with their Sunday starter beginning this weekend against Cal State Fullerton, and Gold is a candidate.
Another is lefty Porter Clayton, who threw two perfect innings of relief Tuesday, as is freshman right-hander Trent Paddon. Clayton is a sophomore who missed the last two seasons while on a church mission, but who now has four scoreless relief appearances in 2014.
"It's been a long process," Clayton said. "Coming back from my mission, I really thought I'd come off the plane and things would come together all at once. But that's not baseball. It took a whole fall, a whole winter, and there's still a lot of things to improve, but tonight was awesome."