by Rob Moseley
Matt Krook's first collegiate victory looked for a time like it might instead be his second straight loss.
The situation was dire Saturday at PK Park when USC put runners on second and third to open the second inning off Oregon's promising freshman left-hander. But Krook coaxed consecutive groundballs to third baseman Mitchell Tolman, the second of which resulted in an inning-ending double play.
The Ducks kept the Trojans from scoring, then got the game's first run themselves in the bottom of the inning. No. 12 Oregon ultimately came away with a 7-2 victory to even this first Pac-12 series of the season at a game apiece, with the rubber match Sunday at noon.
"We were trying to minimize the damage," Tolman said of the top of the second. "Obviously coming out with zero there was huge."
The inning began with an AJ Ramirez double off Krook. Jeremy Martinez followed with a single, then took second when the Ducks threw in to keep Ramirez at third.
Up next was Jake Hernandez, but Tolman looked Ramirez back to third before throwing out Hernandez at first. When Dante Flores sent another grounder to Tolman, the UO third baseman threw home to start a pickle in which Ramirez was eventually tagged, then threw to second to get Flores trying to take an extra base.
"It was huge," Krook said. "It gave me a lot of energy. I think it brought a lot of momentum to our team. … It was probably the biggest play of the game."
On a blustery day that saw the wind blowing out, catcher Jack Kruger lofted an RBI double over the head of USC left fielder Garrett Stubbs in the bottom of the second. Tolman added two-run doubles in both the third and fourth innings, and he scored on freshman A.J. Balta's home run to right during the four-run third.
The big innings stood in contrast to Friday's frustration, when the Ducks typically weren't getting baserunners until there were already two out.
"When you can string together quality at-bats as a baseball club, it's tough to bring down," Balta said. "When you can get hits on top of hits, it makes it really hard for pitchers."
The Ducks' victim Saturday was USC left-hander Bob Wheatley (2-1), who had surrendered just one earned run over this previous four starts of the season. Kruger's second-inning blast to left doubled that total for Wheatley, and then Tolman came through in the third and fourth.
Tolman, Oregon's cleanup hitter, pushed his team-leading RBI total to 20 for the season with four Saturday.
"Certain series there are hitters you don't want to see get in the batters box, and Mitch certainly has the look in his eye," UO coach George Horton said.
All that production made a winner of Krook, finally. Despite a 2.19 ERA through four starts, the former first-round MLB draft pick was 0-1 entering Saturday. The power left-hander allowed just two hits and struck out six with four walks over 6 1/3 innings.
Krook took advantage of an unseasonably warm day in Eugene by throwing harder than he has all season, touching 94 mph on a fastball that ended the fifth inning with s strikeout.
Krook left with Oregon up 7-0 after walking two hitters in the seventh. Both came around to score off reliever Stephen Nogosek, the only blemishes of an effort that saw Krook retire 10 straight at one point.
"That's where I should be for seven innings, every game," Krook said of his midgame effectiveness. "Definitely the seventh inning got away from me, and that's frustrating."