by Rob Moseley
Shaun Chase entered the on-deck circle prior to his final at-bat Sunday hitting a cool .396 in Pac-12 play this season.
Oregon led 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth, and had runners on second and third with one out. Conventional wisdom said Arizona would be wise to walk Steven Packard and load the bases for Chase, setting up a possible inning-ending double play, or a force out at home.
Conventional wisdom was wrong.
Chase continued a torrid hot streak and capped a monster weekend with a grand slam to deep left-center field, the exclamation point on Oregon's 5-1 victory over the Wildcats at PK Park. The Ducks completed a sweep of Arizona, and get another shot at Oregon State in a nonconference game Tuesday in PK Park at 6 p.m.
"It's always a shot in the stomach when someone gets intentionally walked in front of you," said Chase, who was 7-for-11 with three homers on the weekend. "It means they want to pitch to you instead of him. I was like, 'All right, I'm down with that.'"
Brando Tessar, making his first weekend conference start in two years, enjoyed his third straight outing of seven scoreless innings to earn the win for the Ducks (34-13, 13-8 Pac-12). Oregon experienced a successful recovery from being swept at OSU the week before, and plays its next two conference series on the road, at Arizona State and UCLA.
"It was good to come out, especially on Friday night, come out and get back into feeling good," said UO third baseman Mitchell Tolman, whose sixth-inning home run onto the roof of the Player Development Area in right field looked for a while Sunday like it might be Oregon's only run. "Obviously the win helps, but I just thought we played well all weekend."
A big share of the credit goes to Chase. A career .194 hitter entering this season, the junior catcher is up to .408 in Pac-12 games this spring, which would be No. 2 in the conference were he not five plate appearances shy of qualifying for the leaderboard.
Chase's two home runs Friday powered Oregon's 6-1 victory and he singled to open the 10th inning Saturday, with a pinch runner eventually scoring the winning run. Then on Sunday, Chase had two more hits, the latter crushed toward one of the deepest parts of cavernous PK Park.
"When you have power to all fields, especially here, it's really impressive and a lot of fun to watch," Tolman said.
Chase's grand slam overshadowed some clutch pitching by the UO staff, beginning with Tessar, the fifth different Duck to start in that spot in the rotation this season. A senior from Simi Valley, Calif., Tessar started five Pac-12 games in 2012 before his career was thrown off-track by injuries.
Primarily a midweek starter the last two months, Tessar had a scoreless streak of 15 1/3 innings entering Sunday, and he tacked on seven more against the Wildcats. Tessar (4-0) earned his first victory in a conference start since April 1, 2012.
"I've been working hard to get back in there," Tessar said. "It's been a long process, and it felt really good to help the team."
Lacking feel for his changeup and suffering from inconsistent fastball command, Tessar relied on his curveball to keep the Wildcats at bay. He first found significant trouble in the sixth, allowing two runners before striking out three straight to end the threat.
Tessar pumped his fist as he left the mound and headed toward the dugout.
"Usually I don't show much emotion on the mound," he said. "I was pretty jacked up, and the team was pretty pumped up when I came in. It was cool."
Tessar stranded two more in the seventh, after walking two. He was replaced for the eighth by Jordan Spencer, who originally held the spot in the starting rotation that Tessar is now filling.
Spencer allowed a hit and two walks to load the bases with one out, then got Arizona's cleanup hitter to pop out after a lengthy at-bat before ending the inning with another pop up in foul territory.
Now, it's another shot at the Beavers for Oregon, which won't soon forget the sour taste of being swept in Corvallis.
"It's just motivation," Tessar said. "I think it's always in the back of our heads, and it's pushing us to work harder."