EUGENE, Ore. – Freshman J.J. Altobelli hadn’t hit a home run in his first 36 collegiate games, but that changed for the Ducks’ starting third baseman on Sunday in front of 2,868 at PK Park.
With the Ducks trailing by two runs in the bottom of the third, Altobelli went down in the record books with the first Oregon grand slam since reinstatement – hammering a first-pitch, round-tripper over the right field wall to push Oregon on to an eventual 8-4 victory.
The Ducks are now 27-13 on the season and 8-7 in the Pac-10, finishing the week with a 4-1 record. With the series win over the Trojans, Oregon has now won three consecutive Pac-10 series.
USC drops to 17-22 over and 3-12 in league play.
In addition to Altobelli’s grand slam, right-hander Zack Thornton improved to 6-0 on the season pitching seven innings of scoreless relief. The senior held the Trojans scoreless, scattering five hits, and striking out seven while never issuing a walk.
The Ducks tallied 15 hits in the game – the most the team has pieced together against a Pac-10 team since reinstatement.
UO was led once again by senior Eddie Rodriguez, who was 3-for-4 on the day with two RBIs, including a solo home run – his third of the season – in the sixth. Freshman Steven Packard also had a 3-for-4 day with one run scored and a double – his fifth of 2010.The San Marcos, Calif., native finished the series against USC batting .667.
Altobelli finished his day with a 2-for-4 performance, while Curtis Raulinaitis also had two hits at the plate.
USC starter Kevin Couture (2-2) took the loss, allowing six runs on 10 hits. Brandon Gracia and Ryan Cabral also allowed one run apiece in relief.
After going ahead 2-0, the Ducks ran into trouble in the third as USC put up four runs on the board. Oregon starter Alex Keudell surrendered a leadoff double to Joe DePinto, walked Ricky Oropesa and struck Ashton Kent to load the bases. A wild pitch allowed
DePinto to score the Trojans’ first run. Keudell then walked Cade Kreuter to load the bases once again, spelling an end to his outing.
Keudell lasted two innings, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks.
Thornton came on in relief, and surrendered a two-run single to Keith Castillo, as USC led 3-2. Kreuter then scored on an RBI groundout to give the Trojans a 4-2 lead before Thornton struck out Alex Glenn to end the inning.
UO responded in the bottom of the third as the middle of the order – Rodriguez and Packard – led things off with back-to-back singles. Marder’s sacrifice bunt then loaded the bases as Couture fielded the attempt, but then unsuccessfully tried to make the out at third with a late throw as Marder was safe at first.
Altobelli then made Couture pay a big price, crushing a first pitch, one-out, bases-clearing, grand slam over the right field wall as UO went ahead 6-4. It was the first grand slam hit by an Oregon player since the program was reinstated.
Oregon added a solo run to take a 7-4 lead in the fifth as Serna’s RBI double down the left field line plated Ryan Hambright. Rodriguez’s solo homer in the sixth scored Oregon’s final run.
Oregon went ahead 2-0 in the first after Serna and Marcus Piazzisi led off the inning with back-to-back singles up the middle. Danny Pulfer moved the runners over on a sacrifice as Rodriguez came to the plate. An infield single scored Serna, and a violent collision between DePinto at short and second baseman Matt Foat as they tried to field Rodriguez’s base hit, allowed Piazzisi to come around from third and give the Ducks a 2-0 advantage.
Oregon will host Oregon State at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the first of five Civil War games to be played in 2010. This will be a non-conference contest.
Notes: Oregon has now won three consecutive Pac-10 series…J.J. Altobelli’s grand slam was the first home run of his career and the first grand slam for Oregon since reinstatement…the Ducks averaged 2,971 fans per game in the USC series...Oregon has now hit multiple home runs in four games this season.