NORWICH, Conn. – Oregon is known for its small ball, and in the top of the ninth the Ducks challenged No. 17 Connecticut’s defense and won, scoring three runs en route to a 5-3 victory on Friday night at Dodd Memorial Stadium.
In front of 5,684, Madison Boer came on in the ninth for his fourth save of the season with a 5-2 advantage. He retired the first two batters before Pierre LePage knocked a two-out single to single to left. The Ducks allowed LePage to move around the bases on indifference, before he scored from third on Nick Ahmed’s RBI single.
Oregon again let Ahmed move all the way to third, but Boer struck out George Springer swinging to end the game. Boer has now picked up the save in the Ducks’ last four victories.
The Ducks improve to 39-22 on the season and will move on in the winner’s bracket to face 10th-ranked and the Norwich regional’s No. 1 seed, Florida State (43-17) on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT). The game will be televised by Fox Sports Florida.
Friday night’s game went into the ninth tied at 2-2, but the Ducks put the offensive pressure on the Huskies defense. Danny Pulfer led off the inning with a single, and Jack Marder attempted a sacrifice bunt that was fielded by Mike Nemeth, who came off the bag at first. The first baseman made the throw to second to erase Pulfer, but it was too late as the Ducks had runners safe on first and second with no outs.
Oregon again challenged UConn’s defense as Eddie Rodriguez squared up a bunt back toward the mound. Relief pitcher Scott Oberg fielded the bunt ,and again attempted to retire Pulfer at third, but the throw was too late. The Ducks had the bases loaded with no outs.
Shawn Peterson popped up for the first out, but J.J. Altobelli’s ground out to second broke the tie as Pulfer scored and gave the Ducks a 3-2 lead. Steven Packard then pinch hit, and his slow rolling RBI single to short allowed Marder to score as the Ducks went ahead 4-2. Another pinch-hitter, Marcus Piazzisi, put a ball in play that was mishandled by third baseman Mike Olt, allowing Rodriguez to score Oregon’s third run on the error.
Oregon’s Scott McGough (5-2) was credited with the win after holding UConn scoreless on one hit for two innings, setting the table for Boer to come in the ninth.
Oberg (5-2) took the loss for UConn after allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits in one and 1/3 innings on the mound.
Connecticut starter Greg Nappo kept Oregon guessing most of the night, allowing just two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out four. He left the game in the eighth after lasting 7 and 2/3 innings and throwing 62 strikes on 102 pitches.
But Nappo’s one walk ended up being a crucial part of the game, as Oregon center fielder Jett Hart was issued a leadoff walk to start the top of the sixth.
Next at the plate was KC Serna, who buried the first pitch of the at-bat over the wall in left. Serna’s fifth home run of the season tied the game for the Ducks.
Oregon got out of one jam in the bottom of the seventh with runners on second and third and two outs. McGough, who had come on earlier in the inning, struck out Springer swinging for out three.
Oregon starter Zack Thornton lasted six innings on the mound for Oregon before allowing the leadoff batter on with a single in the seventh. He surrendered just two runs – one earned – on eight hits while striking out six.
In the second inning, Connecticut took a 1-0 lead after Nemeth led off the inning with a solo home run to right.
In the third, the Huskies scored again after a one-out base hit put John Andreoli on. LePage was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out.
Ahmed put the ball in play and on the fielder’s choice, LePage was erased at second. But Serna’s throw to first took a hop before getting past Peterson, and Ahmed moved to second on the error as Andreoli scored unearned to give UConn a 2-0 lead.