Norwich, Conn. – Freshman Andrew Mendenhall made a game-saving catch, and right-hander Madison Boer came out of the bullpen to hold the game-tying run at second as the Ducks avoided elimination with a 4-3 victory over 17th-ranked Connecticut on Sunday afternoon at the Norwich Regional.
The Ducks (40-23) now move on to play No. 1 seed and 10th-ranked Florida State at 7:06 p.m. ET on Sunday evening. With the loss, UConn (48-16) was eliminated.
After a 58-minute lightning delay, Oregon head coach George Horton put Mendenhall into left field as a defensive replacement – a move that proved vital.
The delay started after Oregon reliever Scott McGough allowed a leadoff single in the top of the ninth to UConn’s (48-16) Billy Ferriter as J.J. Altobelli and KC Serna collided trying to make the play.
The teams then left the field for 58 minutes before resuming play, and Mendenall entered left field.
UConn’s John Andreoli knocked an infield single to Altobelli, who made an errant throw to first allowing Ferriter to move to third on the error, and sending Andreoli to second as the Ducks nursed a 4-2 lead.
Pierre LePage then drove what would-have been a three-run homer to left, but Mendenhall climbed the wall and made a highlight reel catch, saving Oregon’s lead and possibly postseason hopes. Ferriter ended up scoring unearned on a sacrifice fly as the Huskies closed 4-3.
The Ducks then brought Boer into the game, and he coaxed a fly out from Nick Ahmed for the second out of the top of the ninth. Boer then struck out George Springer for the game’s third out as the Ducks lived to play another game.
For Boer, it was his team-leading fifth save of the season. The Eden Prairie, Minn., native now has five saves in Oregon’s last five wins.
Oregon senior Justin LaTempa (6-3) put the Ducks in position for the win after throwing six innings, and allowing two runs – one earned – on seven hits and three walks while striking out one.
With Oregon nursing a 4-2 lead heading into the eighth, McGough came onto the mound and got into some trouble, but recovered miraculously to get out of it. The right-hander surrendered back-to-back singles and committed an error on a failed pick off attempt to put runners on the corners with no outs. McGough went on to strike out the side, keeping Oregon’s 4-2 lead unharmed.
Steven Packard started a two-run inning for Oregon in the bottom of the second, after a high chopper had him safely at first. Jack Marder followed up with a shallow single to center, leaving runners on first and second with one out for Shawn Peterson. The designated hitter sliced a RBI single into right, plating Packard, who gave Oregon a 1-0 lead.
J.J. Altobelli then dropped a sacrifice bunt down the first base line on the squeeze play, forcing Connecticut starter Matt Barnes to come off the mound. He couldn’t stop Marder darting home from third, but put the tag on Altobelli as the sacrifice gave the Ducks a 2-0 advantage.
Connecticut cut Oregon’s lead in half in the top of the third as Pierre LePage drove a one-out double down the left field line. Nick Ahmed then knocked him home on a RBI single to center as the Huskies closed 2-1.
Oregon added a run in the bottom of the third to take a 3-1 advantage as the Ducks moved KC Serna over after a leadoff walk. The speedster took second on Marcus Piazzisi’s sacrifice bunt, and Serna stole third before scoring on Danny Pulfer’s RBI groundout.
The Ducks defense responded in the fourth as Oregon prevented a leadoff double from scoring. LJ Mazzilli moved to third on a groundout after his double, and after Billy Ferriter shot one back to Marder at first, Mazzilli tested Marder’s arm as his throw to the plate was ahead of a diving Mazzilli who couldn’t avoid Eddie Rodriguez’s tag.
LaTempa then walked John Andreoli to again put runners on first and second with two outs, but after a long battle with LePage, coaxed him to ground out to second.
Oregon built its lead to 4-1 after scoring a run in the bottom of the fifth. Again the lead off work of Serna paid off after the Ventura, Calif., native knocked a single up the middle. He moved to third on a two-base fielding error as Nemeth failed to field Piazzisi’s grounder.
With runners on the corners and no outs, Serna scored on Pulfer’s sacrifice fly to right. Piassizi moved around the bases on two stolen bases, but was thrown out after attempting to head home on Rodriguez’s fielder’s choice to Nemeth.
After issuing a leadoff walk to Ferriter in the seventh, LaTempa’s night was ended and Joey Housey was brought out of the bullpen. After Housey’s first pitch, Ferriter took off for second, and moved to third on an error as Rodriguez’s throw sailed over Serna. Ferriter scored on Andreoli’s RBI sacrifice fly to left, closing 4-2.
Connecticut’s Matt Barnes (8-3) threw six innings, allowing four runs – three earned – on nine hits, one walk and two strikeouts in the loss.
Notes: Oregon is 9-5 against ranked teams in 2010…29-8 when scoring first…Packard had Oregon’s only extra-base hit with a one-out double to deep center in the bottom of the eighth.