EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon fought back for the final seven innings on Saturday night at PK Park, but the Ducks came up just one hit short in a 7-6 loss to Kent State in the first game of the Eugene Super Regional.
In front of a record crowd of 4,177, the Golden Flashes (45-17) extended their win streak to 21 games and Oregon lost its first game at PK Park since April 24 – a streak of 14 consecutive wins at home.
Oregon (45-18), the No. 5 national seed, found itself trailing 5-1 before getting its first hit in the fifth inning. The Ducks fought back to a 5-4 deficit in the seventh, but a costly error in right field during the top of the eighth allowed two runs to score as Kent State pushed its lead to a three-run advantage with UO down to its final six outs.
Kent State starter David Starn (11-3) allowed four runs on five hits and a damaging seven walks while striking out six before he was lifted in the seventh.
Alex Keudell (11-5) battled through two Oregon errors, allowing six runs – just two earned – in seven and 1/3 innings while fanning four. Only two of Kent State’s seven runs were earned as Oregon committed three errors.
After trailing by as many as four runs, Oregon closed within one in the bottom of the seventh when Aaron Jones led things off with a double to shallow right field. He scored on Brett Thomas’ RBI single into left field.
But after fighting back, the error bug bit Oregon one last time as with two runners on and two outs in the top of the eighth, a ball hit to right field fell under the glove of Jones, allowing the bases to clear.
Down to its final three outs entering the bottom of the ninth, the Ducks loaded the bases on a walk and two hits with Brian Clark on the mound for the Flashes. Kent State went to Josh Pierce, but Ryan Hambright’s sacrifice fly brought the score to 7-5. Pierce then walked Brett Hambright to load the bases once again with two outs, and delivered ball four to Andrew Mendenhall to walk in UO’s sixth run of the game.
At the plate with the bases loaded, J.J. Altobelli drove the first pitch he saw into center field, but Evan Campbell was able to track down the catch to squash a comeback.
Kent State walked 11 Oregon batters, but the Ducks failed to capitalize stranding 12 base runners.
Ryon Healy and Thomas led the Ducks with two hits apiece while each drove in a run.
Jimmy Rider was 2-for-5 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored. T.J. Sutton added two hits, two runs and a RBI for the Flashes.
The Ducks and Golden Flashes will return to action at PK Park tomorrow at 7 p.m. for game two of the Super Regional.
Notes: A new PK Park record crowd of 4,177 fans were on hand…Oregon is now 17-6 in one-run games…Kent State extends its hitting streak to 21 games…Oregon suffered its first loss at PK Park since April 24, a string of 14 straight home wins…Alex Keudell picked off his seventh runner of the season…Kyle Garlick’s 41 RBIs rank fifth in single-season history, while Ryon’s Healy 76 hits rank third.