by Rob Moseley
Playing for the fourth straight day and sixth in the last seven, with a rare Thursday night start to a conference series coming up, the Oregon pitching staff needed some relief Monday.
Right-hander Brando Tessar obliged, despite pitching on short rest himself. The senior right-hander threw seven scoreless innings for the second straight start, helping the No. 23 Ducks beat visiting San Diego 4-3 at PK Park.
The UO baseball team (28-10) takes a six-win streak of nonleague victories into a Pac-12 series against visiting Washington State, a series that begins Thursday on account of the Easter holiday.
"It's huge momentum going into this stretch of Pac-12 games right here," Tessar said. "We've got some good teams coming up, and our team's playing well right now."
Count Tessar as a big reason why that's the case. He followed up his victory last Wednesday at Portland with another Monday, improving to 3-0 this season. A member of Oregon's weekend rotation before injuries derailed his career in 2012, Tessar is pitching like someone who can help the Ducks given injured starter Matt Krook's uncertain status.
"Brando is yelling at us that he belongs there," UO coach George Horton said.
Oregon staked Tessar to an early lead Monday, when Aaron Payne scored on a fielder's choice in the third. One inning later, Tyler Baumgartner came to bat with two on, knocked Desmond Santos in with a double and then scored behind Payne on the play due to a two-base San Diego error.
Tessar then cruised through the seventh, allowing seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts. He allowed several hard-hit flyballs, putting a premium on defensive positioning by Oregon's outfield, Horton said. But the Ducks made plays behind him, making up for missed opportunities at the plate that resulted in 13 UO runners left on base.
Tessar threw 97 pitches on four days' rest, and said he could have gone longer but for his predetermined pitch count.
"Today was a big step as far as proving recovery, that I can get back on short rest," he said.
After pulling Tessar, Horton turned to a few other seldom-used arms, with Cooper Stiles getting the nod to open the eighth. He allowed two runners who came around to score off lefty Porter Clayton as San Diego (25-11) rallied for three runs.
On came Jack Karraker, who had pitched all of five innings this season. The junior right-hander allowed a single but ended the inning with a strikeout, then gave way to Garrett Cleavinger for the save; closer Jake Reed was held out after pitching Saturday and Sunday.
"It feels good to come in in a tight situation and get it done," Karraker said.
Horton said Tessar, Clayton and Karraker likely are fighting for the final two spots in Oregon's normal 11-man staff. Clayton has the advantage of being left-handed, though he wasn't sharp Monday.
Karraker thus may have to get back to doing his best work in practices, where he hones a cutter-curve-changeup mix.
"You've really got to get after it when somebody's not looking, so you're ready for spots like that," Karraker said.
Spots like Monday, when the Ducks needed relief from the back of the pitching staff, and got it from Tessar and Karraker.