Oregon lost two games at Texas Tech on the opening weekend of the season when the Ducks relinquished leads.
And there it was, happening again Friday night at PK Park in Oregon’s home opener.
Except this time, after Saint Mary’s scored a run in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game, Oregon struck back with a run in the bottom half of the inning for a 3-2 victory over the Gaels.
“It was a little nerve wracking at the end with the way the series ended in Texas,” UO freshman Tanner Smith acknowledged, though adding “I knew we were going to win the game ... that was all there was to it.”
So Smith ended it himself, driving in Jakob Goldfarb with a one-out sacrifice fly to give the Ducks (2-2) the walk-off victory.
“To come through with the game-winning RBI speaks volumes about him as a freshman,” UO coach George Horton said. “That’s not a surprise that Tanner was able to go up there aggressive and square a ball up.”
Goldfarb led off the inning with an infield single for his third hit of the game and raced to third on a single by freshman Aaron Zavala. An intentional walk loaded the bases before a strikeout brought Smith to the plate as the Gaels (4-1) brought an outfielder in for a fifth infielder. Smith defeated that strategy with a fly ball to deep right field to plate the run.
“I’ve done a great job putting the ball in play so far this season,” said Smith, now 6-for-15 with four runs driven in. “I was going to make contact and put something in the air and I found a way to do it.”
The Ducks only had to bat in the ninth because three walks off two UO relief pitchers loaded the bases for the Gaels in the ninth before an infield ground out scored a run to tie the game.
“The top of the ninth didn’t go exactly as we planned but it’s a good win nonetheless,” Horton said. “We talk about picking each other up and at this time of the year any way you can win is a good win.”
Oregon took a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning on Goldfarb’s two-run single after a walk and two hit batters loaded the bases. In the two games in which he’s played, the fifth-year senior is 6-for-8.
“Boy, does he look good,” Horton said. “He’s one of the straws that stirs us for sure.”
The only disappointment for Horton seemed to be that Oregon starting pitcher Cole Stringer was denied getting credit for a win because the Ducks lost the lead. Stringer worked six innings, allowing three hits and two walks in his first appearance of the season after being sidelined by an injury in 2018 after three appearances.
Even this start was delayed a week when the Ducks were rained out of the series finale at Texas Tech.
“I’d already waited a year and to wait another week, I was just ready for my time,” said Stringer, who said the key was “just continue to throw strikes."
“The wind’s really blowing in and I’m a big contact guy. Knowing the wind‘s blowing in and we’re at PK Park, just throw strikes and if they hit the ball, it’ll most likely die in the air.”