Oregon opened Pac-12 Conference baseball play against Washington on Friday with a starting rotation depleted by injuries.
So it didn’t help the Ducks’ cause when their hitters pulled a no-show as well.
The Huskies opened the three-game series with a 9-3 victory at PK Park in front of an announced crowd of 1,086.
With pitchers Kenyon Yovan (hand) and Ryne Nelson (heel) still on the mend, and Cole Stringer not expected to play this weekend according to coach George Horton, the Ducks (10-6, 0-1 Pac-12) went with sophomore right-hander Cullen Kafka, who allowed seven runs and 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Oregon’s offense wasn’t much better.
The Ducks started the game with a team batting average of .294 and an on-base percentage of .400. But they managed just four hits — to 14 for the Huskies — on Friday. After the fourth inning, their only baserunner came on a walk in the ninth.
Oregon also struck out 10 times, including eight times in the final four innings and for six outs in a row at one point.
“I didn’t think we were as competitive as we’ve been offensively,” Horton said. “Especially once they extended the lead, I thought our outs were noncompetitive.
“It’s always difficult when the other team is throwing strikes and playing good defense, but we can do a better job of putting the ball in play. I was disappointed in that.”
The game unraveled for the Ducks and Kafka in the fifth inning when the Huskies (10-4, 1-0) scored five runs on five hits, aided by a pair of errors from the Oregon defense.
Trailing 3-2 with one out into the inning, Washington tied the score on a play that began with a fielding error by right fielder Aaron Zavala, who misplayed a line drive by Joe Wainhouse.
Nick Kahle, who was on first base after a single in the previous at-bat, headed to third as Zavala corralled the ball. Second baseman Max Foxcroft took the cutoff throw but his attempt to gun down Kahle as he slid into third sailed high and into the Huskies’ dugout, allowing Kahle to tie the score.
Next up was Connor Blair, who blasted a two-run homer to left field to put Washington up 5-3.
Later in the fifth, leadoff hitter Braiden Ward, the ninth batter of the inning, hit a two-out, two-run bases-loaded single to centerfield to make it 7-3 and end the night for Kafka (2-1).
The sophomore right-hander allowed four earned runs on 11 hits and three walks with four strikeouts in what was his fifth start of the season.
“I didn’t think he was as sharp as he’s been for us,” Horton said. “He couldn’t locate his pitches as effectively as he typically does. He was a little fat down the middle of the plate in my opinion.”
The Huskies added two more runs in the sixth inning off Oregon reliever Kolby Somers to extend their lead to 9-3.
“I didn’t like the way we responded to that,” Horton said of the Huskies’ fifth inning. “Emotionally or performance-wise, and that’s what we’ll talk about. In this league, teams make runs at you. If we thought this was going to be a walk in the park in the conference, then shame on me for not conveying that to the guys.”
Orgon trailed 2-0 early in the game after the Huskies scored twice in the second inning on a pair of RBI singles by Ramon Bramasco and Ben Baird. But the Ducks chipped away, scoring one in the second on an RBI fielder’s choice by Zavala, and then taking a 3-2 in the lead in the fourth on back-to-back RBI singles by Jakob Goldfarb and Zavala.
But that was it for Oregon, which was otherwise stymied by Washington starter David Rhodes (3-1), who held the Ducks to four hits and just five baserunners in his six innings of work
“We gotta play better," Horton said. “We got outplayed.
The series resumes Saturday with a 4 p.m. game.