George Horton sent “Johnny Allstaff” to the mound against Gonzaga on Tuesday.
The Oregon baseball coach used six pitchers to defeat the Bulldogs 10-3 in a nonconference game. Four relievers threw at least one scoreless inning to continue a weeklong trend of improvement from the bullpen.
Oregon’s relievers have a combined earned run of average of 6.73 on the season, but have allowed five earned runs in 25 innings in the past five games.
Kolby Somers got the start against Gonzaga and allowed two earned runs while striking out four in four innings. Hunter Breault, Peyton Fuller, Cole Stringer and Nico Tellache each threw at least one inning without allowing a run.
“I thought some pitchers made a statement for us,” Horton said. “Nico looked real good and crisp. I thought Kolby said ‘Look at me.' He’s had some ups and downs but that was Kolby-like the way he was pounding the strike zone. Maybe they can build some momentum and confidence.”
Ryne Nelson allowed two runs with 12 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of relief to beat Oregon State 3-2 on Sunday while reliever Brett Walker has not allowed a run in his last nine innings.
“We need to do something real special here down the stretch and you can’t do that without good relief pitching or depth on the pitching staff,” Horton said. “Hopefully they build on that and we can continue to get zeroes and ones and give our offense a chance to win games.”
Oregon (26-24, 9-15) has won two straight as it heads to USC (20-26-1, 9-13-1) for what sets up as a battle for eighth place in the Pac-12.
“We need to continue to put the ball in play and down in L.A. it is a more offensive environment with the hard infield,” Horton said. “I hope we can continue to find ways to create runs and hold the Trojans at bay. Hopefully, our pitching is gaining momentum and we are getting better starts and the bullpen is functioning better. That’s what it is going to take.”
The Ducks moved up one spot to No. 51 in the RPI as they likely need to win at least six of their final seven games to get in contention for a postseason berth.
Oregon visits UC Riverside (17-32) on Monday before returning home to wrap up the regular season against No. 1 UCLA (41-8, 19-5) next weekend.
Oregon first baseman Gabe Matthews had a streak of 137 straight starts — the longest at Oregon since baseball was reinstated in 2009 — snapped when he began on the bench against Gonzaga due to a hand injury. He did enter his 156th career game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning.
Matthews' status for this weekend is unclear with freshman A.J. Miller likely to replace him again if necessary. Horton switched up his infield against the Bulldogs and put Max Foxcroft back at second base and moved Sam Novitske to shortstop with Spencer Steer at third base.