The senior catcher/designated hitter came into Sunday’s game hitting just .176. Oregon coach George Horton might have decided that his All-American needed a change of scenery by dropping Chase down in the order to sixth.
It was a decision that paid off in a big way.
Chase crushed a fastball over the left-center field wall for a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to break a 6-6 tie to give the Ducks an 8-6 win and the series sweep over St. John’s. The new No. 6 hitter was a double shy over the cycle.
With the win, Oregon improves to 13-2 to continue its stellar beginning of the 2015 campaign. St. John’s cross-country trip to the West coast was an unhappy one as the Red Storm fell to 5-7.
Although Oregon’s usual Sunday starter Jack Karraker received a no-decision, he pitched well enough to get the win by going six innings, giving up just two unearned runs, six hits and striking out five. His earned run average dropped to 1.50.
Karraker was lined up for the win, but the Red Storm came back off of reliever Trent Paddon, who struggled. Paddon gave up one run in the seventh and loaded the bases with two hits and a walk in the eighth.
Horton brought in closer Garrett Cleavinger for the second time in this series in the same situation, bases full and less than two out. Unfortunately for Oregon, the result was the same.
Zach Lauricella lined a double down the left field line to clear the bases and to knot the game up at 6-6. Cleavinger was still in trouble with Lauricella on second and just one out.
The left-handed junior was able to bear down and coax Matt Harris to ground into a 4-3 double play in order to escape the frame.
Momentum in the Red Storm dugout was short-lived.
Joe Kuzia came on to pitch for St. John’s and Oregon didn’t waste any time. Brandon Cuddy led the inning off with a walk to set the stage for Chase. He had just missed a home run in the fourth inning when Chase took a fastball and ripped it to right-center field. If it wasn’t for a stiff wind blowing in, Chase would have had his third homer, so he had to settle for a triple.
There wouldn’t be a breeze in the eighth, allowing Chase to hit one into left-center that just missed going off the scoreboard.
Cleavinger came back in to pitch the ninth and after allowing a lead-off single, he was able to strike out two and get a grounder to third to end the game.
St. John’s had to be happy with its starter, junior Ryan McCormick. He has struggled mightily as he brought an 11.45 ERA to the mound. But to his credit, McCormick held the Ducks down for three innings before they were able to break through.
The Ducks scored one in the fourth off of Cuddy’s triple down the right field line that scored Phil Craig-St. Louis from first base.
Oregon tied the game in the fifth when Matt Eureste beat out a would-be double play, allowing Scott Heineman to cross the plate.
With McCormick still on the mount for St. John’s, Oregon started another rally with St. Louis’ out-out double. That was all Red Storm coach Ed Blankmeyer needed to see to call in the bullpen.
The Ducks have feasted on opposing pens this season and Sunday wouldn’t be any different.
Thomas Hackimer quickly helped out the Duck offense by walking Cuddy and giving up a bunt single to Chase. Jakob Goldfarb walked on a 3-2 pitch, scoring St. Louis and giving the Ducks a 3-2 lead. Heineman bounced into a fielder’s choice to score Cuddy and the 4-2 advantage.
In what was going to be the hit of the day before the Red Storm rallied, shortstop Daniel Patzlaff blew the game open with a two-run single to center to give Oregon the 6-2 lead.
Cleavinger was credited with his first win of the season, while Kuzia dropped his first game of the year.
The Ducks will enjoy a day off Monday before hosting San Francisco for a quick two-game series beginning on Tuesday. Oregon will then go down to the Bay Area to start conference play with a weekend set with California.
The Golden Bears also enjoying a quick start, going 11-3 thus far. They’ll travel to Pacific for a single game before hosting the Ducks.
~ Don Smalley
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