Oregon took the first game of its three game series with Oregon State 3-0 behind a career night for pitcher Tommy Thorpe and some blistering offense to start the game.
Oregon, notoriously slow starters at home, came ready to play Friday night. Brett Thomas hit a strong line drive up centerfield to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Aaron Payne then hit a textbook bunt up the third base line, safely arriving on first and advancing Thomas to second.
Ryon Healy hit a single to left field, scoring Thomas. Next Mitchell Tolman moved Payne and Healy into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Heineman followed with another sacrifice bunt, this time scoring Payne.
“Obviously you want to score first,” said Healy. “Definitely playing at home, you want to make the score feel like it’s more. I feel like with the atmosphere we had here tonight it definitely felt like it was more than 3-0.”
Oregon picked up where they left off to start the second with Nick Catalano hitting a double to the left field corner and then moving to third on a sacrifice bunt courtesy of Josh Graham. JJ Altobelli then drove him in on a high pop single to shallow center.
Through three innings, the Ducks had six hits. On the season, they average 8.5 hits per game.
After the third inning, Oregon State starter Matt Boyd (10-3, 2.04 ERA) tightened things up, allowing just one more hit through the rest of the game.
“He was cross-count a lot,” said Healy of Boyd. “He got me on a 2-0 (count) and on a 3-1 change up, got me to swing and miss. He was doing a great job mixing speeds. He was pounding in fast balls and did a real good job not missing with those. Hats off to him, he’s threw one heck of a game.”
The lively bats in the first two innings separated Oregon from Oregon State, but the true MVP of the game was Thorpe. Thorpe threw eight innings and allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out seven.
Most impressive, though, was his efficiency. He flew through innings, working his slider and curve ball, he kept his pitches low, forcing batters to ground out. He finished eight innings on an incredible 92 pitch count.
“Tommy! That was unreal,” said closer Jimmie Sherfy of Thorpe’s impressive start. “Our pitching staff here is so great, to have him Friday night and then Cole (Irvin) Saturday, Jake (Reed) Sunday … I think we have the best starting staff in the nation. Tommy was just dominant like he usually is. It was no surprise at all.”
Since Oregon head coach George Horton made the change in the starting rotation, putting Thorpe in the Friday spot and moving Jake Reed to the Sunday spot, the Ducks have swept every weekend series. Thorpe has been fantastic against other Friday guys, but this was his most impressive performance of the year.
“I felt awesome,” said Thorpe. “Going out and throwing a shut out was awesome. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I was on top of the ball. My slider and fast ball were low in the zone so I was able to get a lot of ground balls and pop ups.”
Perhaps the only hiccup of the night came in the ninth after Thorpe walked his first batter . Horton pulled Thorpe and sent Sherfy, a usual guaranteed save, in to close out the game. He struck out his first batter but plunked the second, sending him on base. He then struck out the next batter.
Ryan Barnes came to the plate and after a bit of a count battle, Sherfy lost command and hit Barnes square in the helmet, sending him to the ground.
Sherfy was notorious for hitting batters last season. The 13 he hit prompted the “Wild Thing” nickname that had become so popular. However, this season he found his control and hadn’t hit a single batter until Friday night.
He battled back though, getting the final out on a pop up from Oregon State’s Danny Hayes. The save was his 20th, eclipsing the school record of 19 he set last season.
“We had planned that if one guy got on we were going to go to Sherfy,” said Horton of his decision to pull Thorpe. “(Sherfy) wobbled a little bit but he gets that last out more times than he doesn’t.
The Civil War series will pick back up Saturday at 2 p.m. Cole Irvin will take the mound for the Ducks.