EUGENE, Ore. — Capping a three-game sweep of No. 21 Oregon State, the No. 19 Oregon baseball team rallied for three runs in the eighth to force extra innings Sunday, then celebrated a walk-off win in the bottom of the 11th, 5-4.
The Ducks (19-7, 6-3 Pac-12) scored twice with two out in the eighth to tie the game 4-4 before rallying with two out in the 11th. Tristan Hanoian got things going with a drag bunt single and went to third on a single by Tanner Smith. Hanoian scored on a sharp ground ball by pinch hitter Bryce Boettcher that the OSU shortstop didn’t handle cleanly, allowing Boettcher to reach and Hanoian to score the winning run.
The win vaulted Oregon into a first-place tie with Stanford atop the Pac-12 standings, the significance of which UO coach Mark Wasikowski acknowledged postgame.
“It means a lot; you play to be in first place,” Wasikowski said. “The people that say, ‘It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not the end of the year,’ well, there’s some truth to that. But I’d rather be in first place than not in first place.
“I know it’s early, but that’s where our goals are at. We want to win. We want to win big. We want to win the league.”
How It Happened: The Ducks couldn’t drive in one-out baserunners in each of the first two innings, allowing Oregon State to take their first lead of the entire series in the third. With two outs, UO starting pitcher Brett Walker couldn’t field a comebacker cleanly and the runner reached. Catcher’s interference moved that runner into scoring position, and a base hit brought him home for a 1-0 Oregon State lead.
The Ducks answered in the fourth thanks to three Oregon natives, a cohort of the team that made significant contributions all weekend. Beaverton’s Kenyon Yovan walked to lead off the fourth, Keizer’s Aaron Zavala singled him to second and Salem’s Gabe Matthews drove in Yovan with a sacrifice fly for a 1-1 tie.
The Beavers appeared to break the game open in the seventh. With two on and one out, two straight RBI singles gave OSU a 3-1 lead. After a fielder’s choice put a runner at third, another RBI single followed to end the day for Walker. Matthews led off the bottom of the seventh with a double but, just as was the case when Jack Scanlon had led off the fifth with a double, the Ducks couldn’t manufacture a run with a man in scoring position and nobody out.
“It would have been an easy one for them to quit on, because it just wasn’t really going our way for a good chunk of the game,” Wasikowski said. “… It just felt like going to the dentist — it just wasn’t easy. Nothing was easy today. But they fought back.”
Oregon State was poised to add on in the eighth, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. Isaac Ayon was called upon from the UO bullpen, and he struck out the next two Beavers before ending the threat with a ground ball.
For the third straight game, the Ducks scored late runs against OSU’s bullpen by grinding out disciplined at-bats. Anthony Hall and Yovan walked with one out in the bottom of the eighth, and Zavala followed with an RBI single to cut the OSU lead to 4-2. Matthews was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs, before Sam Novitske worked a four-pitch walk to drive in another run. Pinch-hitter Tyler Ganus quickly fell into an 0-2 hole, but he was hit by the next pitch to plate Zavala with the tying run.
The Beavers put two on with one out in the 10th, but Hunter Breault escaped the jam to finish two scoreless innings of work.
In the top of the 11th, Springfield’s Decker Steadman allowed a leadoff single, and the runner was bunted to second before reaching third on a flyball. With the Beavers 90 feet away from the winning run and Steadman one out away from ending the inning, the next pitch got by catcher Sam Olsson, a native of Eugene.
The runner broke from third, but Olsson retrieved the ball and threw back to Steadman, who made the tag at home plate to end the inning. That set the stage for Oregon’s walk-off win in the bottom of the 11th on the sharp ground ball by the Eugene native Boettcher.
At The Plate: Zavala had two hits, bumping his average up to .430 with his 11th multi-hit game of the year. Matthews also had a pair of hits, wrapping up a weekend in which he was 5-for-8 in the series. Ganus recorded his first collegiate RBI in the eighth.
Hanoian came up with runners in scoring position in the seventh and the eighth and was unable to push the runs across. He made up for it in the 11th by reaching on the bunt and scoring, eight days after producing the winning run over New Mexico State when he singled, was sacrificed to second and scored on two wild pitches.
“Having baseball get taken away from us last year was definitely not how we wanted things,” Hanoian said. “This year I just wanted to never take baseball for granted. Whatever opportunities I was given, just try to come through for the team.”
On The Mound: Oregon’s bullpen provided 9 2/3 scoreless innings in the three-game sweep of OSU. Ayon, who started and pitched into the third inning of a midweek loss to Portland on Tuesday, rose to the occasion in the eighth inning Sunday by getting three outs with two runners in scoring position.
“This series is big for the Ducks,” Ayon said. “The intensity on the weekend was great. We were ready to go.”
On Deck: The Ducks play at Portland on Wednesday at 2 p.m.