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Oregon baseball suffers second consecutive loss to No. 24 UC Santa Barbara

Jarrid Denneyby:Jarrid Denney03/02/24


A disastrous fourth inning and a lack of timely hitting doomed the Oregon Ducks on Saturday.

Oregon fell, 7-3, to No. 24 UC Santa Barbara at PK Park in Eugene. The loss marked the second in as many days to the Gauchos whose head coach, Andrew Checketts, served as UO’s pitching coach from 2008-2011.

With the loss, Oregon dropped to 6-3 on the season.

“I thought we stunk for an inning, and the rest of the game I thought we played OK,” Oregon coach Mark Wasikowski said. “I’d like to see more sustained offense. I thought there was good fight at the end.”

Oregon staged a late-game rally and brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. But Gauchos’ reliever Jackson Flora struck out Ducks’ first baseman Dominic Hellman on three straight fastballs to end the game.

“I’d expect our team on the field to fight the entire time, and they did,” Wasikowski said. “They did last night and they did today. They’ll continue to do that.”

Oregon starter Grayson Grinsell cruised through the first three innings and got two quick outs in the fourth. After that, though, he imploded.

The sophomore lefty lost command and endured one of the worst innings of his Oregon career.

Grinsell got two quick outs but then hit two straight batters with a pitch. He then walked Corey Nunez to load the bases. One batter later, he hit yet another batter to send home a run and tie the game at 1-1.

The next batter, No. 9 hitter Jonah Sebring, smashed a two-run double off the left-field wall to make it 3-1 UCSB. Grinsell then walked leadoff man Reiss Calvin, and the Ducks turned to their bullpen.

“I don’t know. I’d have to try to look at the tape or whatever,” Wasikowski said when asked what went wrong for Grinsell. “Two quick outs and then seven hitters went to the plate. It looked like a little league game with hit batsmen and walks in the fourth inning. It’s not like it’s deep in the game or anything like that. It was uncharacteristic. I don’t know.”

Senior righty Logan Mercado came on in relief and was greeted with a two-run single to left by Zander Darby to push the Gauchos’ lead to 5-1.

Mercado induced a groundout one batter later to get out of the inning. But the Ducks struggled to respond after UCSB’s big inning.

Gutierrez retired six of the next seven batters he faced and kept Oregon’s bats quiet in the middle innings.

The Ducks finally broke through the sixth, though. Bennett Thompson lifted a sacrifice fly to deep center to score a run and cut the UCSB lead to 5-2.

On the day, Gutierrez limited the Ducks to two earned runs on three hits and one walk over 6.0 innings.

“Well, he’s a different pitcher. He’s a little bit different than the guy that started yesterday or they closed with today,” said Wasikowski on Gutierrez’s performance. “He’s more of a junk ball guy; change, breaking ball kind of guy. And you got to really have a disciplined approach to where you stay back on the ball and let the changeup get to you. He did a good job locating his changeup and his breaking stuff.”

UCSB threatened to bust the game open in the top of the ninth when lefty reliever Bradley Mullan walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, then surrendered a single to Zander Darby and a double to Brendan Durfee to put runners in the corners.

Junior righty Michael Freund replaced Mullan with nobody out and the bases loaded and managed to escape the jam relatively unscathed. The first batter he faced, Jessada Brown, hit a chopper to third that Drew Smith was unable to make a play on, which allowed a run to score from third.

But Freund buckled down from there and produced two pop-ups and a strikeout to get out of the inning.

“I thought he did a nice job,” Wasikowski said of Fruend. “To do what he did — to get out of that thing. … It gave us a chance to be able to tie and win that game. He definitely did a nice job in that inning.”

In the bottom of the ninth, Luke Honikel entered the game as a pinch-hitter and cracked a leadoff single off of Flora. Bryce Boettcher followed with a walk, but the next batter, Carter Garate, ground into a 5-4-3 double play.

Justin Cassella and Jeffery Heard kept Oregon’s hopes alive by drawing back-to-back walks, bringing Hellman to the plate with a chance to tie it.

But Flora buried Hellman with three straight 95-mile-per-hour fastballs to close out the game.

Oregon will look to bounce back for the final game of the series Sunday at noon PT. Senior righty Kevin Seitter is expected to get the starting nod for the Ducks.

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