FULLERTON, Calif. — It’s always better to travel home after a win, even if you’ve already lost the series. The No. 14 Oregon Ducks will be able to hold their heads a little higher as they travel home Sunday night after a 9-1 victory.
The Ducks (8-3) were able to take the series finale with No. 17 Cal State Fullerton Sunday afternoon at Goodwin Field, handing the Titans their first loss of the season.
Two early errors allowed Oregon to jump out to a 3-0 lead and Fullerton (10-1) was unable to get anything going against freshman Cole Irvin. He improved to 3-0, scattering eight hits over seven innings. Irvin allowed one run as he struck out three while only walking one.
Ryan Hambright led the Ducks offensive attack with three hits and three RBI. Ryon Healy, Brett Thomas, Shaun Chase and J.J. Altobelli all recorded multi-hit games as Oregon knocked 14 hits.
The Game Changer:
Cole Irvin issued his first and only walk to leadoff hitter Richy Pedroza to open the first inning. Carlos Lopez then singled. Matt Chapman sacrificed the runners to second and third, setting the table for J.D. Davis and Michael Lorenzen. But instead of working a good at bat and pushing across a run with a ground out or a deep fly ball, Davis attacked the first pitch and popped out to second base.
Coming off an All-American caliber game with a double and three-run first inning homer, Lorenzen couldn’t repeat his performance a day later. Irvin got him to swing through a fastball to end the inning with a strikeout. The following half inning, Oregon got two unearned runs and never looked back.
With Oregon coming off back-to-back losses and facing the possibility sweep on Sunday, a couple of early Fullerton runs would have put a ton of pressure on the visiting Ducks. Instead, they were able to escape the first inning jam and alleviate the pressure even further with the pair of second-inning runs.
Best Defensive Play: J.J. Altobelli is a fun player to watch at shortstop. He has good range and reads the ball well off the bat. He is able to handle tough hops and when he fires to first, he has a solid pick partner in Ryon Healy. Altobelli made several fine plays on Sunday, racking up eight assists, but it was Fullerton’s Jake Jefferies that had the best play of the day.
In the eighth inning with the score 6-1, Fullerton was already staring down a potential loss, but there was no quit or letting up by Jefferies. Oregon third baseman Ryan Hambright smashed a hard ground ball up to the left side of second base. Jefferies ranged to his right and gave a selfless, full-extension dive. The
Best Pitch/Pitcher: Cole Irvin didn’t pitch like a freshman. Of course, in this series, it was better to be a young buck. Youth won out in all three pitching matchups.
Irvin copied the lead of opposing frosh Thomas Eshelman and Justin Garza, pitching a poised and controlled game. He pitched around baserunners, minimizing any potential damage by leaving eight Titans runners on base. (Fullerton stranded baserunners in all but one inning, leaving 14 men on base for the game.)
Oregon head coach George Horton talks about avoiding the sweep and his reasoning behind a tough non-conference schedule:
Titans head coach Rick Vanderhook talks about how the team can learn from its first loss and the impact freshman Jake Jefferies has made in the place of injured Matt Orloff:
Oregon senior shortstop J.J. Antobelli talks about how his maturity has made him an offensive threat this season:
- Cole Irvin – 7 IP, 8 H, ER, BB, 3 K
- Ryan Hambright – 3-for-4, 3 RBI
- Brett Thomas – 2-for-5, 2 R, 2B, RBI
- Shaun Chase – 2-for-5, R, HR, RBI
Cal State Fullerton
- Jake Jefferies – 3-for-4, 2 2B, RBI
- Carlos Lopez – 3-for-4
The Bottom Line:
As Rick Vanderhook said afterwards you aren’t going to win them all. He didn’t expect the Titans to go 56-0 this season. Fullerton was bound to lose sooner or later and when you don’t play up to par against one of the Pac-12 contenders — a top 15 team — it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.
Fullerton gave away some extra outs and didn’t capitalize when it had opportunities, particularly when it had a chance to set the tone early in the game. Even though Oregon was already up 9-1, the Titans also had a chance to get back in the game with a couple of big hits in the eighth and ninth innings. But they left the bases loaded in both innings.
Cal State Fullerton will be fine after this loss. More pressing at this time is the team bouncing back with a pair of mid-week games on the road Tuesday and Wednesday and no practice on Monday to work on Sunday’s mistakes.
While Oregon isn’t happy with losing the series in Southern California, coach George Horton and the Ducks are happy to take a win back to the Pacific Northwest. The win is big because of how quickly Oregon turns around. It plays a two-game set with Cal State Northridge in Eugene starting tomorrow evening.
The performance by Cole Irving bodes well for Oregon, especially if he becomes the mid-week starter if Christian Jones can build up arm strength and re-enter the weekend rotation as he returns from Tommy John surgery. There were also positives on the offensive side of the ball where the Ducks collected 14 hits Sunday. They entered averaging only 6.4 hits per game. However, they are one of the most efficient run scoring teams in the country, needing only 1.5 hits per run scored through 11 games.
Some key bats that are off to slow starts may have had the beginnings of breaking out against Fullerton. Ryan Hambright had more hits Sunday than he had in the first 10 games combined. Shaun Chase had two hits, including a home run. Brett Thomas had a pair of hits, including a double the other way. And J.J. Altobelli continued his hot start with a single and a double.
Also check out the 18-shot photo gallery from Sunday.