Arizona loaded the bases with just one out and looking to erase a 3-0 deficit in the eighth inning. Oregon had closer Stephen Nogosek in the game an inning earlier than he was used to. This is how important this game was.
The contest hung in the balance and the Duck season was potentially on the line. Oregon probably needs to win out in order to reach the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive year. Nogosek threw the pitch of the season and coaxed Arizona’s Zach Gibbons to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.
Nogosek went on to pitch a scoreless ninth for his 14th save and Oregon took the first game of a three-game set over Arizona. Cole Irvin threw 7 1/3 innings shut out innings, giving up just four hits, striking out six and walking just one.
With the win, the Ducks improve to 13-12 in league play and 27-22 overall. Arizona dropped to 15-13 in conference action and 32-19 overall. The Wildcats are not a lock for the NCAA tournament either and a loss at PK Park didn’t help their chances.
It’s been a season where the conference as a whole has been extremely balanced and even with all of their struggles, Oregon has a good of a chance as any one else to win the Pac-12. With five league games left, the Ducks find themselves just 2.5 games behind Utah.
Oregon as able to crack the scoreboard in the third inning on Daniel Patzlaff’s single to center to score Carson Breshears from second base.
The Ducks were able to extend their lead in the next inning on a Wildcat fielding miscue. Travis Moniot softly grounded to third, but the throw to first eluded Ryan Aguilar at the bag, allowing both Nick Catalano and Jake Bennett to cross the plate for the 3-0 advantage.
After that it was all Irvin.
The left-hander was dominating in the most important start of the season. Irvin is now 6-4 and lowered his earned run average to 3.27. He’ll have one more start in the regular season next week at Stanford and then who knows?
But Oregon first needs to sweep the Wildcats and they’ll continue to try to do just that as the two teams play Game 2 of the three-game series Saturday afternoon at 4 pm. David Peterson will take the hill for the Ducks as the game will be live on the Pac-12 Network.
~ Don Smalley