Kenyon Yovan scalded a bases loaded single down just inside the third base line in the bottom of the ninth inning giving the Ducks their first victory of the season, 3-2 over the Nevada Wolf Pack.
It was a successful home opener for head coach Mark Wasikowski but one that he had to wait until bottom of the eight before his side would score a run.
Nevada took a 2-0 lead with a bit of Baseball 101 in the fourth. Shortstop Gavin Grant’s error allowed the lead off runner to reach base. A single, a sacrifice bunt and another single put the Ducks in a two run hole.
In the sixth, leftfielder Tanner Smith and Yovan drew back-to-back walks but the threat fizzled there when Gabe Matthews and Anthony Hall both struck out.
Things finally clicked in the eighth after a false start. Smith singled to center but was thrown out in his attempt to stretch it to a double.
Yovan singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. The “what ifs” only got worse when Matthews was walked.
Pinch hitter Sam Olsson grounded into a fielder’s choice, leaving the Ducks with runners on first and third with two out. Evan Williams – pinch running for Olsson – swiped second when the Nevada pitcher short-hopped his catcher and the ball rolled just enough for Williams to beat the throw at second.
Keizer, Oregon native Aaron Zavilla knotted the score with a single to right field but Smith’s potential run loomed large heading into the ninth.
After retiring the leadoff batter, relief pitcher Kolby Somers gave up a single to Nevada’s Tyler Bosetti, an insurance run the Ducks couldn’t afford to allow.
Oregon catcher Jack Scanlon smothered a pitch in the dirt from Somers then gunned down Bosetti at second, striking a spark that was amplified when Somers fanned Nevada’s Wyatt Tilley looking.
Scanlon popped up to open the Ducks’ half of the ninth but when pinch hitter A.J. Miller reached first base on a wild pitch after striking out swinging, things got interesting.
Oregon’s lead off hitter Sam Novitske was oh for four with three strikeouts but turned fastball inside out for a stand-up double, advancing Miller to third.
To set up a force at every base, Nevada intentionally walked Smith, setting the stage for Yovan’s game ending heroics.
“The baseball gods – they don’t give you breaks. They are going to beat you down, beat you down, beat you down until either you cave in or you punch back,” he said. “… I took a 2-0 hack at a slider in the dirt, I told myself ‘that wasn’t me – he’s going to come back with something hard’. I widened out, stayed short – you just gotta put barrel on ball. It was up and in .. I cheated a little bit to it and I was on it.”
Somers picked up the win in one inning of relief. Starting pitcher Cullen Kafka gave up three hits and struck out five without a walk. Neither of the runs allowed were earned. Andrew Mosiello tossed three innings of one hit ball in relief of Kafka, giving up one hit and fanning four before yielding to Somers.
First pitch for game two of the three game set is scheduled for 1:00pm on Saturday with the series finale to follow at 1;00 pm on Sunday.
~ Rick Morgan