March 2, 2012
Long Beach, Calif. - In No. 12 Oregon's home opener on Friday night, it was the Ducks that got the storybook ending, as pinch runner Vernell Warren beat the tag at the plate in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Dirtbags 5-4.
Tied 4-4 going into the bottom half, the tenth walk of the game from the Long Beach State pitching staff put Ryon Healy on base, who was replaced by Warren. Warren was pushed to second, and then a slow ground ball to Matt Duffy pulled Ino Patron wide of the bag, and the ball bounced just far enough away that the first baseman's throw to the plate was a second late to catch the runner.
The Dirtbags offense was considerably better on Friday, getting things going right from the first batter. Johnny Bekakis stroked a single to center field, and two consecutive bunt singles loaded the bases for Patron, who picked up his third RBI of the young season to give Long Beach State the lead in station-to-station baseball. A sacrifice fly scored one more run, and then a Robert Vickers single brought home a third as Long Beach State opened up the game with a 3-0 lead.
The Ducks evened the score with three runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth. Healy reached on a wild pitch following a strikeout, which was followed by a double from Shaun Chase. A hit batter loaded the bases, and two runs came home to score on a double from Ryan Hambright. The Ducks pushed one more across with an RBI groundout, and a nice catch by Juan Avila in right field ended the inning.
Oregon then took the lead in the fifth inning as Matt Johnson, coming in for Shawn Stuart, ran into some control issues. After picking up a strikeout, Aaron Jones tripled, and Johnson walked two batters to load the bases. A third walk then brought home the go-ahead run before a popup ended the inning.
Long Beach State answered back in the top of the seventh inning. Bekakis led off the inning with his second hit of the day, and after getting sacrifice over to second, Bekakis came home to score as Patron knocked in his second run of the game with another single.
The two teams will go at it again on Saturday, with first pitch again scheduled for 6 p.m. Junior Matt Anderson will pitch for the Dirtbags, while Jake Reed gets the start for the Ducks.
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