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COLLEGE BASEBALL: Bench play helps Ducks start strong

by: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF OREGON - TYLER BAUMGARTNER(The Register-Guard) — Oregon's baseball team got what it wanted during a season-opening trip to Hawaii.

"Any time you get four wins, you feel good," senior right fielder Tyler Baumgartner said.

The Ducks (4-0) also found plenty to work on when they travel to Loyola Marymount (2-2) for a three-game series beginning tonight.

"It was a good jump-start to show where we are against other competition, but we've got more," shortstop Kevin Minjares said. "We ended the trip better than we started and that got us going, but we still expect more out of ourselves."

The Ducks batted just .239 while sweeping the Rainbow Warriors but scored 29 runs in four games, thanks in part to 13 errors by Hawaii. Oregon had nine errors in the series.

"It looked like we hadn't been on the field, which we hadn't been a whole lot before we left," UO assistant coach Mark Wasikowski said.

The positives from the trip included 13 stolen bases in 17 attempts led by Baumgartner going 3-for-3.

"I'd like to get 13 stolen bases a week, but I don't know," Wasikowski. "You are talking about some real good teams we are playing against, and sometimes you don't have the opportunity to run as much as we did this weekend. It is part of our game. We will do what we do."

The 11th-ranked Ducks have talked about having more balance on offense than last year when first baseman Ryon Healy often carried the load.

Oregon showed its depth goes past the starting lineup as pinch-hitters went 6-for-10 against Hawaii. J.B. Bryant was 3-for-3 as a pinch-hitter, and A.J. Balta was 2-for-2.

In the third game, Oregon trailed 5-3 going into the ninth inning when Connor Hofmann, Balta and Bryant had consecutive pinch-hits as the Ducks tied the score before winning in the 10th inning.

"The best thing we did all weekend was bench play," Wasikowski said. "We had game-winning hits from the bench players, and they were all outstanding coming off the bench playing defense when they had opportunities."

Oregon had the same starting infield in all four games, along with Baumgartner in right field. Garlick was the designated hitter in three games and was one of seven different outfielders the Ducks started in the series. All three Oregon catchers -- Jack Kruger, Josh Graham and Shaun Chase -- started at least once in Hawaii.

"We have got some depth," Wasikowski said. "We are going to give guys an opportunity to figure out who wins spots."

Loyola Marymount opened the season by taking two of three games against Utah Valley before losing at San Diego State.

Coach Jason Gill was on Horton's first staff at Oregon before leaving for the Lions. He was also an assistant during Horton's final three seasons at Cal State Fullerton.

Junior Colin Welmon, a preseason all-West Coast Conference selection who was 5-4 with a 2.30 ERA last season, takes the mound tonight for the Lions. He threw six scoreless innings in a 7-2 win over Oregon last season before the Ducks returned to win the final two games of the series.

"He's as good as it gets on a Friday night," Wasikowski said. "He beat us at PK Park last year. He's a three-pitch guy who is up to 91 or 92 miles per hour with a plus change-up and a good breaking ball."

The Ducks will counter with ace Tommy Thorpe, who did not allow an earned run in six innings during his start in Hawaii.

Freshman Matt Krook gets the start Saturday after not allowing an earned run in seven innings during his debut. He did throw seven wild pitches, but Wasikowski said rain made the conditions sloppy around home plate that day.

"I don't know if it was nerves or what," Krook said.

Jordan Spencer starts Sunday, and he admitted to being nervous in his first start when he allowed five hits and three walks with two earned runs in 3 1/3 innings pitched on Saturday.

Spencer is the leading candidate to replace Cole Irvin, who is out for the season after Tommy John surgery, in the starting rotation.

"It was nerves and my first start of the year," he said. "The first one is out of the way and I will move on with the rest of the year."
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