The Washington State Cougars are on quite a roll, having picked up a nice win over No. 11 Gonzaga on Tuesday night on the heels of winning their second top-10 road series victory in two weeks last weekend by taking two out of three against the Oregon Ducks in Eugene.
In fact, the series against the Ducks was nearly a sweep, as No. 10 Oregon (27-12, 12-6 in Pac-12) needed a ninth inning comeback to force an extra innings win on Friday. WSU (16-22, 7-14) retaliated with an offensive showcase Saturday, winning 10-8, before securing the series victory with a late-inning comeback of their own, 8-7 in 10 innings.
Game 1: Oregon 8, WSU 7 (10 innings)
Justin Van De Brake got the weekend started in the top of the second with a one-out double and scored one pitch later on an Elijah Hainline single to left for the early 1-0 WSU lead. The lead extended to 3-0 two pitches later as Jake Meyer muscled a home-run to left-center. Bryce Matthews joined in on the fun the next inning with a solo homer over the centerfield wall to make it 4-0 Cougs in the just the third inning.
In the top of the fourth, Kyle Russell plated another run with a one-out single to left to score Hainline. Matthews came through with his second RBI in his last two trips to the plate with a two-out single to score Colin Montez from second and make it a 6-0 game. The offense continued to roll as Jacob McKeon annihilated a ball over the left-field wall to kick off the fifth as WSU extended the lead to 7-0.
The Oregon offense failed to respond as they were held down by Cole McMillan. McMillan held the Ducks scoreless for five innings before Oregon finally scored on a sac-fly in the sixth. McMillan’s day came to a close after 6 2⁄3, surrendering two earned runs on eight hits with 10 strike outs and only one walk on a season-high 111 pitches. Oregon tallied one more in the seventh off reliever Caden Kaelber as the Cougs entered the ninth with a commanding 7-2 lead.
Brian Green handed the ball to Cam Liss to record the final two outs of the game with one on. Oregon jumped on the new reliever quickly. Tanner Smith doubled to put two in scoring position and Drew Cowley loaded the bases with a five-pitch walk. Brennan Milone cut the lead to just three with a two-run single up the middle. The Cougs caught a break the following batter when strike three was called without a pitch because the batter stepped out of the box for out number two. The Ducks kept hope alive with back-to-back RBI singles to cut the lead to one and end Liss’ night. Chase Grillo entered needing to record just one out to escape the Ducks comeback attempt with runners on the corners. Grillo quickly threw a wild pitch, allowing a Duck to come across and score and just like that, the game was tied.
The Cougs went down 1-2-3 in the tenth and Oregon loaded the bases with one out in their half of the frame. Milone stung one into the right-center gap for the Ducks to score the all-important eighth unanswered run for the walk-off win in the series opener.
Game 2: WSU 10, Oregon 8
The Cougars took their frustration from their Friday loss out on the baseball. Jack Smith laced a two-out double down the right field line and McKeon launched his second homer in as many days over the wall in dead-center to put WSU up 2-0 in the first. Montez doubled the lead an inning later annihilating a breaking ball left in the zone for his own two-run homer to make it 4-0 before Oregon could record five outs.
Oregon put runners on the corners with one out in the second, but Coug starter Grant Taylor got Jack Scanlon swinging and Gavin Grant looking to keep the Ducks off the board in the second. WSU pushed the lead to five the following inning with an Elijah Hainline fielders choice with the bases loaded.
The Ducks tallied their first run of the game on a wild-pitch with runners on the corner in the third. Taylor again worked his way out of a jam with back-to-back ground outs. For the fourth straight inning, the Cougars scored again as Matthews clubbed his second home-run of the series with a towering two-run shot to right-center for a 7-1 Cougs lead. Smith kept the offense going with a single, then advanced to second on a passed ball. McKeon proved the Ducks catching mistake to be costly with a single to center to score Smith from second and make it a 8-1 Cougs lead.
The offensive fireworks continued into the bottom half of the inning. Taylor surrendered back-to-back doubles to push one run across. A hit-by-pitch followed up by a single back up the middle ended Taylor’s day after just three complete innings and three earned runs. Kaelber came on in relief and got the Cougs out of the jam with only minor scratches. The Cougs rolled up a double-play that scored a Duck from third and got the following batter to ground out as well, putting the Cougar lead at 8-4.
After WSU’s first scoreless inning of the game in the fifth, the Ducks cut the lead to two in the bottom half of the inning. On in relief, Kolby Kmetko lasted just one batter, plunking Colby Shade with the bases loaded to drive across one. Dakota Hawkins allowed one more to cross on a fielder’s choice before getting Grant to fly-out, allowing the Cougars to escape still with the lead. Smith continued his red-hot game in the sixth with his third hit in as many at-bats, punching an RBI single up the middle to score Kolden from second, extending the Cougar lead to 9-6. Kyle Russell made it a 10-6 game with deep-fly to left for a solo shot in the seventh.
Oregon answered right back after the seventh-inning stretch. Anthony Hall launched Oregon’s 57th home run of the season — a school record — with a mammoth shot to right-center to cut the lead back to two at 10-8.
WSU threatened for more in the top of the ninth with two on and one out, but failed to bring any of those baserunners home. Grillo locked up the four-out save in the bottom half of the inning without much stress, sending the Ducks down 1-2-3 for WSU’s third win over a top-ten team in a week.
Game 3: WSU 8, Oregon 7 (F/10)
The Ducks jumped on WSU’s Sunday starter McKabe Cottrell early. Oregon plated one in the first with an RBI single then loaded the bases in the second. Cottrell plunked his third-batter of the game in just 1.1 innings to score a Duck, then gave up a bases clearing triple to Oregon’s two-hole hitter, Cowley, making it a 6-0 game as Cottrell exited immediately after.
WSU’s offense, which had scored 17 runs in the first two games, was ice cold until the sixth inning. Van De Brake pushed one across with a two-out single, then Hainline took the baton and kept the two-out rally going with a double to score two more and cut Oregon’s lead in half, 6-3. The Ducks got one back in the bottom half as Friday’s hero, Milone, ripped an RBI single to left.
Down to their final six outs, Smith and McKeon continued to torch the Ducks. Just like how Saturday’s game started, Smith doubled and McKeon brought him home with a two-run shot, capping off his incredible weekend with a home run in every game of the series.
Heading into the ninth down one, WSU put two on with one out as Kolden worked an eight-pitch walk, battling back from down 1-2. Matthews moved the runners around with a single to right-center to score Russell from second and move Kolden to third. With runners on the corners and still one-out, Smith picked up yet another RBI with a sac-fly to center to tie the game at seven all. Will Cresswell ended the bottom half of the ninth by sniping down Oregon’s potential winning run trying to steal second to send the game to extras for the second time in three days.
With the bases loaded in the tenth with two outs, Kolden worked a walk on a full count to complete the comeback and give WSU a 8-7 lead headed into the bottom of the tenth. Kaelber recorded a groundout, a strikeout and finished off the series win with a flyout to center as the Cougars picked up back-to-back series wins over top-ten teams.
The Cougs now turn their attention to the USC Trojans for a three-game set starting on Friday at Bailey-Brayton Field in Pullman.