With two on and two out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Oregon manager George Horton had a decision to make. Without hesitation, he brought in relief pitcher Nico Tellache.
It proved to be the right move as Tellache got the Ducks out of the jam, and then threw a perfect ninth inning, allowing Oregon to hang for the 4-3 series-opening win over visiting Loyola Marymount on Friday.
“That is what I have visualized and been wanting,” Tellache said. “I have been chomping at the bit. I was ready for it, so it was fun… I feel like that is the life of a reliever to try and not get too high or low, throw strikes and get ahead of guys. In the ninth inning I had to shut the door and that’s what I did.”
With Oregon’s two previous closers now finding themselves in starting roles, the closer spot is open as and after his performance on Friday, Tellache has a nice claim to make for the role.
“Each and every outing we are watching very close and there are some jobs to be had,” Horton said. “When you give away an inning like that it usually sets you up for a real tough ninth… Nico said, ‘I’ll take care of this’ so that was pretty special’.”
Oregon struck first in typical fashion, manufacturing a run with the same small-ball premise that Horton has implemented for years.
Gabe Matthews opened the inning with a single, moved to second on a walk before reaching third base on a fielder’s choice. With one out, he crossed home plate on a squeeze bunt by Taylor Adams for the early 1-0 lead.
Loyola-Marymount tied the game in the fourth inning when Oregon starter Cullen Kafka was tagged for his only run of the game.
The tied was short-lived as the Ducks tacked on three runs in the sixth inning. The Ducks pushed two runs across the plate on wild pitches while Cameron Campbell scored Matthews with a sacrifice fly.
Loyola-Marymount gave the Ducks a scare when a two-run blast in the eighth made the score 4-3. Oregon got a second out before back-to-back singles had runners in scoring position, setting the stage for Tellache.
Spencer Steer and Matthews each had two hits for the Ducks while Jakob Goldfarb, Kyle Froemke and Smith each had a hit.
Kafka got the no-decision after throwing 5.0 innings, giving up one run on four hits with seven strikeouts. Robert Ahlstrom (2-1) got the win after throwing 2.0 innings and giving up just one run. Brett Walker gave up one run on 0.2 innings thrown before Tellache slammed the door with three strikeouts of the four batters he faced.
“Walker did his job, he threw the ball over the plate and Esquerra hit a ball over the fence,” Horton said. “I’d rather die with somebody being aggressive throwing the ball over the plate especially on the first pitch rather than walking or hitting guys. Make them earn it. Brett has been awful good for us.”
Both teams square off again tomorrow with first pitch set for 2 p.m.