EUGENE — Cole Stringer was marvelous out of the bullpen Friday night and the Oregon baseball team gave itself a chance to upset No. 1 UCLA at PK Park, but ultimately a six-run third inning proved the Ducks’ undoing in a 6-5 Pac-12 loss.
The Bruins, who clinched the Pac-12 title Thursday with a 4-2 win, used five singles, two walks and a double for their big third inning. Ironically, the last run came on a single by the first batter to face Stringer, who went the rest of the way and faced just one over the minimum in 6 1/3 innings.
The Ducks (27-29, 10-19 Pac-12) will look to put the two narrow losses behind them and finish with a victory Saturday in their season finale.
“We’re playing good baseball,” Stringer said. “We’re playing with one of the best teams in the country, yesterday and today. So we had it in us, and we have it is us. We’re looking to forward to going back out tomorrow and getting a win.”
With expected starter Cullen Kafka unavailable, Brett Walker took the ball and stranded two UCLA runners in the first. He pitched around two more baserunners in the second before the Bruins rallied in the third. With one out, two infield singles sparked the rally, and the floodgates opened before Stringer came on with two out and retired the side, after a allowing a single that brought the sixth run in.
Stringer pitched around a two-out walk in the fifth, and he erased a leadoff single in the sixth by picking the runner off. That was the last baserunner the junior left-hander allowed, as he set down the last 11 Bruins in order.
The Ducks, meanwhile, began chipping away at the lead. Oregon led off the bottom of the third with three straight singles, the third by Kyle Froemke to plate Jakob Goldfarb. Two batters later, Tanner Smith hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Cameron Campbell.
Oregon added two more in the fourth to make it 6-4, on an RBI double by Goldfarb that scored Jonny DeLuca, and an RBI fielder’s choice by Campbell.
The Ducks provided some high drama in the eighth. Spencer Steer and Gabe Matthews led off the inning with walks, and after DeLuca bunted them over, Evan Williams and Goldfarb also both walked to drive in a run. That left the bases loaded with one out, but both Campbell and Froemke struck out to end the threat. UCLA closer Holden Powell rebounded from walking Williams and Goldfarb to strike out those two, and he struck out the side in the ninth to end the game.
Goldfarb was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run in his penultimate appearance at PK Park, helping the bottom five hitters in the order go 6-for-16 on the evening. But the top four batters had an uncharacteristic night, going 0-for-16 with eight of the Ducks’ 17 strikeouts.
“It’s hard to have a lot of good at-bats against them,” UO coach George Horton said. “There’s a reason they lead the league in ERA, and that their starters are undefeated.”