Saturday’s showdown with Arizona could hardly have started worse for Oregon.
After winning Friday’s series opener in dominant fashion, the Ducks had a disastrous start to the evening and found themselves trailing by double digits before the third inning had rolled around.
A relentless, persistent approach at the plate enabled Oregon to climb back into contention, though, and kept them afloat until Sabin Ceballos delivered one of the brightest moments of UO’s season.
Ceballos, the Ducks’ junior third baseman, cracked a go-ahead two-run double in the top of the ninth to complete a thrilling 13-11 comeback victory over the Wildcats at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson.
With the win, Oregon improved to 17-7 on the year and 5-3 in Pac-12 play.
Prior to Ceballos’ go-ahead double, junior center fielder Colby Shade tied the game at 11-11 with a single that plated Rikuu Nishida.
In total, the Ducks racked up 21 base hits, with 10 different batters contributing to that tally.
Nishida led the way with a 5-for-6, three-RBI performance. Jacob Walsh went 3-for-6 with two runs and a double. Shade went 2-for-4 with four RBI and a double.
The Ducks’ dramatic win came after they trailed the Wildcats 10-0 in the second inning.
Oregon junior right-hander Logan Mercado got the starting nod after a stellar outing against Northwestern State last weekend but recorded just five outs against Arizona’s veteran-heavy lineup.
The Wildcats tagged Mercado for four runs in the fourth inning and six runs in the second.
But the Ducks refused to fold.
They got one run back in the second on Cowley’s RBI groundout and two more in the third on back-to-back RBI singles by Nishida and Shade to cut the lead to 10-3.
Two innings later, Nishida cracked an RBI double, and Shade added a sacrifice fly to make it 10-5.
Arizona got a run back in the bottom of the sixth when Mac Bingham ripped an RBI double to make it 11-5.
But Oregon climbed back into contention in the seventh with an explosive five-run inning. The Ducks sent all nine batters to the plate and saw Owen Diodati, Dominic Hellman, Nishida, and Shade all produce run-scoring hits.
Ceballos had an opportunity to tie the game with a runner on second and ripped a hard-hit line drive. But it was hit directly at Arizona second baseman Garen Caulfield, who caught it to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Oregon reliever Matt Dallas held Arizona scoreless to set the stage for the Ducks’ 9-1-2 hitters — Gavin Grant, Nishida, and Shade — in the top of the ninth.
Grant struck out swinging to begin the inning. But Nishida followed with a double to right, and the next batter, Shade, followed with a double of his own to tie the game.
Then, Cowley singled to right and advanced to second on an error to give the Ducks two runners in scoring position.
Ceballos then stepped to the plate and delivered the defining moment of the night with a hard-hit single to right that gave the game its final score.
Oregon closer Josh Mollerus came on in the bottom of the ninth and was tasked with facing the top of Arizona’s batting order. The senior right-hander struck out Bingham swinging, then got Nik McClaughry to ground out to third.
Chase Davis drew a six-pitch walk, and then Mollerus hit Kiko Romero with a pitch to put the tying run on first base.
Tommy Splaine stepped to the plate with a chance to tie the game, but Mollerus got him to ground out to cap off the win.
Oregon and Arizona will face off in the series finale Sunday at 1 p.m. PT. Freshman righty Leo Uelmen is expected to get the starting nod for the Ducks.
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