Oregon’s senior leaders came through when it mattered most on Saturday and helped the Ducks capture a much-needed win.
Drew Cowley cracked a two-run, game-tying double for Oregon in the top of the seventh, and Tanner Smith followed with a go-ahead two-run double to lead the Ducks to a 7-5 win over USC at Dedeaux Field in Los Angeles.
With the win, No. 19 Oregon improved to 31-15 on the season and 14-9 in Pac-12 play to hold strong at third place in the conference standings.
The Trojans, who are in the midst of a bounce-back season, fell to 26-20-1 on the year and 12-11 in Pac-12 play.
Oregon starter Logan Mercado tossed 5 2/3 innings and allowed four earned runs on five hits while striking out four and walking three. The junior righty was stung for three solo homers throughout the first three innings but settled in after that to hold the Trojans in check.
Sabin Ceballos launched a solo homer in the second inning to get the Ducks on the board. But USC’s Johnny Olmstead tied the game in the bottom of the second with a solo shot of his own.
In the third, Jacob Galloway and Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek each drilled solo homers off of Mercado to give USC a 3-1 lead.
Cowley and Smith each drove home runs in the sixth to tie the game at 3-3 for Oregon. But USC immediately answered back when Ryan Jackson cracked a two-run double to make it 5-3.
However, the Ducks took control of the game for good in the top of the seventh when they batted around the order and two-run double from both Cowley and Smith.
Reliever Matt Dallas, who replaced Mercado midway through the sixth, stayed on for the bottom of the seventh and retired USC’s 2-3-4 hitters in order.
In the top of the eighth, Oregon loaded the bases with one out. But USC reliever Garrett Clarke came on with the bases loaded and struck out the Ducks’ No. 2 and No. 3 hitters — Colby Shade and Cowley — to escape the jam and hold the Oregon lead at 7-5.
Dallas remained on the mound for the Ducks in the bottom of the eighth but issued a four-pitch walk to the first batter he faced.
Freshman lefty Grayson Grinsell came on to replace Dallas and retired three consecutive batters to end the inning.
Oregon pitching coach Jake Angier turned to closer Josh Mollerus in the ninth to face the Trojans’ 9-1-2 hitters.
The right-hander leaned on his wipeout slider to retire USC in order and needed just nine pitches to do so.
Oregon and USC will square off for the series finale Sunday at noon PT.
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