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Oregon opens Arizona road trip with 9-4 win over Grand Canyon University | Sports

by Staff

Under the colorful Phoenix sky, the Ducks’ offense propelled them to a 9-4 win over Grand Canyon University to open a five-game Arizona-based roadtrip.

In its first game in Arizona since winning the 2023 Pac-12 Tournament, Oregon (8-3) took advantage of three homers to jump — and stay — ahead of the Lopes (6-6) in the Ducks’ first true road game of 2024. 

The Ducks were on the basepath early. In each of the first three innings, Oregon’s leadoff man singled. However, both of the first two innings featured groundball double plays. In the 2nd, Jeffery Heard scored on the double-play ball to open the scoring for the Ducks. It was an Oregon lead that wouldn’t even survive the inning as Eli Paton sent his second home run of the season out to right field to give GCU its first lead of the night, 2-1.

Heard took it right back in the 3rd. After Drew Smith came home on another groundout to even the score, Heard sent his second home run of the season out to right field. His two-run shot plated Justin Cassella — who singled in both of his first two at-bats — and gave the Ducks a 4-2 advantage. Oregon never again relented its lead.

Turner Spoljaric took the mound for Oregon for his second start of the 2024 season. After a nightmarish outing against Texas Tech back in February that saw him give up five earned runs on five hits in just 2.1 innings, the sophomore arm has a steadier performance on Tuesday. 

After allowing the early homer to Paton, Spoljaric settled down to go four complete innings in which he allowed two earned runs on three hits. He didn’t record a strikeout, but did walk a batter and hit another. While Spoljaric didn’t earn the win on Tuesday, his outing should serve as a confidence-boosting performance for the Ducks’ righty. 

Brock Moore earned Tuesday’s win with a dominant two innings in relief. In just 30 pitches, Moore fanned four — three of which came in the 6th — without allowing a baserunner. He’s now 1-0 on the season with a perfect ERA of 0.00.

Ben Smith’s start for the Lopes was a less successful one. Entering Tuesday with an ERA of 0.00 across three full innings of work, it appeared that Smith could be a challenge for the Oregon offense. He didn’t. The Ducks jumped on him early, attacking him for four runs on six hits across four complete innings of work. Smith earned his first loss of the season at the hands of an Oregon offense that’s now averaging 8.9 runs per game.

Mason Neville extended the lead with a solo shot in the 5th. After supplying the spark in Oregon’s 16-9 win over UC Santa Barbara just two days prior, Neville’s second homer in as many games gave Oregon an insurance run. Drew Smith would score on a wild pitch later in the frame and Anson Aroz drove one in on a sacrifice-fly in the 7th to extend the lead to 7-2.

After two-straight starts at first base for the Ducks, Aroz is now hitting .294 with four RBIs. Oregon head coach Mark Wasikowski credited his recent starts to looking for a spark in his offense. He may have found it in Aroz, but only time will tell. 

Sammy Cova made his first appearance of the season in the 7th. He immediately threw a scoreless frame in relief, but got burnt by a two-run bomb off the bat of Zach Yorke in the 8th, which cut the Ducks’ lead to 7-4. Two betters later, Tyler Wilson ripped a double off the wall to end Cova’s debut. Bradley Mullan relieved Cova and inherited his jam. He ended the threat with a strikeout as Oregon took a three-run lead into the 9th.

Jacob Walsh came off the bench in the 9th to supply a two-run blast that gave Oregon a pair of insurance runs. Walsh’s blast was the final in a game that featured five home runs — all of which were to right field. 

Tuesday’s win serves as Oregon’s first-ever over GCU. The Ducks and Lopes now share an all-time 1-1 record. Wednesday will serve as a tiebreaker that will last for at least the remainder of the 2024 regular season. The second game of the midweek clash is slated for Wednesday at 1 p.m.

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