It was just a matter of time before the Oregon bats would break through.
Thankfully for the Ducks’ sake, they broke through just in time.
Oregon scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to defeat California 3-2 in its first game of the Pac-12 tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz. Tuesday night.
With the Pool A win, the Ducks are scheduled to play the conference’s regular season champion Stanford Thursday night.
Down 2-1 for most of the night, the Ducks finally capitalized on a rally. Sabin Caballos began the eighth inning with a single and after Bryce Boettcher came in to run for him, Tanner Smith doubled to right-center that was just beyond the glove of Cal’s Kade Kretzschmar to put runners on second and third.
Now Oregon was in this position four times before this, but couldn’t come up with the big hit.
This time the Ducks came through.
Drew Smith’s grounder was just enough to score Boettcher to tie the game and Jacob Walsh’s sacrifice fly scored Smith for the eventual game-winning run.
Closer Josh Mollerus came in the ninth and earned the save with a game-ending double play. California left its best hitter, Max Handron, on deck.
Handron led the game off with a 430-foot triple that went off the center field wall. When he crushed that first pitch, a 3-2 game was the last thing on anyone’s mind.
But Oregon used its six pitchers to perfection and held the Bears to just two runs on six hits and scoreless for the final seven innings of play.
The win was also Oregon’s first-ever victory of the conference tournament, which came into existence last season. The Ducks lost two straight and were bounced out early.
Now Oregon has a chance to make some noise should they upset the No. 1-seeded Cardinal Thursday night.