EUGENE — This time, A.J. Balta got all of it. And the Oregon baseball team left PK Park on a Sunday afternoon feeling much better about itself.
One week ago, Balta's potential walk-off home run was caught just short of the fence, ending a three-game sweep of the Ducks by Cal State Fullerton. Against Ohio State on Sunday, Balta's eighth-inning blast cleared the fence for a grand slam that capped No. 14 Oregon's 20-4 victory.
The victory gave the Ducks (12-4) two wins in three games with the Buckeyes (8-5), ended a 4-1 week for Oregon and put the demoralizing series with the Titans safely in the rearview mirror.
"I think Ohio State's personnel is pretty good," UO coach George Horton said. "I think they're going to be a contender in the Big Ten. They'll have to prove that, but last year we didn't win two out of three against anybody (of note in the nonconference season), and ended up a national No. 8 seed (into the postseason). We reminded our guys of that, and certainly if we're going to do anything in the Pac-12, we're going to have to beat a lot of teams that are significant. "¦
"So we challenged them, to see if they could get this two out of three against a team we might have awoken (Saturday) by not throwing strikes. And they accepted the challenge pretty good."
After three middling performances by Sunday starters to open the season, senior Jeff Gold (4-0) rose to the task when given his shot at the job against the Buckeyes. He went eight innings and allowed seven hits and three runs, with eight strikeouts and no walks; two of the runs came home on potential inning-ending double-play balls, makeable plays the Ducks didn't convert.
Gold's was the third straight solid start of the weekend. Staff ace Tommy Thorpe struck out a career-high 10 in seven scoreless innings Friday, and freshman phenom Matt Krook battled control issues to get through 51/3 while allowing one run Saturday. But the Ducks couldn't get anything in that game off Ohio State's Ryan Riga, so it was left to Gold to get Oregon a series win Sunday.
"It was cool, especially against this team — I had some demons to exorcise from the Rose Bowl my freshman year," said Gold, who attended the Oregon football team's postseason loss to the Buckeyes in 2010. "I threw four pitches for strikes in the first inning and was like, 'OK, everything seems good today.' Coach Horton called a great game, and we were able to mix speeds well."
Horton called Gold's start "spectacular," and said the performance made a decision on Oregon's Sunday starter for the Pac-12 opening series with USC in PK Park next week "a no-brainer."
"That was one of his sharpest outings," Horton said. "His fastball command was outstanding, and if we played a little better catch and get a couple double-play balls, he has an even better result."
OREGON STATE 10, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 0 — At Corvallis, sophomore first baseman Gabe Clark drove in four runs and junior reliever Zack Reser earned his second win of the season as fifth-ranked Oregon State defeated Northern Illinois before a crowd of 2,064 at Goss Stadium.
The Beavers (14-3) swept the four-game series and stretched their winning streak to seven in a row. They are 10-1 in their last 11 starts and now lead the all-time series against Northern Illinois 7-0.
Clark knocked in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the first inning to give the Beavers a 2-0 lead they would not relinquish. He then broke the game open with a two-run double in the sixth to give the Beavers a 7-0 advantage. Dylan Davis followed with a two-run single to cap a five-run rally that removed all doubt about the eventual outcome.
Clark played sparingly as a freshman, hitting .161 with no homers and five RBIs. He surpassed those totals over the weekend by going 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer, a triple, two doubles and eight RBIs. He's at .455 overall in 11 games, with six extra-base hits, 14 RBIs and only one strikeout.
Reser entered the game with one out in the third and retired the next nine Huskies in order. He allowed two hits in a career-long four-inning stint, with two strikeouts and no walks. Philip Belding, Kevin Flemer and Max Engelbrekt finished up with 22/3 hitless frames.
OSU TOPS ARIZONA — At Tucson, Ariz., No. 15 Oregon State posted its highest road score of the season as the Beavers trounced No. 18 Arizona, 197.050-196.275, at the McKale Center.
Three OSU all-arounders set career-highs, led by Chelsea Tang's 39.500. Brittany Harris and Madeline Gardiner each scored 39.400.
The Beavers (9-3) topped the 49-point plateau on all four events, including a season-high 49.350 on the uneven bars and a season-best 49.325 on balance beam.