EUGENE — Playing for the fourth straight day and sixth in the last seven, with a rare Thursday night start to a conference series coming up, the Oregon pitching staff needed some relief Monday.
Right-hander Brando Tessar obliged despite pitching on short rest himself. The senior right-hander threw seven scoreless innings for the second straight start, helping the No. 23 Ducks beat visiting San Diego 4-3 at PK Park.
The UO baseball team (28-10) takes a six-game streak of nonleague wins into a Pac-12 series against visiting Washington State, a series that begins Thursday because of Easter holiday.
"It's huge momentum going into this stretch of Pac-12 games right here," Tessar said. "We've got some good teams coming up, and our team's playing well right now."
Count Tessar as a big reason why. He followed up his victory last Wednesday at Portland, improving to 3-0 this season. A member of Oregon's weekend rotation before injuries derailed his career in 2012, Tessar is pitching like someone who can help the Ducks given injured starter Matt Krook's uncertain status.
"Brando is yelling at us that he belongs there," UO coach George Horton said.
Oregon staked Tessar to an early lead Monday, when Aaron Payne scored on a fielder's choice in the third. One inning later, Tyler Baumgartner came to bat with two on, knocked Desmond Santos in with a double and then scored behind Payne on the play due to a two-base San Diego error.
Tessar then cruised through the seventh, allowing seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts. He allowed several hard-hit flyballs, putting a premium on defensive positioning by Oregon's outfield, Horton said. But the Ducks made plays behind him, making up for missed opportunities at the plate that resulted in 13 UO runners left on base.
After pulling Tessar, Horton turned to a few other seldom-used arms, with Cooper Stiles getting the nod to open the eighth. He allowed two runners who came around to score off lefty Porter Clayton as San Diego (25-11) rallied for three runs.
On came Jack Karraker, who had pitched all of five innings this season. The junior right-hander allowed a single but ended the inning with a strikeout, then gave way to Garrett Cleavinger for the save; closer Jake Reed was held out after pitching Saturday and Sunday.
TOLMAN TOP PLAYER — Third baseman Mitchell Tolman was named Pac-12 player of the week Monday after hitting .600 as the Oregon baseball team won five times last week.
Tolman, a sophomore from Lake Forest, Calif., was 9-for-15 on the week with six RBIs and five runs. He had a hit in all five games — two midweek wins over Portland and a weekend sweep of UC Riverside — and had multiple hits four times.
RAIDERS RANKED 24TH — The NAIA made room for the Southern Oregon University football team in its spring coaches' top 25 poll, which was released Monday by the national office.
At No. 24, the Raiders were the only team to break into the rankings after not being included in the final edition of 2013. Grand View (Iowa) was awarded the top spot and all 13 first-place votes after winning its first national title last season.
The Raiders went 7-3 against NAIA opponents and peaked in the poll at No. 14 in the preseason. It was the first time they had been included in the preseason poll in nine years. They slide back in now with all but one starter returning on offense and all but four returning on defense.
SOU's annual spring game is scheduled for May 2 at 6 p.m. Practice started last Monday.
The other Frontier Conference teams included in the poll were No. 2 Carroll, the defending conference champion, and No. 10 Rocky Mountain, which tied with SOU for second place.
WILLISON HONORED — Cascade Conference pitchers had an especially tough time getting Julia Willison out over the last six games, and Southern Oregon University's senior catcher was named the CCC Red Lion Player of the Week on Monday as a result.
Willison reached based three times in every Raiders win last week, helping them go 4-2, and got on in 13 of 23 plate appearances. She went 7-for-16 overall with her first three home runs of the season, a double, 11 RBIs and seven runs scored.
She currently leads the conference in overall batting average (.421) and on-base percentage (.575).
In conference play only, her marks (.447 BA, .607 OBP) are even better.
One oddity working in her OBP's favor is that she's attracted more hit-by-pitches (12) than walks (10).
Southern Oregon (12-12 overall, 11-5 CCC) had gone without a home run in 22 straight games dating back to last season before Willison's three-run shot in the first inning Monday against Corban. She went on to hit a grand slam in the first inning of Game 2 against the Warriors.
Saturday against Eastern Oregon, Willison went 3-for-4 in Game 2 with a solo homer, a two-run double, an RBI single and three runs scored. It was her third three-hit game of the season.
The product of McQueen High in Reno, Nev., is a fourth-year starter and has logged every inning at catcher for SOU this season. She's up to 14 career home runs, which ranks third in school history.
Willison and the Raiders are scheduled to play a makeup doubleheader today at Northwest Christian before returning to Ashland for their final home dates of the regular season: Friday against Concordia and Saturday against Northwest University.