Oregon edges defending champions in home opener
EUGENE — The Oregon baseball team played its first home game in 28 years on Friday and Andrew Schmidt sent the nearly 3,000 fans home happy.
Schmidt ripped a line-drive single to right field two outs into the ninth inning that scored Eddy Rodriguez from third base, giving the Ducks a 1-0 victory against Fresno State, the defending College World Series champion.
"Great game, great win," said Schmidt, who was pinch-hitting for third baseman Darrell Hunter. "It was great to get this win for these great fans in the first game back in Oregon. It was awesome."
The victory came on the day Oregon welcomed baseball back to campus. The university dropped the program in 1981 for budget reasons. The restored team plays in PK Park, a new $18 million stadium built in a corner of the football stadium's parking lot.
The Ducks (2-2), who opened their season on the road last weekend, reflected on their past in a pregame ceremony that included first-pitch throws by former players Dave Roberts, the 1972 national college player of the year, and Sam Manley, who threw the Ducks' last pitch in 1981.
Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny, for whom the stadium is named, then caught a pitch from Oregon coach George Horton. Also recognized on the field before the game were Oregon's four living baseball all-Americans — Roberts, Earl Averill (1951), Terry Maddox (1957) and Larry Hanson (1967, 1968).
"I told them before the game this is the kind of environment they came to the University of Oregon to play in and this is why I came to the University of Oregon to coach," Horton said.
The game itself was a pitcher's duel between Oregon freshmen left-hander Tyler Anderson and Fresno State senior righty Holden Sprague.
Anderson pitched eight scoreless innings. He gave up six hits, struck out five and walked two.
Sprague allowed just four hits in just over seven innings.
The first hit of the game — and thus, the first hit in PK Park — was by Oregon center fielder Curtis Raulinaitis, who doubled down the right-field line in the first inning.
"I had goosebumps until the third inning," said Raulinaitis, holding the ball he hit. "This crowd was awesome. The enthusiasm, the intensity, it was amazing."
After two were out in the bottom of the ninth, Rodriguez singled off reliever Zac Bischoff. Jett Hart followed with a liner to the gap in right-center that moved Rodriguez to third. It was the only time in the game that the Ducks had two baserunners.
With the capacity crowd on its feet, Schmidt worked the count full and then delivered a slider from Bischoff into right field, emptying the Oregon dugout and bullpen.
"It was a little nerve wrecking ... I just had to take a big breath, relax and stay with my plan," Schmidt said. "Fortunately I came through.
"I actually forgot to run when I first hit it," he added. "Once I got there and touched first, it felt great."
Said Kilkenny, the athletic director: "They came here to play baseball in a parking lot and here they are beating the defending national champions."