EUGENE, Ore. – Aaron Payne singled to center field in the bottom of the ninth inning to break a tie and give No. 13 Oregon a 2-1 win over No. 21 Stanford in a Pac-12 Conference game on Friday night at PK Park.
Payne lined a single up the middle past a drawn in infield against Cardinal starter Mark Appel, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft. The Ducks’ junior delivered the walk-off game-winner on a 0-2 pitch driving in pinch runner Desmond Santos.
Sophomore Steven Packard started the rally when he reached base on a throwing error by Stanford shortstop Drew Jackson that allowed Packard to go to second. Santos ran for Packard and moved to third on a bunt single by Connor Hofmann.
Appel, who intentionally walked J.J. Altobelli to load the bases, struck out Brett Thomas on four pitches to bring Payne to the plate for the game-winning RBI.
Oregon starter Tommy Thorpe and a pair of Ducks’ relievers battled Appel pitch for pitch striking out 10 Cardinal hitters. Thorpe allowed just one run in 6.2 innings while striking out seven and walking just one.
Darrell Hunter retired the last batter of the seventh inning, after inheriting runners on the corners with two outs. He got the first out of the eighth inning before turning it over to Garrett Cleavinger. The freshman lefty retired all five batters he faced, including three on strikeouts, to set up Payne’s heroics.
Stanford took the early lead after stranding two runners in both the first and second innings. The Cardinal (23-13, 9-17 Pac-12) finally broke through with a run in the third on a RBI double by Danny Diekroeger. Austin Slater, who singled to open the inning and advanced to second on a groundout, scored the run.
Ryon Healy got the run back for the Ducks in the bottom half of the inning. The junior drove in Payne with a RBI single to right field to tie the game 1-1.
Neither team could manage many scoring threats the rest of the way. Oregon (31-10, 14-5 Pac-12) put runners on first and second in both the fifth and sixth but couldn’t break through against Appel. Stanford’s best chance came when Thomas got out of the first and third jam in the seventh.
Cleavinger (3-0) picked up the win for the Ducks. Appel (7-3) took the loss allowing nine hits in 8.1 innings while striking out nine and walking two.
Scott Heineman went 2-for-4 to lead Oregon’s offensive attack.
The Ducks and Cardinal play game two of the three-game series Saturday at 2 p.m. at PK Park.