EUGENE — This happy homecoming was 28 years in the making.
Oregon’s revived baseball team won its first home game since 1981 on Friday night, beating defending national champion Fresno State on Andrew Schmidt’s pinch-hit RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning.
“Great game, great win,” Schmidt said. “It was great to get this win for these great fans in the first game back in Oregon. It was awesome.”
The university dropped the baseball program in 1981 because of budget cuts, but brought it back along with 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, honored their past in a pregame ceremony that included first-pitch tosses by 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 — PK Park — is named, then caught a pitch from Oregon coach George Horton. Also recognized on the field before the game were Oregon’s four living All-Americans: Roberts, Earl Averill (1951), Terry Maddox (1957) and Larry Hanson (1967-68).
“I told them before the game this is the kind of environment they came to the University of Oregon to play in,” Horton said, “and this is why I came to the University of Oregon to coach.”
Horton left Cal State Fullerton, where he won a College World Series title in 2004, to lead a restored program at Oregon.
“They came here to play baseball in a parking lot,” Kilkenny said. “And here they are beating the defending national champions.”
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Eddy Rodriguez singled off reliever Zac Bischoff and moved to third on Jett Hart’s liner into the gap in right-center.
With nearly 3,000 fans on their feet, Schmidt worked the count full and then sent a slider from Bischoff into right field, emptying the Oregon dugout and bullpen.
“I actually forgot to run when I first hit it,” Schmidt said. “Once I got there and touched first, it felt great.”