OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — No. 3 Oregon was offensive against No. 15 Baylor, 7-4, in the elimination bracket of the 2017 Women’s College World Series. The Ducks collected seven runs on 11 hits from USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Thursday’s starter Megan Kleist entered the fold with nobody out, the bases juiced and the season on the line. MK wasn’t phased. The righty proceeded to strikeout the first two hitters she faced, then forced the last into a weak groundout for the save.
“I wanted to pick my team up after Washington’s game,” said Kleist. “Making the big pitches at the right time and keeping my changeup down. With the bases loaded, you want to keep it down. One swing can end your season.”
The Ducks are getting closer. No time for rest, as Oregon prepares for a pesky LSU team in a few hours. No. 10 Oklahoma awaits the winner of Saturday’s night cap.
After scuffling against the Huskies, the Duck bats awoke on Saturday. Oregon tallied seven runs on 11 hits. They opened the scoring with two in the second, two in the third, one in the fifth and a huge three-spot in the seventh.
Oregon starting pitcher Miranda Elish (W, 1.62 ERA) helped her own cause with some sterling defense in the first inning. The right-handed freshman stranded two runners in scoring position to conclude the first frame.
After a Shannon Rhodes walk, Sammie Puentes singled up the middle with one out in the top of the second inning. The speedster then stole second base.
Following a fielders choice putout at home, Puentes scored on a two-out wild pitch, 1-0, for Oregon’s first lead of the WCWS. It was the eighth wild pitch of the season for Baylor’s starter Gia Rodoni (L, 1.63 ERA).
Jenna Lilley followed with a double to right field, plating Lauren Lindvall for an early 2-0 Duck advantage.
In the bottom half of the second, Eugene weather entered the stadium and brought the rain with it. The game was delayed for about an hour with two outs in the inning.
When play resumed, Nikki Udria continued her torrid stretch with a run-scoring single to score Alexis Mack, 3-0, in the third inning. Mia Camuso came through with a clutch two-out double to plate the All-American, 4-0.
Lilley made the defensive play of the day in the bottom of the fourth inning. She dove to her left to snag a one-hop shot at the hot corner, then fired over to first with a perfect throw. The play brought a smile to Lilley’s face.
“She can be the best player on this team when she wants to be,” said UO head coach Mike White.
Rodoni exited after just 2.2 innings of work while facing 15 total batters. The Bear starter yielded four earned runs on six hits. She walked one Duck and struck out three. Her ERA rose to 1.72 for the season.
Mack started the fifth with a single. She found herself in scoring position after stealing second base. Two outs later, Rhodes drove her home with a flare to left field, 5-0.
The Bears didn't record their first hit of the game until a questionable play in the bottom of the fifth. A missed call by the base umpire led to a four-run rally by Baylor.
Elish was cruising before plunking the leadoff hitter. The next play, Lindvall made a brilliant barehand grab for the force out at second base. Yet, the umpire ruled the runner safe and the floodgates opened.
Following Oregon’s second miscue of the day, an errant throw enabled Taylor Ellis to score the first Baylor run, 5-1. A groundout then scored Sydney Christensen the very next batter, 5-2.
Kyla Walker singled in the third Bear run, 5-3, before Shelby Friudenberg cut the deficit to one with her RBI single. Suddenly, Oregon was leading by the slimmest of margins, 5-4.
Oregon’s freshman starting pitcher was outstanding. Before the blown call, she was nearly flawless. Elish finished with 5.0 innings of work after facing 23 total batters. The righty allowed four runs on three hits, alongside two strikeouts and two walks.
Maggie Balint entered the game for Elish with a perfect frame in the sixth.
The Ducks added some much-needed insurance in the seventh when they loaded the bases with one out. Camuso blistered a two-run double to left field, escalating the Oregon lead to three runs, 7-4.
Balint struggled mightily to open the final frame. She allowed a walk, then back-to-back singles before departing with the bases loaded and nobody out. That is when Kleist took the game into her hands (S, 1.28 ERA).
“We want to see each other succeed,” said Kleist in reference to Balint. “Every girl in this stadium wants to be the last one standing. We’re one step closer now.”
Mack, Udria, Camuso and Lilley registered two hits each for the Ducks. Mack scored three times and Udria crossed the plate twice. Meanwhile, the aforementioned star shortstop extended her latest hit-streak to eight games.
52 of Oregon’s 61 hits are singles (0 home runs) in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Mia Camuso’s Based Loaded 2-Run Double extends Oregon lead to 7-4 in the seventh.
Next up for No. 3 Oregon (53-7) are the No. 13 LSU Tigers (47-20) later this evening on ESPN. The Tigers are 13-3 in elimination games since the start of 2014. The Ducks’ second first pitch of the day is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. PT from USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.