OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — No. 3 Oregon eliminated No. 13 LSU 4-1 from the Women’s College World Series at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. The Ducks won both games in the elimination pool on Saturday.
With the victory, Oregon will be making their second final four appearance in program history. Their only other appearance came back in 2014 against Alabama.
There is nobody Oregon trusted more with the season hanging in the balance than Megan Kleist (W, 1.27 ERA). After grabbing a save against Baylor earlier in the day, the righty started the night cap by striking out two of the Tigers’ first three outs. It would be a sign of things to come.
After punching out the side in the fourth, Kleist was dominating with eight strikeouts through four innings of work. She had her change-up working masterfully.
“She hides the ball real well,” said Oregon head coach Mike White in reference to Kleist’s change-up. “It’s tough to pick up. She’s got tight spin on all her pitches.”
Kleist was dominant for the complete game win. The RHP allowed one earned run on just five hits. She struck on nine while walking none. Kleist was extremely efficient, throwing over 70 percent of her pitches (65-for-89) for strikes.
In the bottom half of the first, Gwen Svekis unloaded a two-run bomb to left field for an early 2-0 Oregon lead. The blast plated Alexis Mack who singled. Shannon Rhodes was stranded on second base after scorching a double.
It was the FIRST home run of the 2017 NCAA Tournament for the Ducks.
“I felt relieved. It was great to get some power,” White stated emphatically. “We got to start driving the ball. Gwen has done a great job for us all year. I hope she’s on her way to breaking out.”
Shemiah Sanchez launched a shot of her own into the night in the top of the second. The solo home run cut the LSU deficit in half, 2-1.
After scoring three runs and recording two hits against Baylor, Mack continued to torture the opposition. A single and throwing error placed her at third base. With two outs in the third, Nikki Udria singled her home to place Oregon back ahead by two, 3-1.
With a hit in both games on Saturday, the All-American shortstop extended her hit-streak to nine games.
LSU’s Allie Walljasper departed after 2.2 innings of work. She faced 15 batters in total. Ironically, Oregon forced Baylor’s starter, Gia Rodoni, from the game after an identical 15 hitters faced over 2.2 innings pitched on Saturday morning.
Walljasper yielded three earned runs on six hits. The RHP struck out two and walked none. Carley Hoover replaced her and immediately wiggled out of an inherited two-out bases loaded jam.
The reliever worked the final 3.1 innings for the Tigers. Hoover allowed one run on three hits. She struck out two and walked nobody.
Mia Camuso continued to set the world on fire with her offensive display. In the fifth frame, she knocked in Udria who reached base after being hit by a pitch. With the RBI single, Oregon extended their lead to three runs, 4-1, heading to the sixth.
Mack registered three hits and two more runs in the night cap. In total, Mack was 5-for-7 with five runs scored in two games played on Saturday. The incredible hitter was a catalyst to the Duck offensive explosion.
Entering the Saturday evening affair, LSU was 13-3 in elimination games since the start of the 2014 season. Make that 13-4, now.
Make room for a second Pac-12 team. Here come the Ducks.
PREVIOUS FINAL FOUR APPEARANCE
As the No. 1 team in 2014, Oregon shutout Florida State 3-0 in the first round. The next day, the Ducks lost to eventual champion Florida, 4-0. Following a big win against Oklahoma, 4-2, UO fell one game shy of the ‘14 World Series when they lost to Alabama, 2-0.
Camuso and Mack are the only two players in the tournament to record two multiple-hit performances in the same day.
With a hit in both games on Saturday, the All-American shortstop extended her hit-streak to nine games. Udria was riding an incredible 43-game on-base streak that was snapped prior to postseason action.
Entering the contest, the Ducks had just nine extra-base hits (52-of-61) and zero home runs in tournament play. On Saturday, they slashed two XBH in their first collective at-bat. The Ducks finished with seven total XBH in the two games.
The Ducks amassed 11 total runs on 20 hits in two games. Between Baylor and LSU, Oregon outscored their opposition 11-5 on Saturday.
Gwen Svekis Blasts Oregon to an early lead that they would never relinquish vs LSU.
THE FINAL FOUR
The dominant Florida Gators (2-0), defending champion Oklahoma Sooners (2-0) and the Pac-12’s Washington Huskies (2-1) all reserved their spot in the 2017 WCWS Final Four earlier. Now, they welcome the Ducks for a showdown of epic proportions on Sunday.
Next up for No. 3 Oregon (54-7) is No. 10 Oklahoma (58-9) on Sunday afternoon. The Sooners are unbeaten, so they have to be defeated twice. The champions eliminated this same LSU team to advance to the world series last year.
First pitch is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. PT on ESPN from USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. If necessary, the second game would take place on Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. PT on ESPN2.
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