Oklahoma City - The Oregon Ducks lost to the Washington huskies today by a score of 6-2. Junior Megan Kleist got the start and held the huskies scoreless for four innings, but a disastrous fifth inning produced four runs for Washington, and Oregon time and time again failed to capitalize on potential scoring opportunities.
After dropping a game to Kentucky in the Super Regionals, and a less than stellar performance closing out against Arizona State, many fans questioned if junior Megan Kleist would start or hot-handed sophomore Miranda Elish. Coach Mike White proved loyal to his veteran pitcher and for the majority of the game Kleist was spectacular- in the first four innings she struck out the huskies four times and only allowed one hit- but without any run support the pressure began to mount.
Washington’s freshman pitcher Gabbie Plain was not as dominant as Kleist (Plain played six innings and finished with one strikeout and three walks), but Washington’s infield played with machine-like efficiency. The combination of Taylor Van Zee, Sis Bates and Taryn Atlee has been a problem for countless batters all season. This group had committed a total of eight errors going into this match-up, and their precision proved the difference maker in a game where the Ducks rarely hit a deep ball.
The Ducks’ infield looked pretty spectacular themselves for much of the afternoon. Neither team earned their first hit until the fourth inning, but as much as it pains me to write, the huskies offense was downright impressive to close out the game, while Oregon left at least one runner stranded on base in every inning, nine in total- much like last year’s World Series loss to the huskies in which they left eight runners stranded.
Washington, on the other hand, took full advantage when they found themselves with bases loaded in the fifth due in part to a missed catch off the glove of DJ Sanders, a throwing error by Jenna Lilley and a walk by Kleist. Kelly Burdick batted in pinch runner Kaija Gibson for the games opening score, and thus the can of worms bursted open. Van Zee singled high to right field and scored both Trysten Melhart and Maggie Gallagher.
At this point, the Ducks down 3-0, Coach White elected to send in Elish, but the Sophomore allowed another run (an RBI double from Bates) before striking out two in a row to retire the side.
Oregon would need to cut into Washington’s 4-0 lead if they were to have a realistic chance at catching up to the huskies, but junior relief pitcher Taran Alvelo retired the side scoreless. The huskies added two more insurance runs at the bottom of the sixth and the game was put out of reach.
Oregon would score twice at the top of the seventh when the huskies started to play with less discipline- most likely because they knew the game was in hand. April Utecht batted in Shaye Bowden and Lilley scored when Svekis singled to left field, but in the same play DJ Sanders was called out by interference.
The Ducks are still alive, but their backs are against the wall. Today there will be an elimination game against the winner of the Florida State-Georgia game. If the Ducks find a way to recover from this painful loss and win tomorrow, they’ll have to beat a well-rested team twice in a row to advance to the finals. For reference, 31 of the last 35 champions started 2-0 in the WCWS.