softball

No. 3 Oregon's season comes to a close at WCWS falling 4-2 to No. 10 Oklahoma

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No. 3 Oregon's season comes to a close at WCWS falling 4-2 to No. 10 Oklahoma

How Oregon lost: Another incredible season in the books for the No. 3 Oregon Ducks softball team that was supposively a "rebuilding season" for the Ducks. It came to a close at the Women's College World Series against the No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners in the semifinals. We've seen it all season long. Teams can get hot at any time and on any out in the game of softball. Teams have to be on their toes at all times. The Ducks did just that all throughout the post-season, making comeback after comeback in both the regionals and super regionals, but not this time. It just so happened to fall on Oklahoma in the fifth inning. A four-run, three-hit fifth inning for the Sooners sends the defending National Champion Sooners to back-to-back WCWS final appearances and will face the No. 1 Florida Gators.

The Ducks fall to the Sooners 4-2. 

What it means: The Oregon Ducks have quite the amount of talent and depth on their roster. According to their roster, the Ducks will only graduate seniors Danica Mercado (right-fielder), Nikki Udria (shortstop), and Sammie Puentas (outfielder). Of their starting lineup, Mercado (leadoff) and Udria (fourth) will be big hits, but head coach Mike White has a young team that can fill the holes. Being that this team is composed of primarily underclassmen, and a pitching staff of one sophomore and two freshmen, this team isn't going anywhere anytime soon.  

Oregon pitching: Nothing but composure, composure, and more composure coming from sophomore pitcher Megan Kleist. The Sooners are one of those teams that aren't afraid to swing at the first pitch making it necessary for Kleist to get acclimated quickly. Kleist threw five and two-thirds innings, allowing four runs, two earned runs, six hits, one walk and two strikeouts, until relieved by freshman Miranda Elish.

Oregon defense: The Ducks defense proved to be calm under the pressure of Oklahoma not struggling to get on base. Lilley, Udria, Lindvall, and Camuso in the infield were a solid force behind Kleist, making smart decisions to be sure to get the out with Sooners' runners in scoring position, and finishing the game with two errors.

However, Oklahoma caught fire in the fifth inning. A controversial call started it all on a Sooners bunt that seemed to not leave the batters box but was called fair caused a throwing error from junior catcher Gwen Svekis down the first base line and the Sooners to take an extra base to second.

One out, Sooners runners on second and third, and the Big 12 Player of the Year Shay Knighten walking confidently to the plate. First pitch swing, she pops it over shallow into right field scoring two and Oklahoma gets its first lead of the game 3-2. It didn't stop their for the Sooners. Oregon struggled to get outs, trying to stop runner from advancing rather than the "easy out" on first, and the Sooners capitalized on these opportunities. Oklahoma finishes the inning with four runs, three hits, one Oregon error, and one base runner left on.

Oregon offense: Oklahoma pitch Paige Parker did not make it easy on Oregon. Parker's rise ball is thrown hard and located in a spot that tempted several Ducks causing popups and easy outs. Both teams didn't necessarily struggle to get on base, but bringing runners home was difficult with already one or two outs across the board.

That is until senior Danica Mercado stepped up to the plate in the top of the fifth inning. The senior, with the Ducks in a must-win situation, calmly sends a Parker rise ball over right field and rounded the bases following junior Jenna Lilley who reached on base on a single the batter before. This gave Oregon a 2-0 lead.

This isn't unlikely normal for Mercado, who is known for her slap hit and bunting as the leadoff batter for the Ducks, but she is strong and good at reading pitches with her .358 batting average.

What was seeming like another cinderella, last-chance comeback for Oregon, which we've seen time and time again this post-season, fell short this time. 

 

Kleist klutch on the mound, propels No. 3 Oregon into semifinals with 4-1 win over No. 13 LSU

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Kleist klutch on the mound, propels No. 3 Oregon into semifinals with 4-1 win over No. 13 LSU

How Oregon won: Wait a minute... Oregon has a power game too? The Ducks showed off just how dynamic their offense can be adding the power game to their already "scrappy offense" thanks to the 2-run home run blast to left-center from junior catcher Gwen Svekis. This was the first home run of the post season for Oregon and set the tone early for the Ducks. But the true story tonight was starting pitcher sophomore Megan Kleist getting it done on the mound as well. Kleist pitched one of her best games this post season, finishing with nine strikeouts and more importantly pitching with confidence especially with the added pressure of "win or go home" double elimination. 

What it means: Oregon sure looked like a semi finalist team tonight. The Ducks will now face No. 10 Oklahoma tomorrow in the WCWS semifinals. More importantly, Kleist is pitching at her peak right now. After coming in to relieve freshman Maggie Balint in this morning's game vs. Baylor and pitching her way out of a jam, and then taking the reigns against LSU, Kleist proved that she can pitch just as confidently in pressure-like situations as she does at Jane Sanders stadium in Eugene, OR. Add that to the already deep, young talented Oregon pitching core, and you've got one heck of a pitching trio.

Oregon pitching: Kleist picked up where she left off the last time she was on the mound, which happened to be just four hours earlier: clutch and confident. She made her presence known early with two first inning swinging-strikeouts, and it didn't stop there. Kleist finished allowing one earned runs, five hits, zero walks, and nine strikeouts. Kleist battled early and was often ahead in the pitch count, often a quick 0-2, which allows her to have more freedom with her pitches and making it difficult for batters to read them.

Oregon defense: Junior Jenna Lilley, who has seen one other WCWS as a freshman back in 2015, came out defensively locking down the third baseline and protecting the quick bunt looks from the Tigers. You could see it in Lilley's eyes just how much confidence and fearlessness she was. Lilley, as well as the rest of the Oregon defense, backed up Kleist with zero errors making it all-around defensive foundation for Kleist to work with and rely on. 

Oregon offense: Junior catcher Gwen Svekis gave Oregon the momentum early and cashed in on the Ducks first post-season home run scoring both her and Alexis Mack already on base. That Oregon power game also included a Jenna Lilley double off the wall. The freshman, who didn't play like a freshman today, Mia Camuso drove in another run in the fifth on an RBI double to extend Oregon's lead to 4-1. Good base running, not trying to do too much, from the Ducks also played a part in this offensive effort. Oregon still left eight on by the end of the game, and will need to find a way to get that number down when facing hot No. 2 Oklahoma next. Of the nine Ducks total hits, at least six different players contributed. One of those being Alexis Mack, who went 3-for-4 tonight.

Up next: No. 3 Oregon moves onto the WCWS semifinals to face No. 10 Oklahoma at 12:30 PM PT on Sunday, June 4th, in Oklahoma City.

Survive and Advance: No. 3 Oregon defeats No. 15 Baylor 7-4, moves onto LSU

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Survive and Advance: No. 3 Oregon defeats No. 15 Baylor 7-4, moves onto LSU

How Oregon won: An all-inclusive softball package that included an hour and thirteen minute rain delay was very much present in today's win or go home elimination game between the No. 3 Oregon Ducks and the No. 15 Baylor Bears. What started as an Oregon "scrappy" offense finally seeing the light of day quickly swung the other direction and in favor of the Bears. A roller coaster of events from inning-to-inning ended in Oregon prevailing 7-4 and advancing to the next round.

What it means: Oregon will now look on to the No. 13 LSU Tigers who escaped No. 5 UCLA in the first round 2-1 and was dismantled by the No. 1 Florida Gators 7-0 in round two. Oregon cannot lose again. Its record is 1-1 so far in this WCWS double elimination bracket. From this point on, it's win or go home.

Oregon pitching: Mike White went with freshman right-handed pitcher Miranda Elish in today's elimination game. Elish was off to a slow start throwing eight balls in a row causing a visit to the mound from White early. Elish seemed to get more settled from then on locating her pitches and relying on her steady defense behind her. After giving up a 4-run, fifth inning, White pulled Elish and relieved her with freshman Maggie Balint. But we wouldn't just see two-thirds of this three-headed monster pitching staff under Mike White. All three pitchers of Elish, Balint, and Megan Kleist made an appearance today, with Kleist relieving Balint in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and zero outs. 

What was about to be a cinderella story for the ages, as told by the Baylor Bears, all signs were pointing to this outcome. Down by three, zero outs, bases loaded, bottom of the seventh, Baylor was ready to tell this story.

That is until Kleist took the mound.

Kleist struck out the next two Baylor batters and then caused a groundout to end the game and send Baylor back home.

Oregon defense: Momentum drastically changed in favor of the Bears in the fifth inning. The Bears clawed back with four runs, three hits, two RBI's, and capitalizing on one Oregon error. The strange element of this run from Baylor is that no ball ever left the infield. A throwing error advanced the runners into scoring positions and no outs yet on the board. Baylor was pressing and Oregon was sweating.

Again in the bottom of the seventh, as the Bears had their backs up against the walls with three final outs to try to get at least three runs, Oregon once again put the brakes on thanks to the dominant closing pitching performance of sophomore Megan Kleist closing the game with two strikeouts and one groundout. The Ducks would finish with two error.

Oregon offense: Junior third baseman Jenna Lilley got things started for the Ducks in the top of the second inning, which sparked what looked like typical Oregon "scrappy" offense: get on base, steal, advance, bunt, rinse and repeat. One Duck scored on a wild pitch, and then with a runner on second, Lilley stepped up to the plate a drilled a double off the wall in right field for Oregon's first RBI of the game and a 2-0 early lead. 

Freshman Mia Camuso kept the spark flowing with a 2-run RBI double in the third inning extending Oregon's lead to 4-0 and causing Baylor sophomore pitcher Gia Rodoni's afternoon to end early.

This is the offense that was ever present throughout the season until last Thursday night vs. Washington that couldn't get the ball rolling. But this is a dangerous offense once it gets started as seen by the Ducks heart tugging comebacks in both regionals and super regionals in the previous weekend's to get to this point.

In the top of the seventh, the last chance for Oregon to put up any more runs and give its one-run lead a little cusion, was all Camuso needed to hear. The freshman drove in another 2-run RBI double to left field scoring both Nikki Udria and Alexa Mack to extend the Ducks lead 7-4. Camuso finished the game with two hits, four RBI's, and two doubles. Not bad for the freshman in her first WCWS appearance.

Up next: No. 3 Oregon faces No. 13 LSU at 7:15 PM PT tonight in Oklahoma City. 

This time around No. 3 Oregon comeback falls short, Ducks lose 3-1 to Huskies in WCWS game 1

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This time around No. 3 Oregon comeback falls short, Ducks lose 3-1 to Huskies in WCWS game 1

How Oregon lost: The last meeting back in April was in favor of the visiting, then No. 12, Washington Huskies who stole two out of the three games in the series from the hosting Oregon Ducks. Six weeks later, the two would meet again but this time on a much bigger stage: game one of the Women's College World Series. A mutual site in Oklahoma City averaging 1,950 miles away from both Eugene and Seattle would not limit the rivalry these two schools bring whenever they meet. A chippy game comprised of sliding late, hit by pitches is just what this rivalry presents. This time around, the No. 6 Washington Huskies got the better of the No. 3 Oregon Ducks with a 2-run home run daggar in the top of the seventh inning from Huskies junior Kirstyn Thomas proved to be the deciding factor in this one as Oregon's presumed 7th inning comeback was stopped short. Washington moves on with a 3-1 WCWS game one victory as Oregon slides into the elimiation bracket.  

What it means: Oregon's road just got a bit bumpier. In order for the Ducks to continue their path to the championship series, they cannot lose again in this double-elimination style bracket play. Oregon will now face the loser of No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 15 Baylor, and keep winning from there on out. But if there is anything this Ducks team has learned just from the past two weekends alone (regionals and super regionals), it's that pressure is a motivator, not a burden. Proof of which is found in the pudding: regionals vs. Wisconsin with a 2-run, 2 out 7th inning to tie the game 5-5 and a super regionals 4-run 7th inning comeback to win 6-5 over Kentucky. 

In a post game press conference following the Ducks regionals comeback win, senior infielder Danica Mercado said, "I think that in post season games get tough and I think in order to win you have a sense of belief. And I think that yesterday's game is a root for our sense of belief from here on out. Like, we proved to ourselves that we can come back, anybody can get the hit at any time."

The Ducks will have to lean on that sense of belief already down 0-1 in this WCWS.

Oregon pitching: Oregon head coach Mike White started with experience as sophomore Megan Kleist got the starting nod tonight for the Ducks. Hoping to continue her momentum from last weekend'd super regionals performace, Kleist did not quite look like her usual, aggressive self. Kleist pitched a solid game but let a few balls get away from her giving up three runs, one off a triple to right field and one 2-run home run. She finished allowing three earned runs, four hits, four walks, and just two strikeouts. 

Oregon defense: The Ducks played solid behind Kleist. Capitalizing on groundouts, reading popflys, zero errors, and an overall championship performace. But the Washington hitters exploited two of Kleist's pitches and capitalized in scoring opportunities.

Oregon offense: Just wasn't there tonight for Oregon. The Ducks faced off against Huskies sophomore pitcher Taran Alvelo, who had a similar game to Kleist in terms of statistics (one earned run, five hits, three walks, and three strikeouts), who served up one heck of a rise ball to the Oregon batters who couldn't make contact. But the major difference was the eight Oregon runners that were left on base. Finding a way to get runners on base and in scoring opportunities wasn't the problem as much as bringing them in the last 60 feet home. The Huskies defense, lead by senior shortstop Ali Agular, also made it difficult for the "Oregon scrappy offsense" to come alive limiting the bunt-steal-score Ducks' game plan to next to nothing. 

Eight Oregon runners left on base is eight too many in search of a national championship. 

Up next: No. 3 Oregon will face the loser of No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 15 Baylor in an elimaination bracket at 2:30 PM ET on Saturday, June 3rd.

Wipe the sweat off your brow, No. 3 Oregon pulls off ridiculous 6-5 comeback vs. Kentucky, advances to WCWS

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Wipe the sweat off your brow, No. 3 Oregon pulls off ridiculous 6-5 comeback vs. Kentucky, advances to WCWS

How Oregon won: "It is about fighting... You got to fight." - Oregon head coach Mike White.

Wait, did that really just happen? How on earth did Oregon pull that off? It was Kentucky's game all game... Kentucky made adjustments and executed after yesterday's loss, whereas Oregon looked stagnant. That is until Oregon was on its last leg, backed up against the wall. One more inning to try and pull off a comeback that would send the No. 3 overall nationally ranked Ducks to the Women's College World Series. One more inning to not force a win-or-go-home game three. We saw it last week against Wisconsin, and Oregon brought it out again. The Ducks put on the rally caps on and drove in four runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 6-5 lead. Three outs later, and Oregon is headed to the WCWS for the first time since 2015. WOW. 

"They [Kentucky] fought tremendously hard today, really gave us a run for our money," said coach White following the game. "I got to say that our team just fought and fought and fought and it shows the character of this team to comeback from three runs down against a very good pitching staff and good team and good defense. I mean look at some of those plays that were made today. Their shortstop, [Katie] Reed, was just incredible... that kind of game is just a showcase for the sport and I think even though it's obviously easier to be on the winning side, I think both teams have to be proud of the display they put on out there. It was first class all the way."

The reason Oregon had to claw its way back once again was due to the number of runners left on base. The Ducks finished the game stranding eight total runners. Not good. 

What it means: The Ducks are off to the WCWS for the first time since 2015 and for the fourth time in the last six years. Oregon has proven once again that it can score in any inning, on any out. Last week vs. Wisconsin the same thing: two outs in the last inning, Oregon scores three runs to tie the game with two outs already on the board. It happened again today, except this time with a little more wiggle room: zero outs. 

Oregon pitching: Maggie Balint got the start today, but didn't look her normal self. She finished the day allowing three runs, five hits, zero base on balls, and just two strikeouts. Not a bad day at all, but just not the strikezone dominant Maggie Balint we saw last week during regionals. Her first strikeout came in the bottom of the third inning. Freshman Miranda Elish came into relieve her in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kentucky kept both Balint and Elish on their toes the entire game. Elish finished allowing two runs, three hits, zero base on balls, and five strikeouts, including two huge ones in the bottom of the seventh to close out the game.

"If they do what they need to do on the mound... I do believe this team has a chance to go all the way," said Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson following the game.

Oregon defense: A few errors from the Oregon defense allowed Kentucky's batters the advantage early on. A couple poor reads from sophomore left-fielder Alexis Mack allowed runners to advance and take a 2-0 lead after the first inning. Again in the fifth, an error coming off a bad throw to first from cool-handed junior third baseman Jenna Lilley. There was no run-consequence on this error, but Oregon still trailed by one run, 2-3. 

Oregon offense: The first at-bat series for Oregon looked like the Ducks were going to grab all the momentum early on and get the jump on the Wildcats. In typical, scrappy Oregon fashion, the Ducks got an infield base hit, a bunt to advance the runner, a stolen base to third, but Oregon couldn't get that last 60 feet. And that was the trend in this one. Oregon was unable to bring runners home and finished with left eight stranded.

Give props to Kentucky though, Wildcats junior pitcher Erin Rethlake, who got the start today as opposed to senior Meagan Prince, didn't have an impressive game box-score wise, however, she threw hard and relied on her solid defensive front behind her. The Kentucky infield was just stellar, rarely allowing any balls to get through.

In the seventh inning, trying to avoid a game three, senior infielder Nikki Udria and freshman infielder Mia Camuso found their groove. Zero outs, two runners on, Udria stepped up to the plate with confidence and drove in a 2-run RBI to get Oregon that much closer. A sacrifice groundout from Shannon Rhodes to advance the Oregon runners and bring the tying run just 60 feet away, and Camuso stepped up to the plate and drove one down the infield line for another 2-run RBI single which gave Oregon their first lead of the game, 6-5.

"Yeah, it's definitely a surreal feeling right now, I'm kind of still just in awe, but I remeber my freshman year Courtney Ceo told me 'Don't worry, you'll get back here' and here I am a senior and going back there so it's a really good feeling," said Udria. "I'm really happy".

"It was pretty special to get that hit because I'd be struggling a little bit and you just got to keep swinging and pull through," said Camuso. "I'm glad I got to do that for my team."

"I wished we had played like that earlier in the game," said White. "We talk about it all year, about you can't try and hit that 3-run homer if nobody is on base. That was the message in the last inning: 'you have to get on base'. We got to find a way to put some pressure on their defense and their pitcher, you know. The inning before we had three weak groundouts... It is about fighting. You got to fight."

Up next: Oregon heads to the Women's College World Series June 1-7 in Oklahoma and will play the winner of the Washington-Utah Super Regionals.

Scrappy > Power. No. 3 Oregon defeats No. 14 Kentucky 4-0 in Rd. 1 Super Regional

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Scrappy > Power. No. 3 Oregon defeats No. 14 Kentucky 4-0 in Rd. 1 Super Regional

How Oregon won: On this Memorial Day weekened, the No. 3 Oregon Ducks softball team proved once again why they are one of the best in the nation and one of the toughest at home. Oregon got off to a slow start, just trying to put the pieces of this No. 14 Kentucky team together and getting settled into this Super Regionals atmosphere. But the juice finally came in the sixth inning where the Ducks scored three runs on zero hits. Wait, what? Regardless, the Ducks hot hitting in the sixth inning and solid defense propelled Oregon to a 4-0 shutout and more importantly a 1-0 series lead over Kentucky in the NCAA Eugene Super Regional.

"A good ball game, a pitchers duel," said Oregon head coach Mike White following the game. "I thought it was going to end up a 1-0, 2-0 game, you know you don't see that very much anymore but I thought [Kentucky pitcher Meagan] Prince pitched a very good game, kept us off balance. But we came through with some big hits and of course that last inning we scored three runs without a hit. So that's the definition of scrappy for us." 

What it means: Advantage Oregon. This is a best two-out-of-three series against the Kentucky Wildcats. Winning this first game is crucial, but also no excuse to let your foot off the gas. If Oregon can pull out another win tomorrow, the Ducks will be booking their flights to the WCWS. 

Oregon pitching: Sophomore Megan Kleist started this series off today at 4:05 PM with a strike. The Kentucky batters would have to get use to that all game. It seemed as those Kliest found her groove and her comfortability early and often in this game, a completely different demeanor from last week's regionals games vs. Wisconsin. What a difference a week of practice can make. Kleist would finish the game allowing 0 runs, 3 hits, 0 base on balls, and 8 strikeouts. 

"I thought Megan Kleist pitched the best game I've seen of her career," said White. "So she really picked it up and lead this team out there on the mound."

"We've really been focusing all year on throwing quality pitches and I think that today what definitely my best day," said Kleist. "I mean they didn't have to be strikes but made the batter swing and kind of fooled them a little bit and I think that it showed. It was nice."

Nice indeed.

Oregon defense: The Ducks backed up Kleist to near perfection. The Ducks finished the game with 0 errors. After the game, White explained that Kentucky's hitters don't stay quite for long. The Oregon defense will have to see this consistency through the whole weekend. 

Oregon offense: Definitely off to a slow start, just trying to figure out Kentucky left-handed senior pitcher Meagan Prince. Then finally, the hits started to pour in. Oregon scored in the bottom of the third inning getting back to the Oregon-way: a beautifully placed bunt from infielder Alexis mack, a steal into second, and a RBI single to the outfield from catcher Gwen Svekis. 

"I think we're the best team with two outs right now," said Svekis. "Two outs, I have full confidence that we can still score as many runs as we need to to put the nail in the coffin or to get back into the game. So I think that's our big thing this year is we scratch and we claw and we find a way to get on and we find a way to get them in."

The sixth inning is where Oregon began to "put the nail in the coffin". Oregon found momentum and success in that scrappy offense and finished the inning with three runs, zero hits, and capitalized on one Kentucky error. An important stat to recognize is the fact that all those runs came with no hits. The Ducks got on base by a walk, hit by pitch, and then groundouts and one error from there brought in three runs. 

Up next: Oregon will host Kentucky at 4 PM tomorrow in round two of the Eugene Super Regional at Jane Sanders stadium. 

No. 3 Oregon makes statement in run-rule 9-0 regional win over Wisconsin

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No. 3 Oregon makes statement in run-rule 9-0 regional win over Wisconsin

How Oregon won: What a difference playing a team twice means. It was a different story today for the No. 3 overall seed, who played Wisconsin yesterday in a valiant, 6-5 comeback win. Today, Oregon seemed more confortable, had a better read on Wisconsin pitcher Kaitlyn Menz, defensively stood its ground, which resulted in an overall rout of Wisconsin forcing the run-rule to win the Eugene Regionals final 9-0. Wow. 

"A lot less suspenseful," said Oregon head coach Mike White following the game. "Much easier on me... It really puts you in the drivers seat when you have that two-win cushion. You know that got to beat you twice. I don't know if we learned from last year against UCLA but we took the fun out of it early and that was pretty good. Congrats to Miranda [Elish] pitched very well and also had a couple of good hits there... overall a good performance."

What it means: The Ducks now advance to Super Regionals to be played in Eugene. Oregon will face Kentucky next weekend at Jane Sanders stadium. This is huge because the Ducks will get to play another series at home in front of their home crowd and hold a 24-2 home record. 

One Duck who was an offensive threat all weekend long was freshman center fielder Shannon Rhodes who continued to hit well and produce RBI's.

"Pretty much what they've been doing all year for us," said White. "Especially Shannon Rhodes, I give her the MVP ball for our team. I thought she produced all weekend. The first half of the season she struggled a little bit, you know, she I think she was pressing to hard... since that time she has just been making adjustments and really stepping up for us big in that position.

Oregon pitching: Freshman Miranda Elish got the nod today. Elish finished allowing 0 runs, 1 hit, 3 base on balls, and 2 strikeouts. The Badgers had only seen the other Oregon pitchers in the previous game (freshman Maggie Balit and sophomore Megan Kleist), so Elish had that advantage coming into the game. And she capitalized. She got ahead in the pitch count and relied on her defense to back her up. The one hit came from a base-hit up the middle. Elish also contributed on the offensive side as well going 2-for-3 and 2 RBI's. 

Oregon defense: What started up front for the Ducks from Elish, finished with a solid defensive effort from the Oregon infield and outfield. It seemed like every Ducks infielder made several plays at some point during this game. Elish forced the Badgers hitters into groundouts and popflys, and it was an all-out defensive effort from every one. The team only had one error on the day. 

Oregon offense: After seeing Menz pitch the day before, Oregon batters recognized her style early and often. The Ducks poured in four runs in the first inning and five more in the fifth enforcing the run-rule and finishing the game with nine runs, nine hits, and nine RBI's. 

"Me personally, she just didn't throw it for strikes as well as she did yesterday," said Oregon senior infielder Danica Mercado (who went  on Wisconsin pitcher Menz. "Yesterday I felt like she was really commanding it in any count and today she was kind of throwing it a little high, a little low, so it made me able to not worry about it less and just focus on the hard."

Up next: No. 3 Oregon hosts Kentucky in the Eugene Super Regionals Memorial Day weekend at Jane Sanders Stadium. 

No. 3 Oregon puts the rally caps on with 6-5 win over Wisconsin

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No. 3 Oregon puts the rally caps on with 6-5 win over Wisconsin

How Oregon won: A roller coaster of events in this round two NCAA Eugene Regional game between the No. 3 overall seeded Oregon Ducks and the Wisconsin Badgers. What started as a huge momentum swing for the Ducks stemming from two quick Badgers infield errors and two Ducks runs, quickly swung in the other direction. A two-run home run in the second from Badgers' senior Chloe Miller and another two-run home run from Badgers' senior Sara Novak completely silenced Oregon and extended Wisconsin's lead to 5-2 heading into the sixth.

But this Oregon team is scrappy. This comeback started with freshman Shannon Rhodes doing Shannon Rhodes things. The freshman, known for her number of RBI's, placed her bunts so accurately and her speed allowed her to safely get to first. A quick steal to second, advance to third on a wild pitch, and a Miranda Elish sacrifice fly lead to Rhodes scoring to close the gap to 5-3 Wisconsin lead. This sparked another momentum swing, this time in Oregon's favor. 

One inning left to go. Two outs already on the board. Ducks' fans biting their nails. But Oregon found a way when hope was dwindling. With runners on second and third, Rhodes came up big. The freshman delivered once again, but this time on a double that lead to two Oregon scores and tying the game 5-5. A solid defensive stance from Oregon forced this game into extra innings. 

"It's like coach Kolaitis said 'probably the most important run was the run in the sixth inning, getting that one run back'," said Oregon head coach Mike White. "It kind of gave us momentum going into the seventh. We were lucky Miranda [Elish] hit a shot to the right fielder and gosh just the way the game works in the last inning she hit a little squibbler and it's a base hit, go figure. But we could feel we were starting to get onto her [Wisconsin pitcher Kaitlyn Menz] at the end there."

A controversial call at the plate is what gave Oregon the 6-5 edge in the eighth inning. Elish was waved into home from head coach Mike White after a base hit into center field. It was a bang-bang play at the plate that was ultimately called obstruction from the Badgers' catcher giving Oregon their first lead since the first inning. 

Oregon pitching: Sophomore Megan Kleist got the start today, but her day ended in the bottom of the fourth inning after finishing on 85 pitches, three runs, two walks, seven strikeouts and one home run. Freshman Maggie Balit, who got the start last night in game one, came in to relieve her. Balit finished aloowing four hits, two runs scored, six strikeouts and one base on balls. 

Oregon offense: Capitalizing on errors, advancing runners, bunt placement, the list goes on for Oregon. At least in the first inning. As Wisconsin freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Menz got settled in, the Oregon bats got quiet and couldn't get the ball past the Badgers infield. 

Oregon defense: The Ducks got off to a slow start defensively with two errors from the infield in the first inning. With the bases loaded of Badgers, Kleist came through with a huge strikeout to end the inning and get Oregon out of potential disaster. Kleist seemed to get more and more comfortable as the game went on. 

"I think in the first couple innings, she didn't have her changeup going," said White on Kleist's pitching performance. "She's effective when she's throwing that changeup for a strike. I thought her pitches were moving pretty well, she just got pitches up in the zone. That's always been her problem and always will be her problem." 

Oregon finished the game with three total errors. Not good.

Up next: The Ducks will face the winner of Wisconsin vs. winner of regionals game 4 (University of Illinois-Chicago vs. Missouri) at 4 PM tomorrow at Jane Sanders Stadium.  

No. 3 Oregon steals the flame from the Illinois-Chicago Flames in 13-0 regionals round 1

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No. 3 Oregon steals the flame from the Illinois-Chicago Flames in 13-0 regionals round 1

How Oregon won: In the opening round of the NCAA softball Eugene regional, the Oregon Ducks (48-6) proved once again why they are one of the top ranked teams in the country. The Ducks stole all the fire from the visiting University of Illinois-Chicago Flames (38-21) advancing them into the second round with a 13-0 over UIC in just five innings. Oregon's own freshman pitcher Maggie Balit did not look like a freshman in the slightest under the Jane Sanders stadium lights of her first college regionals. Balit finished the game with a shutout zero runs, two hits, and nine UIC strikeouts. Backing her up was a consistent, defensive force from both her infield and outfield finishing the game with no errors paired with the power from Oregon batters.

"I thought we did a great job out there tonight getting a lot of pressure on their [UIC] defense," said Oregon head coach Mike White following the game. "Maggie [Balit] pitched well, was in control most of the game, just had to make me come out of the dugout just once which is pretty good." 

What it means: What a first game for the Oregon Ducks in their home town. The Ducks defended the jane just as they have done all season long (22-2 home record). Oregon faces a defensively solid Wisconsin Badgers team tomorrow and will need to bring the accuracy and bats once again.

Ducks offense: The bats were red-hot once again for the Ducks. It all started in the first inning when UIC senior starting pitcher Elaine Heflin left the game with an apparent ankle injury. She was replaced with freshman pitcher Allie Trudeau. Oregon scored in every inning and finished with 12 total team hits. Lead off hitter Danica Mercado went two-for-three to lead the Ducks. The fourth inning is where the Ducks sealed the deal with nine runs, five hits, two UIC errors, advancing runners into scoring positions, a UIC pitching change, and a commanding 13-0 lead heading into the fifth. 

"Yeah I think so, it was like watching a new team out there. There was a lot of energy and I thought they were pretty pumped up. I hope it conitues," said White. "It was great to see and it's a lot of fun coaching the team when they're like that. I thought their [UIC] pitching staff wasn't that bad, I thought they threw the ball pretty hard, and we did a great job of hitting the ball."

Something to note, however, is the fact that UIC had four total errors coming off bad throws to both home and first base allowing Oregon to advance and score on several occasions. The Wisconsin Badgers, who Oregon will face tomorrow, did not make those same errors. In fact, none at all. 

Ducks defense: Backing up the Oregon bats, the Ducks defense, lead by Balit at the mound, was consistent in their throws and outfield making goof reads on pop-flys. The Ducks defense finished the game with zero errors, a critical statistic especially this deep into the season. 

Up next: No. 3 Oregon (48-6) faces the Wisconsin Badgers (34-15) in round 2 of the Eugene NCAA softball regionals at Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene, OR at 2 PM tomorrow afternoon.

Washington Huskies softball team closes home stand with win

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Washington Huskies

Washington Huskies softball team closes home stand with win

BY 

The sun was out and so were the fans as the University of Washington Huskies softball team defeated the Stanford Cardinals 10-2 in their final Pac-12 regular season home game last Sunday at Husky Stadium in Seattle.

The atmosphere was full of excitement as everyone seemed to enjoy the annual Fan Fest and emotion as they prepared to say good-bye to seniors Ali Aguilar and Casey Stangel on Senior Day.

Trying to keep emotions in check during Senior Day is always tough but Huskies head coach Heather Tarr kept the focus on what it’s all about.

“I think that it’s a challenge but I think it being Senior Day before our seniors are truly done…makes it a little bit easier,” said Tarr. “But it’s just more of trying to think of it as a celebration and you’re celebrating them before their gone…We never want them to leave but that’s the whole of college athletics is that you graduate.”

It was a rocky start for Washington pitcher sophomore Taran Alvelo (25-6) who gave up a home run to the Cardinal’s lead-off hitter senior Kylie Sorenson.

Alvelo got out of the inning and her teammates quickly brought the game back to their side.

After senior Ali Aguilar and freshman Sis Bates hit back-to-back singles senior Casey Stangel worked out a walk to load the bases. Sophomore Morganne Flores doubled to left field scoring Aguilar and Bates.

This brought up junior Taylor Van Zee who deposited the ball over the left field fence to bring the remaining Huskies home and extend to a 5-1 lead.

Seventh ranked Washington (40-11) never looked back as they continued to pound Stanford pitchers. The second inning saw Bates triple and come in on a sacrifice fly by Flores.-

The third saw junior Kirstyn Thomas lead-off with a double then stole third. She come in on a single by Bates and the Huskies had pushed their lead to 7-1.

The Cardinals (19-29) produced another lead-off home run in the top of the fourth by senior Lauren Bertoy but Alvelo once again stayed steady and kept Stanford hitless the rest of the inning.

Washington head coach Heather Tarr liked what she saw in Alvelo’s ability to keep the home runs from rocking her game.

“I thought she did a good job. She could have easily given herself a hard time after that leadoff home run (in the first),” said Tarr. But I think she knew that she made a mistake and it was a good hitter and she got through the next pitch and she worked it and found a way to win the game for us.”

The Huskies closed out the weekend series when junior Kelly Burdick took first base by a Stanford error, stole second and watched as both Aguilar and Stangel walked to load the bases.

This brought up Flores who collected her third hit of the game with a single that brought in two runs and gave Washington a 10-2 walk-off win.

The runs gave Flores five RBIs as she joined junior Julia Deponte and Bates with three hits apiece of the team’s 13 total hits. Alvelo pitched a complete game with three strikeouts and four hits allowed.

Washington completes the Pac-12 regular season this weekend with a three-game series against the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City, Utah.