Ducks win WCWS softball opener
The speed atop the batting order helped the Oregon Ducks softball team get a fast start to the Women's College World Series.
Scoring the most runs by an Oregon team at the WCWS, the top-seeded Ducks beat No. 8-seeded Arizona State, 11-6, Thursday morning in the first game of the national championship tournament at Oklahoma City.
Oregon (53-8) will play at 4 p.m. PT Friday (ESPN) against No. 5 seeded-Washington (50-8). The Huskies beat two-time defending champion Oklahoma, 2-0, in Thursday's second game.
The Ducks swept three games from the Huskies in late April at Seattle during Pac-12 Conference play.
ASU (48-12) will face Oklahoma in an elimination game at 9 a.m. PT Saturday.
Facing one of the top pitchers in the nation in ASU sophomore Giselle Juarez, Oregon had 14 hits, five for extra bases, including two home runs.
They needed that offense on a day in which the Sun Devils had eight hits, including two home runs.
Every time Arizona State scored, Oregon came right back with its offense.
The top two hitters in the Ducks' batting order sparked the momentum. Leadoff hitter Jenna Lilley and No. 2 Alexis Mack were a combined 5 for 8 and scored four runs.
Miranda Elish (25-1) started in the pitching circle and got the win. The sophomore gave up five earned runs on a pair of home runs. In her five innings, she allowed six hits, struck out six and walked one.
Junior Megan Kleist came on in relief for the first time this season and pitched the sixth and seventh innings for the save. She gave up two hits and a walk while striking out two in her two innings.
Shannon Rhodes, batting sixth in the Oregon order, was 3 for 4 with a home run and a double. She scored three runs and knocked in four. Senior Gwen Svekis and freshman Lauren Burke each had two hits and two RBIs.
Oregon fell behind in the top of the first when freshman DeNae Chatman launched a two-strike rise ball from Elish over the center-field fence for a two-out, two-run home run. Leadoff hitter Kindra Hackbarth had started the game with a two-strike base hit.
The Ducks used small ball to answer with two runs in the bottom of the first.
Lilley and Mack opened with bunt singles. DJ Sanders bunted them to second and third. Svekis followed with a soft liner just over the reach of shortstop Gortarez that scored both runners, tying the score 2-2.
In the ASU second, Jade Gorterez worked a one-out walk, but Elish snagged line drive off the bat of Maddi Hackbarth and threw to first for an inning-ending double play.
The Ducks took the lead in the third. Mack reached on a slap single that was bobbled. Svekis was hit by a pitch then Rhodes singled off the glove of shortstop Jade Gortarez to score Mack. Burke hit the next pitch deep down the right-field line for a two-run triple.
ASU got two on with one out in the fourth but didn't score as Elish got a pop-up from Danielle Gibson and a grounder back to the circle from Gortarez.
Lilley and Mack did it again in the fourth. Lilley hit a one-out single to right and took second on an outfield bobble. Mack followed with a bunt single, and a throwing error by Arizona State third baseman Taylor Becerra allowed Lilley to score.
The four-run lead was trimmed to one when Morgan Howe launched a three-run home run to right-center with two out in the fifth, capping a three-hit inning.
Again, Oregon answered right back. Rhodes hit a leadoff double and Haley Cruse drove a one-out line drive over the left-field wall for her second home run of the season to make the score 8-5.
In the sixth inning, a no-doubter home run to dead center by Rhodes added three runs and took away any lingering hopes for a Sun Devils' comeback. That rally started with a two-out walk to Sanders followed by an infield single by Svekis.
This is only the second time Oregon has won its opener at the NCAA Women's College World Series. A win on Friday would move the top-ranked Ducks to the semifinals and within one win of a spot in the best-of-three championship series.
WOMEN'S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
1. (1) Oregon 11, (8) Arizona State 6
2. (5) Washington 2, (4) Oklahoma 0
3. (2) Florida 11, (7) Georgia 3 (5 innings)
4. (3) UCLA 7, (6) Florida State 4
5. Oregon vs. Washington — 4 p.m. PT, ESPN
6. Florida vs. UCLA — 6:30 p.m. PT, ESPN
7. Arizona State vs. Oklahoma — 9 a.m. PT, ESPN
8. Oklahoma vs. Florida State — 11:30 a.m. PT, ESPN
9. Game 7 Winner vs. Game 6 Loser — 4 p.m. PT, ESPN
10. Game 8 Winner vs. Game 5 Loser — 6:30 p.m. PT, ESPN
11. Game 5 Winner vs. Game 9 Winner — 10 a.m. PT, ESPN
12. Game 6 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner — 12:30 p.m. PT, ESPN
13. Game 11 Repeat (if neccesssary) — 4 p.m. PT, ESPN
14. Game 12 Repeat (if necessary) — 6:30 p.m. PT, ESPN
WCWS Championship, Game 1 — 4 p.m. PT, ESPN
WCWS Championship, Game 2— 5 p.m. PT, ESPN
WCWS Championship, Game 3 — 5 p.m. PT, ESPN (if necessary)