Ducks advance to College World Series after comeback win
Oregon entered the seventh inning against Kentucky looking like they’d be heading to an all-decisive Game 3 on Sunday. Instead, the Ducks scrapped together their largest comeback of the season to win 6-5 and advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City for the fourth time in six seasons.
“Our team just fought, and fought, and fought,” said head coach Mike White. “It just shows the character to come back from three runs down against a very good pitching staff.”
After winning game one 4-0 on Friday in Eugene, the Ducks could not break through during game two’s first six innings. Playing as the road team on Saturday, the Ducks went into the top of the seventh inning down 5-2. A pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases for Nikki Udria. The Ducks’ cleanup hitter delivered, driving in Danica Mercado and Alexis Mack with a 2-RBI single to cut the deficit to 5-4.
Mia Camuso delivered the go-ahead knock the Ducks were looking for all afternoon. A 2-RBI double brought home Gwen Svekis and Udria, giving the Ducks their first lead of the game, and bringing a sold-out Jane Sanders Stadium into a frenzy.
“It was pretty special to get that hit because I had been struggling for a bit,” said Camuso, Oregon’s freshman first baseman. “You just got to keep swinging and pull through. I was glad to be able to do that for my team.”
A ground out to third baseman Jenna Lilley ended the game and started an on field celebration, including hats that read “OKC bound.”
Kentucky’s lead started early when the Wildcats got on the board first with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning. With one out and a runner on first, Brooklin Hinz singled down the left field line. Ducks left-fielder Alexis Mack misplayed the ball, allowing Hinz to advance to third, and the Wildcats Katie Reed to score all the way from first. Alex Martens then doubled to left-center to bring home Hinz from third.
Abbey Cheek gave Kentucky a 3-0 lead with a solo blast to lead off the bottom half of the fourth, her 13th home run of the season.
The Ducks began their scoring in the fifth, starting with a single from Alexis Mack, followed by a pair of walks to Svekis and Udria which loaded the bases with one out. An illegal pitch from Meagan Prince – who had just entered the game – advanced all three base-runners, allowing Mack to score from third. The Ducks added one more in the inning off an RBI ground-out from Shannon Rhodes to cut the deficit to 3-2.
The Wildcats responded though, taking a 5-2 lead into the seventh thanks to a two-RBI single off the bat of Erin Rethlake.
That lead disappeared for Kentucky in the top of the seventh, where the Ducks strung together five straight base runners, allowing them to break through.
“You can’t hit the three run homerun with nobody on base,” said White. “That was the message in the last inning – we have to get on base and find a way to put pressure on the defense.”
Miranda Elish — who entered in the fifth inning for fellow freshman Maggie Balint — closed the game for the Ducks with a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh.
It’s a drastic reversal from just last season, in which the Ducks were stunned in the NCAA Super Regional by UCLA, losing in three games to the Bruins.
Instead, the Ducks will look to bring home the first national championship in program history.
“The hardest part is getting there,” said Udria. “We have to be in the moment and never take one pitch off because it could be our last.”
Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @CKundich
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