Ducks struggle to capitalize on opportunities, fall to UCLA in Pac-12 opener

The Ducks had the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the first inning. UCLA pitcher Rachel Garcia allowed them to reach base without hits, and it looked like the Ducks would jump on No. 3 UCLA early.

Gwen Svekis, Oregon’s home run leader, stepped to the plate. Garcia and Svekis battled to a 3-2 count. Then, Svekis swung and missed for out number one.

Mia Camuso suffered the same fate as Svekis, and Mary Iakopo worked to a 3-1 count, had pitches to work with, but she swung and missed.

The Ducks had an opportunity to jump to a lead on one of the best pitchers and teams in the country, but that was gone, and the Ducks left crucial runs on base.

“You can’t get a good pitcher off the hook like that,” Oregon head coach Mike White said.

The No. 3 UCLA Bruins defeated the No. 6 Oregon Ducks (23-5) 6-2 in the Pac-12 opener. UCLA (24-0) remained undefeated because they capitalized on Oregon’s mistakes, while the Ducks failed to take advantage of opportunities until it was too little, too late.

Oregon struggled to create offense for most of the game. After the first three Oregon batters got on base, Garcia struck out seven in a row, all on her way to a dominant 16-strikeout game.

“I think we made her more difficult than she really is,” senior Lauren Lindvall said. “We had some pitches to hit and we need to put the ball on the ground and we didn’t.”

Meanwhile, UCLA pulled away with one swing of the bat. Third baseman Brianna Tautalafua drove the ball deep over the left field wall to give UCLA the 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth. It was Kleist’s third home run allowed this season, and that wasn’t the last one she allowed in the game.

Garcia wasn’t just dominant in the circle. She hit a solo home run to center field in the sixth inning, extending UCLA’s lead to 3-0. It’s her third of the year, and after the bomb, White pulled Kleist and replaced her with Maggie Balint.

UCLA added more runs in the seventh inning. Balint hit Briana Perez with a pitch — right in the chin-guard — so Kylee Perez drove her in with an RBI double. UCLA added two more runs with one swing of the bat again when Aaliyah Jordan hit one over the left-field wall, extending UCLA’s lead to 6-0 in the seventh.

Oregon showed life in the bottom of the seventh inning. It started with a Lindvall home run to left field. Haley Cruse’s double to left field, followed by a Jenna Lilley single, put runners on the corners. Then, Alexis Mack got one of her two hits on an infield single that drove in Cruse from third. The Ducks had life and were down 6-2.

“Well, it shows us we’re capable,” White said. “Early on we were trying to hit that home run, but, you know, lets hit that ball hard somewhere.”

Oregon couldn’t continue the rally, and UCLA got the win.

“We’ve got to compete out there,” White said. “Sixteen strikeouts is not competing, not at this level. As good as [Garcia] is she shouldn’t be striking out 16 of us.”

Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917

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Jack Butler

Jack Butler

I am the sports editor for the Daily Emerald. I cover football and basketball. Email me at [email protected]