Walk-off home run gives Oregon first series win over UCLA since 2015
Two on, two out, and two strikes. That was the situation for Oregon center fielder Shannon Rhodes with the score tied at zero in the bottom of the seventh.
“There comes a time where you just have to dig deep and not be afraid,” Rhodes said. “I think that’s what I did there. I believed in myself a little more than I was afraid of [Rachel Garcia].”
Rhodes hit the next pitch for a walk-off home run to center field off Garcia, giving the Ducks their first series win since April 2015. No. 6 Oregon’s 3-0 win over No. 3 UCLA came on the back of Megan Kleist, who pitched a complete game, six-hit shutout that featured six strikeouts and a walk. Those scoreless innings perfectly set up Rhodes for the big moment.
“My plan was to hit a ball hard on the ground,” Rhodes said. “With my swing plan being hitting a ball on the ground and a rise ball going up, something’s bound to happen.”
Garcia was dominant for the first six innings of the ballgame, matching her 16-strikeout performance from Friday.
In that Friday 6-2 win for the Bruins, Rhodes struck out three times, leading White to drop her in the order.
“I did some things to try and motivate her maybe,” head coach Mike White said. “She made some great adjustments today at-bat. That’s what you have to do. You have to compete. She made the adjustments and finally got a great pitch to hit.”
Rhodes was ecstatic after the game, getting an ice-bath from her teammates while being interviewed on television.
“You know those times where you just black-out and don’t know what’s going on?” Rhodes said with a smile recollecting her at-bat.
Kleist also bounced back after a poor performance last Friday, where she gave up two home runs in the loss.
“Our execution wasn’t very good [on Friday],” White said. “Today it was awesome. We never really gave them a chance to come up with that big hit in a big situation.”
Kleist was dominant throughout the game, striking out six and mirroring Garcia inning-for-inning.
“My old saying goes is you never lose a shutout,” White said. “And Megan Kleist throwing a shutout against that team, that’s a tremendous effort.”
One of her lone hiccups was in the sixth, when UCLA put two runners on with no outs, forcing a bunt situation for Aaliyah Jordan.
Jordan executed the sacrifice bunt well, moving the runners over, but Briana Perez got greedy and tried to score from second.
Lauren Lindvall quickly hopped off the first base bag and gunned a throw to Gwen Svekis to get Perez at home and to keep the game tied at zero.
“That’s heads-up ball-playing right there,” White said. “They’re gonna put it on you. They have a great team and fast base runners.”
This win meant a lot more than most for the Ducks as this marks their first series win over UCLA since the April series in 2015.
“Hopefully this is something that will change the momentum for us going forward,” White said.
The Ducks will have a week off before heading to Corvallis to take on Oregon State for a three-game series starting on Thursday, March 23.
Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @mavpallack
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.