Oregon softball rolls Utah to begin final regular season home series
In the bottom of the first inning, Gwen Svekis hit a high fly ball that had just enough oomph to sneak over the left-field wall and give the Ducks an early 2-0 lead over Utah.
It was a nice way for Svekis to begin her final regular season series. With regionals and super regionals still on the docket, though, the Ducks aren’t planning on the next three days being the final time they take the field at Jane Sanders Stadium in 2018.
Svekis’s blast was just the beginning of a night that Oregon (42-7, 16-3 Pac-12) owned from start to finish, with the Ducks topping Utah 8-0 in six innings.
“We know we’re not playing our last home games,” Haley Cruse said. “It’s not saying goodbye yet.”
It’s been a rough go in Pac-12 play for Utah (20-26, 2-17 Pac-12), who entered the night tired with Stanford at the bottom of the conference standings. The bottom of the second inning on Friday showed why.
With one out and Mia Camuso on second, Haley Cruse reached on a fielder’s choice that didn’t result in an out. Then followed a walk to Jenna Lilley that preceded Katie Donovan’s second wild pitch of the inning to bring home Camuso and give the Ducks a 3-0 lead. Lauren Burke entered in for Alexis Mack, and made her impact felt, driving home Cruse and Lilley to put the Ducks up 5-0.
On the other end of the conference standings, Oregon is in a battle with UCLA for the Pac-12 title. Even following an emotional series sweep over No. 4 Washington in Seattle, the Ducks kept the intensity up versus Utah.
“Certainly, they were focused tonight,” Oregon head coach Mike White said. “They know what’s at stake, and have been here before.”
As she has done all season, Megan Kleist set the tone in the circle, pitching six shutout innings to lead the way.
The junior ran into a bit of trouble after she allowed a pair of singles to Alyssa Barrera and Heather Bowen to lead off the top of the fourth inning. Kleist escaped the jam to come away unharmed.
In the bottom half of the inning, Cruse brought The Jane to its feet with her first home run of the season to give Oregon a 6-0 advantage.
In the sixth inning, a single by Alexis Mack, paired with two errors from the Utes, brought home Cruse to give the Ducks a run-rule win.
Oregon and Utah will go back at it again on Saturday at 6:30.
“We’ve worked hard to be in control of our destiny in this conference race,” White said. “For us to let up would be difficult to do. It’s not something we want to do.”
Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @ckundich
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