Senior power pushes Oregon past Utah 8-1 to complete series sweep
Gwen Svekis watched her fly-ball hang in the air and drift toward shallow left field. As she jogged toward first base, it landed in the exact place none of the three Utah defenders could reach it in time.
That summarized how the day went for Svekis and the Ducks on Senior Day. They capitalized on scoring from their seniors to beat and sweep Utah 8-1 for the final regular season game at Jane Sanders Stadium. Megan Kleist, the winning pitcher, went five innings with six hits and six strikeouts.
It was an emotional game for all the players, especially for senior Svekis and Lindvall, who accounted for six of the eight total Oregon runs.
“Lot’s of emotions,” head coach Mike White said. “Fortunately we were able to keep them under wraps and I thought the ladies did a good job.”
Svekis wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to play at home at least one more time. The senior had two hits, including a home run to center field in the third inning.
“It was very cool becuase who knows if I’ll hit another one, so it was good to do it this weekend,” Skevis said.
Early on in the second inning, the Ducks threatened to go up big after loading the bases twice. Lauren Lindvall’s scoring doubled in her first at-bat and gave Oregon a 3-0 lead. Lindvall and Haley Cruse then advanced to second and third base on a wild pitch to Jenna Lilley. When Lilley walked, Utah replaced starter Hailey Hilburn for Katie Donovan, who was able to limit the damage by getting April Utecht to hit into a double play.
The Ducks almost run-ruled Utah in the fifth inning when they scored three runs. Shannon Rhodes, who drew three walks and scored two runs on no hits, was almost picked off at second base in a pickle situation, but scored after Lindvall doubled again for her second RBI of the game. Cruse followed that with a chopper that bounced over the second baseman, allowing Lindvall and Iakopo to score.
Kleist ran into trouble in the fourth inning when Utah had runners on first and third with one out. Ally Dickman launched double into left field, allowing Kelly Martinez to score from third. Utah had runners on second and third with one out, but Kleist struck out the next two consecutive batters to end the inning.
Maggie Balint replaced Kleist in the sixth inning. She had one strikeout and allowed a hit, but it was Lilley’s timely defensive plays from third base that prevented more baserunners for the Utes. The sold-out crowd began chanting the senior’s name in the final inning while she hovered over third base.
“I hear them every time, they’re pretty awesome,” Lilley said. “They make me smile.”
With its regular season home games concluded, Oregon will head to Cal for the final three-game series of the season. With this win, Oregon and UCLA are tied for first in the Pac-12 standings.
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august