It was a 1-1 game in the sixth inning, and Oregon had runners on first and second base, with no outs when senior Gwen Svekis stepped up to bat.
Svekis kept the crowd on its feet through eight pitches, before sending a three-run home run over the left field fence for her second home run of the day. Shannon Rhodes followed with her own solo home run to give the Ducks a four-run lead over the Arizona Wildcats with no outs and another full inning to play.
With Svekis and Rhodes’ power at the plate in the bottom of the sixth, the No. 5 Oregon Ducks (30-5, 5-2) defeated No. 9 Arizona 5-2 on Friday at Jane Sanders Stadium.
“I was pretty disappointed we only had one run through six,” Oregon head coach Mike White said. “But [Taylor] McQuillin is that kind of pitcher. I thought we were having some pretty good at-bats and that sixth inning was tremendous … We really made her (McQuillin) work.”
Four innings prior to the back-to-back home runs, Svekis scored Oregon’s first run on another home run to open the bottom of the second inning against McQuillin (18-5).
“No secret, just extra confidence in myself right now,” Svekis said. “I like hitting lefties in general, and we did a lot of work preparing for her [McQuillin] … I was just ready for her.”
Over the course of the game, Svekis tallied four RBIs and a walk. She now leads the team with 11 home runs this season, tied with shortstop DJ Sanders.
“She feels good about what she’s doing,” White said of Svekis. “She’s seeing the ball pretty well, she’s carrying us just a little bit and that is just what we need.”
Trailing 1-0 after Svekis’ first home run, Arizona (27-7, 6-4) didn’t tie the game until the top of the sixth.
With runners on third and second, Aleah Craighton grounded out to Sanders, her former Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajun teammate from last season, which brought Jessie Harper home to score.
The Wildcats didn’t score again until the top of the seventh, with an RBI from Harper getting Reyna Carranco home.
In the circle, Oregon pitcher Megan Kleist (11-4) pitched a complete game, allowing eight hits and two runs and striking out seven. Over her past 41.1 innings, Kleist has only allowed one walk on top of recording 45 strikeouts.
In the top of the fifth, she protected Oregon’s 1-0 lead by striking out Reyna Carranco with runners on the corners.
“I don’t think we helped her out too much in that sixth inning,” White said. “We didn’t make some of the plays we should have made, so she had to throw a lot more pitches … But I thought she gutted it out. She really wanted to stay out there, wanted the ball and wanted to finish it. And it was her game to finish.”
The Ducks and the Wildcats will return to the Jane tomorrow at 12 p.m. for game two of the weekend’s three-game series.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni