No epic seventh inning comeback needed this time.
The No. 3 seed Oregon Ducks defeated Wisconsin 9-0 in the Eugene Regional Final on Sunday at Jane Sanders Stadium. It was an all-around solid game for the Ducks as they were in command on offense, defense and on the mound.
Oregon is now 24-0 in regional play under head coach Mike White.
In the first inning, Danica Mercado drew a four-pitch walk. Alexis Mack’s sacrifice bunt advanced her to second, and a Gwen Svekis single would move her to third. With runners on the corners and one out, Nikki Udria hit a ground ball to Wisconsin’s shortstop, Brooke Wyderski, who opted for the force out at second. Mercado would score on the play and give Oregon a 1-o lead.
The lead would only grow from there. Wisconsin pitcher Kaitlyn Menz walked consecutive batters to load the bases. Oregon pitcher Miranda Elish then lined a ground ball to Wyderski, who made a diving effort for it but the ball squeezed out from under her which allowed Rhodes and Udria to score.
With runners on the corners once again, Lauren Lindvall singled up the middle to score Camuso and give Oregon a 4-0 lead.
“We took the fun out of it early,” White said.
Oregon’s Miranda Elish was dealing from the mound. The freshman never allowed a Wisconsin baserunner to reach third base.
Elish threw a complete game and only allowed one hit, three walks and struck out two.
“I think I was pretty amped up the whole game,” Elish said. “When my team puts up nine runs for me, even if I don’t have my stuff that day, I don’t think any bad pitch is going to hurt us too bad.”
On top of its stellar pitching and relentless offense, Oregon’s defense was equally as good.
“We’re really making some good plays,” White said. “They came back out today and played just lights out defense.”
The Ducks exploded again in the fourth inning. Jenna Lilley laid down a perfect bunt to reach first base and load the bases. Mercado then hit a single directly at the right fielder, but it bounced off her glove, which scored two more runs and extended Oregon’s lead to 6-0.
Moments later, April Utecht singled up the middle, clearing the bases and adding two more runs. Oregon would add one more run in the inning. Mack pinch-ran for Utecht, and she would eventually reach third. Udria hit a ground ball to the first baseman who tried to throw Mack out at home. The throw was in time, but Mack snuck under the tag, and Oregon had a 9-0 lead.
Four Ducks recorded two RBIs, including Elish.
Oregon is playing some of its best softball at the perfect time. It has rattled off 13 straight wins while players like Rhodes and Lilley have elevated their game.
“Our lineup is pretty solid right now,” White said. “With Jenna Lilley coming back, that creates some diversity at the bottom,”
With the win, the Ducks advance and will host the Super Regional starting on Thursday against No. 14 seed Kentucky. It is the eighth straight year Oregon has reached the Super Regional.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917