When Miranda Elish was one out away from a perfect game against Portland State on April 3, she had a flashback to a game two weeks ago against UCLA. She had given up a home run with two outs left, adding more tension to a big game against the No. 3 team in the country.
Elish forced herself not to think about that moment, and concentrated on something she has been reiterating to herself all season: make quality pitches.
“I just have to be confident every time I go out there,” Elish said. “Don’t second-guess, just throw the pitches well that coach (Mike) White’s calling, and trust my defense behind me.”
That mentality led to her first career perfect game, just two games removed from her first career loss, a extra-inning thriller against Oregon State.
With an 18-1 record, Elish has the best record between her fellow pitchers, Maggie Balint and Megan Kleist. She is 30-1 in her two years as a Duck, and the 2018 playoffs haven’t started yet. Elish has become an key component of Oregon’s dynamic rotation. She has become better not only mechanically, but mentally as well.
Her development under head coach Mike White has evolved her game from throwing “down and hard” to working towards quality pitches. Because every team has access to game films, Elish knows her key to success lies in diversifying her pitches.
She has focused delivering each pitch with “an intent and a purpose,” Elish told Pac-12 Network after Oregon breaking UCLA’s winning streak to start Pac-12 play.
“With some success comes more confidence, but you still have to stay with your basics,” Elish said.
Elish was one of the highest rated recruits to ever commit to Oregon. As a senior at Crown Point High School in Indiana, she was ranked No. 1 overall on FloSoftball.com.
Her club coach Bill Conroy has been coaching in Indiana for over 20 years. During Elish’s time with the Beverly Bandists, Conroy witnessed her competitive fire, and said she was so driven to throw hard pitches it became “almost detrimental” to her game.
“She was very comfortable being a power pitcher with movement,” Conroy said. “But I’ve really seen her progress quite a bit by not throwing as hard and spinning the ball more.”
Her freshman year Elish went undefeated in her 12 starts. Her 1.79 ERA was fifth in the Pac-12, behind Kleist and Balint. However, she was also second in runs allowed with 30.
This season, her ERA of 1.09 is fourth in the Pac-12, much lower than last season’s conference leader.
Conroy believes her drop-ball has been greatest strength, but it’s the improvement of her mental ability under coach White that has benefited her the most.
“He’s known as the greatest pitching coach, but most people tie that in with mechanics and technique,” Conroy explained. “Honestly, I think he did his best work with Miranda from a mental standpoint.”
White acknowledged that Elish had to do a lot of work on her game to get where she is today.
“When she first came in she was just a thrower,” White said. “And at this level it doesn’t work that way. She’s evolved into a pitcher.”
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august