The schedule keeps on raising the bar, and the Ducks keep on answering the call.
Playing in its seventh consecutive game versus a top-10 opponent, Oregon made its loudest statement yet on Thursday at Jane Sanders Stadium. A complete game shutout from Megan Kleist, paired with two home runs and sprinkling of timely base hits led the Ducks to a 5-0 win over No. 2 Oklahoma, who suffered its first true road loss since 2016.
“That’s where we need to be at,” Oregon head coach Mike White said. “We did a really a good job of hitting a very good pitcher.”
Facing the two-time defending NCAA champions, No. 4 Oregon (35-7, 9-3 Pac-12) entered Thursday with respect for the Sooners, but their play on the field showed anything but fear.
As the sellout crowd at the Jane settled into their seats, senior DJ Sanders set the tone in the first inning.
With two outs in the top half of the first, Shay Knighten hit a chopper to the left side of the infield. Sanders picked the tough hop and fired a strike over to first to help Kleist retire the Sooners in order.
Sanders flashed her glove on defense, and she didn’t wait long to introduce her bat to Oklahoma.
Following a four-pitch walk to Alexis Mack, Sanders hit a two-run home run to give the Ducks the early 2-0 lead. The home-run — a low line drive roped over the left field wall — was Sanders’ third in five games. The senior delivered on Thursday after being bumped up to the third spot in the lineup.
“I didn’t want to go up, and move back down the next day,” said Sanders. “I do like the fact that I know that [White] trusts me.”
Entering Thursday, Parker had one of the best resumes for a starting pitcher in the country. The senior sported a 21-1 record with the third-lowest ERA (0.73) in the NCAA. She had only allowed five home runs in the 2018 season, but that didn’t stop the Ducks bats from taking flight against the Sooners ace.
Following Sanders’ two-run blast in the first inning, freshman Mary Iakopo launched a no-doubt, solo home-run in the bottom of the third inning to give Oregon a 3-0 lead.
The third inning would be Parker’s last. On the other side, Kleist had it rolling for the Ducks. The junior didn’t allow a hit until the top of the fourth inning, when Jocelyn Alo squeezed a chopper past Sanders.
Parker departed after three innings. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, the Ducks bats stuck around for the show.
In the bottom of the fourth, an RBI single from Jenna Lilley, followed by a two-out RBI single from Sanders pumped up Oregon’s lead to 5-0.
That was more than enough support for Kleist, who once again elevated her game against top competition. In her past three starts versus top-10 opponents, Kleist went seven innings in each and allowed a combined three runs. Nothing changed against the second-ranked Sooners, who could only muster one hit and one walk on the afternoon.
“You can’t help but look at the name across their chests — two-time national champions,” Kleist said. “But you got to look past that and they’re just another team.”
Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @ckundich