Another year, another dominating performance for Oregon softball in regional play.
The No. 3-seed Oregon Ducks defeated the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames 13-0 at Jane Sanders Stadium Friday night. They now advance to play Wisconsin in the region’s semifinal.
The Ducks are now 22-0 under head coach Mike White in regional play.
The Ducks used a nine-run fourth inning to run-rule the Flames.
It started when Gwen Svekis singled to right field, scoring Cherish Burks from third and advancing Alexis Mack to third. After the run, UIC changed pitchers, but it didn’t matter.
The Ducks would go on to add eight more runs in the inning. Despite the offensive explosion, Oregon only recorded five hits in the inning. Four of the runs came from UIC errors, a problem that plagued it all game. The Flames would finish with four errors.
“I thought we did a good job of getting pressure on their defense,” White said. “I thought their pitching staff wasn’t that bad. I thought they threw the ball pretty hard. We did a good job of hitting the ball.”
As a whole, no Oregon batter recorded more than one RBI. It was a team effort featuring aggressive base running and bunting. The Ducks finished with four stolen bases.
Shannon Rhodes went 3-of-3 with one RBI and one run. She was hot all game, a trend as of late.
“I guess I just stepped in the box one day at practice against good ole’ coach White here, got a few hits and felt a lot more comfortable with my swing,” Rhodes said.
While the Oregon offense was exploding, Maggie Balint dominated. The freshman kept her half-innings quick, striking out nine, walking two and allowing two hits in five innings pitched.
The freshman showed no signs of nerves. Balint was even coming off the flu, but the week off helped her.
“I was excited to go out there,” Balint said. “I really didn’t think of it any different than Pac-12 play. At this point, I think of it more like preseason. We don’t have a scouting report. We’re just going out there and playing.”
The Ducks started the game hot. They took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Rhodes drove a single right by the third baseman, scoring Mack from third. Illinois-Chicago pitcher Elaine Heflin went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury while making a play on a ground ball. She faced just two batters, both of whom reached based. Allie Trudeau took her place, and Oregon took advantage of the runners in scoring position.
The Ducks did more damage in the second inning. Danica Mercado stepped to the plate with runners on second and third base with one out. She slapped a single straight to center field. Lauren Lindvall scored easily from third, but when the UIC center fielder overthrew the catcher, Jenna Lilley advanced through third and into home. Oregon led 3-0.
In the third, Rhodes started with a double that flew over the center fielder’s head. After advancing to third on a ground out, Rhodes scored on a passed ball. Oregon led 4-0.
Then came the barrage that was the fourth inning.
Oregon will face Wisconsin Saturday at 2 p.m. at Jane Sanders Stadium. Megan Kleist is expected to pitch for the Ducks.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917