Oregon freshman Mary Iakopo stepped up to the plate. It was her first home game in the Oregon uniform. The bases were loaded in the bottom of the fourth.
“Just find a way to drive and run,” Iakopo says she thought to herself before making her first swing on the plate.
On the third pitch from Weber State’s Kirtlyn Bohling, Iakopo found the drive. Her bat met the ball, driving it through center field and out of the park — her first collegiate grand slam.
With the help of Iakopo’s grand slam, the No. 6 Oregon Ducks (19-4) run-ruled the Weber State Wildcats (9-12) in five innings with a final score of 9-1, for their home debut Friday night at Jane Sanders Stadium.
“We battled through and I think they were pretty juiced to be playing at home for the first time,” head coach Mike White said. “I know I’m excited to be at home. It was great to see our bottom of the lineup.”
Oregon scored its first seven of nine runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Ducks made their first move with a singled bunt from Haley Cruse. When Wildcat Ashlyn Visser missed the ball at first base, Cruse took DJ Sanders’ spot on second as Sanders ran home and tied the game, 1-1.
The play satisfied White, who had brought up Cruse from the bench at the beginning of the inning in place for Shaye Bowden.
“I didn’t think our discipline was at the plate,” White said. “Bowden was doing the same things I’ve seen several weeks in a row. I talked to her about making adjustments and she didn’t make the adjustments, so it was time to make a move.”
The decision paid off. An inning later, on a Wildcat throwing error, Cruse made the final run to home from second base, giving the Ducks the final score of 9-1.
“Right now it’s like who wants it,” White said. “That’s the good thing about having several kids that are buying for a spot. Step up and get out there, and do what we need for the team.”
After Weber State grabbed an early lead from its lone run in the top of the second, the Ducks went scoreless for the next three-and-a-half innings. White then reminded Oregon’s pitcher Maggie Balint of the same message he told Bowden.
“I was getting very frustrated,” White said. “It seemed like it was de-ja-vu all over again. … I just had to come to an ultimatum. You get to a stage where she was getting hit pretty hard, it was a one-nothing game … You’re either gonna do something different or I’m gonna have to make a decision.”
The pep-talk worked, and Balint turned things around after the second inning. She ended the game with the victory, now holding a 5-1 record, allowing only one run on three hits and six strikeouts. She improved her season ERA to 1.37.
Cruse and Lauren Lindvall led the team with two runs each. The two, along with Jenna Lilley, led with two hits each. Iakopo ended with four RBIs, all from her grand slam in the fourth, and Lilley finished with three.
The Ducks will play the Wildcats again Saturday evening at 5 p.m. for their next game at Jane Sanders Stadium as part of the Oregon Invitational.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter: @maggie_vanoni