CORVALLIS, Ore.— On her second pitch, Oregon’s Haley Cruse opened the fifth inning with a big hit toward centerfield. It was her second double of the day against the Beavers, as she made her way to second base.
After back-to-back outs from Jenna Lilley and Alexis Mack, it seemed as if Oregon was about to leave Cruse stranded. But thanks to a Shannon Rhodes two-run home run to left centerfield, Cruse cruised her way home along with Rhodes.
The No. 5 Oregon Ducks (26-4, Pac-12 3-1) took the lead of the Civil War series with their 16th consecutive win over the Oregon State Beavers (19-4, 2-5) with a final score of 4-1 Thursday at the Oregon State Softball Complex. The Ducks now lead the series 92-91-1 all-time over their State rivals.
“I’ve been here long enough now, I know a little bit about the rivalry between the Civil War,” Oregon head coach Mike White said. “It’s fun to have another good game against them. They are a good team and you can see it, they’re getting better each year.”
Oregon clinched the win by earning two runs in the third and fifth innings.
To begin the third inning, senior Lauren Lindvall hit a solo home run to right centerfield, scoring the first run of the game for the Ducks. Cruse immediately followed Lindvall with a big hit in centerfield off her first pitch. The ball hit the base of the outfield wall, allowing Cruse to make her way to second base.
Lilley found a spot on first base after four balls from OSU pitcher Meehra Nelson. Mack loaded the bases with a bunt and set the stage for Rhodes.
Rhodes hit a fly-out sacrifice hit out to right-center, allowing Cruse to score for a 2-0 Oregon lead.
“My first at-bat was pretty pitiful in my eyes,” Rhodes said. “[I] watched two inside pitches and I was hunting that pitch and just didn’t pull the trigger. So, I figured if she beat me twice on that pitch, she was going go there again, and I was ready for it.”
The Beavers’ lone run came in the bottom of the fifth when freshman Camryn Ybarra hit a home run to right-field. The ball flew over the wall, barely clearing the top of Cruse’s glove. The home run was Ybarra’s second of the season and one of only three hits Oregon’s pitcher Megan Kleist let through.
“Megan Kleist was just very, very good,” White said. “I have to go and see the tape, but I thought she moved the strikezone very well … I was pretty comfortable with the way Megan was pitching, she did a phenomenal job with moving the ball around the zone, made one mistake but that happens.”
Kleist (9-4) earned the win with 65 strikes in her 90 pitches. Her 13 strikeouts marked her sixth game this season with double-digit strikeouts.
“Finding the strikezone is the most important thing, that makes me feel comfortable,” Kleist said. “But once I got that first strike, I kinda knew where the Umpire was gonna call, so I kinda just worked that zone and it turned out in my favor.”
Oregon will continue with the Civil War series with game two of three scheueduled for Friday at 4 p.m. back at the OSU Softball Complex.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni