Prior to the first game of the Women’s College World Series, the Ducks talked about not just surviving and advancing, but thriving as well. They did just that, scoring the most run’s in team history. No. 1 Oregon put up 14 hits en route to a 11-6 victory against No. 8 Arizona State.
Oregon may have far more experience in the Women’s College World Series, but Arizona State tested the Ducks time and time again.
For two consecutive innings, Oregon’s defense ran into the same scenario with two runners on and just one out. The second time around, Morgan Howe, ASU’s best hitter this post season, made Elish pay for leaving a pitch high in the zone. She hit a three-run home run to cut Oregon’s lead to 6-5 and change the tone of the game.
But Oregon’s experience combined with a historic offensive day kept the Ducks in the game.
Haley Cruse responded with a two-run home run, just her second of the year in the next inning. In the sixth, Shannon Rhodes hit a three-run homer into deep center field, the fourth multi-RBI hit of the game for Oregon and the fourth RBI of the game for Rhodes. That made the score 11-5.
The Sun Devils were the last Pac-12 team to win the WCWS, back in 2011. They finished third in the Pac-12 standings, ahead of Washington. Nobody on the roster had even been to the Super Regionals before, let alone the Women’s College World Series.
Miranda Elish (25-1) pitched five innings with six strikeouts and one walk.
“ASU’s a scrappy team, they can hit,” White told ESPN after the game. “I thought her stuff was pretty good at times, but again we just have to feel those situations where you just can’t try to blow it by them. …They’re too good for that.”
ASU’s DeNae Chatman hit a solo homer into left-center just four batters into the game.
Oregon took advantage of two consecutive errors by ASU in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Jenna Lilley hit a line drive into right field. It hit off the ground, then bounced off right fielder Kindra Hackbarth. Lilley took advantage of the delay to dig for second base and slid in head first, well ahead of the throw.
On the next play, Alexis Mack reached first base on a textbook bunt, and third baseman Taylor Becerra rushed the throw, and committed another error by throwing well past first base. Mack went to second and while Lilley came in to score.
Megan Kleist came in to relieve Elish in the seventh, and Arizona State immediately put runs on the board. They got runners on first and third with no outs before Hackbarth singled up the middle to make it 11-6. Kleist was able to secure the win by making a risky throw to third to get out a sliding runner, then striking out Howe and Chantman.
Unlike last year, the Ducks won’t have to play their second game in the consolation bracket.
“Immensely better,” White told ESPN when asked how it felt to advance after the first win. “Tomorrow’s going to be a slug fest too probably.”
Oregon will play the winner of No. 5 Washington and No. 4 Oklahoma on Friday night.
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august