With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, and Oregon clinging to a 2-1 lead, Shannon Rhodes stepped to the plate with a runner on second.
It was her second game in a row not starting and head coach Mike White had benched for the first three innings in Sunday’s game. Yet, in the bottom of the fourth, he decided to give her a chance.
Her first pitch was a ball. The next three pitches were labeled as another ball, a foul and a strike. The fifth pitch looked to hit her left elbow and she dropped her bat and began to head to first until the umpire officially called it a ball and made her return to the batter’s box.
“Sometimes calls don’t go your way,” Rhodes said. “You just got to keep your head in the game and keep swinging.”
And kept swinging she did. She sent the very next pitch over the center field fence for a two-run home run to give Oregon 4-1 a lead.
“It was relieving,” Rhodes said.
White’s decision to bring-in Rhodes paid off as No. 4 Oregon (38-7, Pac-12 12-3) defeated Stanford 4-1 Sunday afternoon, sweeping the three-game series over the Cardinal for the sixth consecutive time.
The victory is the Ducks’ 19th straight win over Stanford (22-23, 2-13), increasing Oregon to a current four-game win streak and Stanford to a seven-game losing streak.
“It was a crisper game today for sure,” White said.
With Rhodes’ success in the fourth, White added her into centerfield to start the fifth.
“You can sit her to maybe get her attention a little bit and then you put her in to see if it worked,” White said. “I used the bench theory and maybe it worked her up a little bit … When you get your chance, that’s what you got to do. When you get your chance, take it. And Shannon did.”
Once again White’s decision worked. It the top of the sixth, Rhodes jumped into the cushioned-wall in the back centerfield to perfectly catch a hit from Stanford’s Whitney Burks.
“[It was] kinda startling,” Rhodes said. “It kinda slowly rose and I thought it might go over, but I just had to stick with it and save my pitcher a little.”
Along with Rhodes’ home run, a two-out RBI from Haley Cruse allowed the Ducks to score three of their four runs in the fourth inning. Their first run of the game came in the bottom of the first thanks to a Gwen Svekis two-out RBI.
The Cardinal scored their only run of the game in the top of the fourth, with a solo home run from shortstop Whitney Burks.
In the circle, Oregon pitcher Miranda Elish started for the second time this series. She earned the win, now holding a 16-1 season record, and pitched a complete game allowing two hits, one walk and striking out 10 batters (her ninth double-digit strikeout count this season).
The Ducks will take the series sweep and prepare to face off for the Pac-12 title during next weekend’s road trip to Seattle. Starting on Friday, April 27, at 5 p.m., Oregon will match up against the No. 1-ranked Washington Huskies for a three-game series.
“They beat us down here last year and we want to get that revenge back,” White said.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni