Bruins Stagger Ducks Twice, End WCWS Dream

IMG_7575gThe Duck offense picked the worst possible time to take a day off.

UCLA was able to hold the No. 1 offense in the country to just two runs in 16 innings of play to sweep a doubleheader and eliminate Oregon from the NCAA tournament. The Bruins move on to the Women’s College World Series and will open with Auburn Thursday while the Ducks will sit home and wonder what went wrong.

In short, it was Selina Ta’amilo and Paige McDuffee that went wrong for Oregon. The Bruin duo was absolutely dominating in the circle.

After extending the series with a 2-1 win in nine innings in Game 2, UCLA held on in Game 3 to upend the Ducks once again 2-1 to end the Super Regional.

But it wasn’t without some excitement. As expected, down 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh, Oregon did its best to rally.

Jenna Lilley kept the game going with a two-out, run-scoring double to center that brought in Danica Mercado. With the tying run at second and the winning run at the plate, McDuffie was able to coax Nikki Udria to fly out to left to end the game.

McDuffie’s performance was stunning since she got pounded by the Duck offense just the night before. She gave up six runs in one inning of work in Game 1 and was saddled with the loss. But McDuffie was a completely different pitcher 24 hours later.

In the series clinching contest, McDuffie went 6 2/3 innings, giving up just the one run on four hits.

Her opponent on the mound, Cheridan Hawkins was effective, but not effective as she or the Oregon fans are used to seeing from the three-time Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year. Hawkins managed to go the whole way, giving up two runs, one earned, on three hits and striking out nine.

She was a bit wild in the first inning, walking the lead-off hitter to begin the game. That runner eventually came around to score on a Koral Costa’s throwing error. Hawkins was down 1-0, but she definitely wasn’t out. She was able to settle down and hold the Bruins at bay until the fourth inning.

It was another lead-off walk that came around to score when Mysha Sataraka banged a double to left-center to bring in Delaney Spaulding and UCLA got that one insurance run it needed.

Ta’amilo was the only pitcher the night before to have any success against the Duck offense and she continued to hold Oregon down in Game 2. She went on to throw for nine innings, giving up just one run and four hits as she helped her team for a 2-1 extra inning win.

Despite Ta’amilo’s efforts, it almost wasn’t enough. Oregon was two outs away from advancing themselves and avoid a Game 3 until Gabrielle Maurice stunned a sold out Jane Sanders Stadium with a solo homer to right.

That home run suddenly woke up a Bruin club that wanted to prove that last night’s 8-1 loss was a fluke. They were the only team to take a season series from the Ducks in the regular season and at The Jane. Maurice’s shot also took all of the wind out of Oregon’s sails and the Ducks never recovered.

UCLA was able to win the game in the bottom half of the ninth when Sataraka doubled down the left field line to begin the frame. She moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt and Jelenicki brought Sataraka home on a bloop single to left.

What might have been forgotten in the Game 2 loss was the efforts of Duck pitcher Megan Kleist. The freshman was outstanding for a majority of the game, but she made two mistakes that hurt Oregon big time. She did, however, throw 8 1/3 innings, allowing the two runs and nine hits.


~ Don Smalley