Backs to the wall and faced with a premature end to their season, the Oregon Ducks got a stellar performance in the circle from sophomore right-hander Miranda Elish and evened their best of three series with the Kentucky Wildcats with a 6-1 win Friday evening at Jane Sanders Stadium.
One night after seeing their 16-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the hot hitting Wildcats the night before, Elish tossed a complete game two-hit gem, striking out seven without allowing a walk to knot the series at a game apiece with the third and deciding game set for 6:00 pm Saturday. The winner will advance to the Women’s College World Series next month in Oklahoma City.
For three innings, Elish and Grace Baalman – her counterpart from Kentucky – tossed blanks with the Ducks finally getting on the board in the fourth inning. Playing as the visiting team, DJ Sanders opened the frame with a walk. After Gwen Svekis flew out to centerfield, Haley Cruse worked Baalman for a free pass as well and Shannon Rhodes singled up the middle to load the bases.
After torching the opposition for a pair of pinch hit home runs in the regional round and then contributing a clutch pinch-hit single in Thursday’s loss, Oregon head coach Mike White inserted Lauren Burke into the starting lineup and the move paid immediate dividends when the freshman left-hander slapped Baalman’s 0-2 offering up the middle to drive in a pair of runs. A throwing error allowed Rhodes to cross the plate, giving the Ducks first blood at 3-0. Mia Camuso’s single added a fourth run and the game was firmly in Elish’s hands from that point.
Oregon added a pair of insurance runs thanks to Jenna Lilley’s double into the left-center field gap, driving home Camuso and Lauren Lindvall.
Kentucky scratched across an unearned run in the home half of the fourth but could do no more damage as Elish posted 1-2-3 innings in both the fifth and sixth innings, then erased a one-out single in the seventh with a game ending 6-4-3 double play.