“It sucks,” Kleist confessed after Drakes’ Macy Johnson lined a single up the middle to spoil her bid for the perfecto. “But that’s what good teams do,” she said. “They capitalize on your mistakes and I happened to make a mistake and they hit it. That’s part of the game, you just have to trust the process and maybe next time that game comes around it’ll go my way.”
Still the junior right-hander was nothing less than spectacular against the Bulldogs and sent the Ducks into the championship bracket on Saturday where they will get a rematch after Drake eliminated BYU 3-0 later Friday evening.
Oregon got an early jump on Drakes’ ace pitcher Nicole Newman for a run in the first frame aided by a bloop to short right field that fell in when the Drake second baseman tripped and fell as she was about to glove the ball for the out. With the ball instead on the turf, Jenna Lilley bolted home from second base.
Lilley followed up Haley Cruse’s fourth inning single with a double into the right-center gap to increase Oregon’s lead to 2-0.
Oregon head coach Mike White caught lightning in a bottle for the second straight day in the fifth. Once Gwen Svekis worked Newman for a one-out walk, White called Burke out of the dugout to pinch-hit for Shannon Rhodes and just as it played out the day before, Burke turned on a 1-1 pitch for a two-run dinger to right-center field.
“Well I did tell her earlier in the game to be ready,” said White. “She’s making me look pretty good, so she might have to break into the lineup pretty soon with the way she’s going. We’ve been looking for a pinch-hitter because that’s a specialist position. It’s very hard to come off the bench and do what she did two days in a row, so that’s pretty exceptional.”
“I was tracking pitches in the dugout,” said Burke. “On the bench when we track pitches we always have mental at-bats. So I think I was ready going in and I just wanted to get the barrel on the ball if I got a pitch to hit.”
The home plate celebrants had barely returned to the dugout when freshman designated player Mary Iakopo followed up with a solo shot to left to put the Oregon lead at five.
From there the game was a matter of Kleist and her pursuit of perfection that ultimately came up one out short.
Drake must beat Oregon twice on Saturday to prevent the Ducks from advancing to next weeks’ super regional round. First pitch is set for 4:00 pm with game two – if necessary – scheduled for 6:30.
~ Rick Morgan