Kleist (20-3) struck out eight without a walk in limiting the Wildcats to three base hits.
Most effective when she keeps the ball down in the strike zone, Kleist used an effective mix of change-ups and sinkers to keep the Wildcat bats quiet.
“I struggled with (location) last week,” she said. “I worked on it a lot in practice this week and I thought it really helped keep the batters off-balance.”
Through six innings it was a one run game. Oregon solved Kentucky starter Meagan Prince (21-8) for a run in the third but that was it. With two outs in the inning Alexis Mack singled, then stole second. Gwen Svekis singled to center on a 3-2 pitch to score Mack, but was later thrown out at the plate on Nikki Udria’s double to end the inning.
Kentucky’s Prince probably deserved a better fate, holding the Ducks to five hits.
Kleist wouldn’t need them but the three runs Oregon scored in the bottom of the sixth erased what she admitted were “flashbacks” to last year’s heartbreak loss to UCLA in the super regional.
The Ducks loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a hit batter. Mia Camuso’s bouncer to second pushed home one run and Madi Bishop’s ground ball to short scored another. With two out and a runner on third, Lauren Lindvall’s roller to shortstop was mishandled, scoring Shannon Rhodes.
Kleist tossed a 1-2-3 inning top of the seventh and the Ducks took a 1-0 lead in the best of three series.
Game two is set for Saturday afternoon at 4:00.
~ Rick Morgan