Arizona State’s Giselle “G” Juarez and Oregon’s Miranda Elish started the Women’s College World Series opening game for their respective clubs. It seemed the sophomores were in for a pitcher’s duel with both their ERAs being under one. Instead the Ducks and the Sun Devils combined to score 16 runs against the two NFCA All-Americans.
In the end, No. 1 Oregon (53-8) powered past No. 8 Arizona State (48-12) by a score of 11-6. The Ducks went down early, but had control of the game for most of it.
“All faucets of your game have to be on point if you’re going to beat a team like Oregon. Today I thought ‘G’ threw well honestly. I think some things didn’t go our way,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “I thought we did a heck of a job in the box. But defensively it’s what cost us the game. Very proud of their effort and very proud of their fight.”
For the Sun Devils, they found themselves in a result that they aren’t accustomed to on Thursday. It was only the second time this season ASU scored first and didn’t win the game, after Juarez allowed a career-high 11 runs (10 earned). The short-game and defense that helped them go undefeated in postseason failed.
Freshman designated player DeNae Chatman continued her power surge. After a leadoff single to start the game from sophomore right fielder Kindra Hackbarth, Chatman sent a two-run home run to the left field seats. The Sun Devils looked poised for a possible upset coming into the game 41-1 when scoring first.
“I know my role and I stuck to my pitch. I was aggressive at first. I needed to take a step back and breathe,” Chatman said.
But their lead would soon be evaporated. The Ducks came back with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning against Juarez. Oregon began the frame with three straight bunts; two for hits and one for a sacrifice. The Ducks’ catcher Gwen Skevis got a blooper over the glove of a leaping sophomore Jade Gortarez at shortstop to bring in the runs.
Oregon continued to have hold of the momentum for the next three innings. The Ducks were able to manufacture four more runs with the help of two Sun Devil errors. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils threatened in those innings, but could never get a run across until the fifth.
Junior center fielder Morgan Howe took advantage of a mistake from Elish sending a bombing three-run shot to the right field bleachers to cut the Oregon lead to 6-5.
“We were really prepared. We watched film, we know what the game plan is. We’ve seen Elish in conference,” Howe said. “But the way the lineup is setup too. If I’m not successful, DeNae is right there to back me up and vice versa.”
However, the Ducks came back with the long ball themselves. UO right fielder Haley Cruse came back with a two-run dinger of her own in the bottom half of the inning. Center fielder Shannon Rhodes added three more Oregon runs sending it back to the crowd in center to put the Ducks up, 11-5.
Arizona State added another run in the seventh on Hackbarth’s third hit of the game. But in the end it was too little to late for the Sun Devils.
ASU will fight to continue its season in Saturday’s elimination game at 9 a.m. PT against the the two-time defending champions fourth-seeded Oklahoma.
“We were right there. Another big swing of the bat we’re right there again. That’s kind of been our philosophy we want to do some damage in the box,” Ford said. “And I was really proud of we got some kids on with some base hits or hit-by-pitches or walks. We had some kids come up with big hits in big situations. For us it’s just continuing to learn, to get better. My money is always on us.”