Ducks squander opportunities at WCWS

Ducks squander opportunities at WCWS
Oregon's Hannah Melick gets a hit against Arizona State during a Women's College World Series softball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, May 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - The #11 seed University of Oregon softball team (44-17) opened its first Women's College World Series trip in 23 years with a 3-1 loss to returning national champion Arizona State (52-9) Thursday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

"We had a couple of tough breaks here and there," Oregon head coach Mike White said, "but we fought till the last out. We were down by three in the seventh, and if it wasn't for a great double play by their third baseman, we would have tied the game with no outs.  I was proud of the way we played against the defending world champions.  We out-hit them, 5-3, but good teams find a way to win games, and they did."

The #3-seeded and No. 2-ranked Sun Devils scored one run in the first inning and two in the third inning to advance to Friday's night contest vs. #2 seed Alabama.

UO's lone run came in the seventh inning, after senior Christie Nieto led off with a double to the left field gap. After a walk by sophomore Alexa Peterson, Nieto scored on an error by the second baseman on a grounder by freshman pinch-hitter Jamie Rae Sullivan.

After a stolen base by junior Jessica Moore put runners on second and third base, freshman Sara Goodrum lined a shot down the line, but the Sun Devils' third baseman made the catch, and tagged out Peterson who was diving back for the double play. ASU retired the next pinch-hitter for the game's final out.

Oregon's best early chance to score came in the opening inning after junior Samantha Pappas doubled to left field on the opening pitch of the game.

The second-team All-American advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt, and appeared ready to score on a sacrifice fly to deep right field by senior Kelsey Chambers, but was called out for leaving third base too early.

Pappas' two-bagger was her 17th of the season, and moved her into sole possession of second place in school single-season history (and one behind the school record set by Missy Coe in 1999).

In the circle for UO, the third-team All-American Moore (32-14) pitched her 32nd complete game of the year, struck out three, walked four, gave up only three hits, and only one of her three runs allowed was earned.

The Sutter, Calif., native limited one of the nation's top hitting teams to one of its lowest offensive outputs of the year. ASU entered the game averaging nearly seven runs per game (6.98) and ranked third nationally in the category, as well as in slugging, along with fifth in batting and sixth in homers.

ASU sophomore starter and returning WCWS Most Outstanding Player Dallas Escobedo (24-6) struck out four, walked one, allowed five hits, and her run allowed was unearned.

At the plate for the Sun Devils, three batters hit safely once - Alix Johnson, Amber Freeman and Talor Haro.

Freeman knocked in ASU's first run in first inning on a double to right field after Haley Steele reached the at-bat before on a fielder's choice.

In the third, Freeman knocked in Arizona State's other two runs on a fielding error by the shortstop (after a a single and walk opened the inning).

Looking ahead, Oregon's next contest is against #7 seed Tennessee on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. The game will be broadcast live by ESPN 2, online by ESPN 3, and on the radio in Eugene by KSCR (1320 AM).

"We're ready to keep fighting," Moore said, "that's been our mantra all year. Our backs are against the wall. We'll have to put a lot of runs up on the board, and I'm going to have to pitch really well, and keep runners off base."

The Ducks and Volunteers both sport one loss in the double-elimination format, and look ahead to their fourth-ever meeting. Tennessee won the most recent tilts in 2008 (5-0) and '06 (1-0), and Oregon won the first meeting in '98 (4-2).

"We've got to fight to survive elimination Saturday," White said. "We've got to focus on bouncing back, and executing our plays correctly."

Thursday marked Oregon's first WCWS game since the 1989 campaign when the Ducks went 1-2 in their only other trip to collegiate softball's eight-team final series.

Other scores from Thursday's game follow:#1 California 5, LSU 3; #2 Alabama 5, #7 Tennessee 3; #4 Oklahoma 5, South Florida 1.