Defense, Daniell Lead Ducks to Victory

PHOENIX – No. 20 Oregon scored four runs in the first inning and four more in the seventh, and in between leaned on its elite-level defense for a 9-4 win over Grand Canyon Wednesday night at GCU Softball Stadium.

Alyssa Daniell homered twice, drove in four runs and was on the receiving end of a number of highlight reel defensive plays in the field as the Ducks (23-13) successfully opened their four-game trip through Arizona.

“We always talk about these weeks when we have a midweek and then go into a (weekend) series,” said Daniell. “We treat it like a regional. And this was the first game of the regional so it’s good to start off with a win.”

How it Happened: Oregon struck for four runs in the opening frame.

Kai Luschar led off with a single over third base and stole second – her 20th steal of the season. She went to second on Hanna Delgado’s single and scored on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead.

On the next pitch, Ariel Carlson belted her 11th home run of the season out to left center and the Ducks led 3-0.

Daniell followed Carlson with a solo shot of her own and Oregon led 4-0 after the top of the first.

“I’m always asked how does it feel,” said Daniell of the two Oregon natives homering back-to-back. “It feels amazing, Me and my best friend doing what we do best.”

Starting pitcher Elise Sokolsky didn’t allow a hit as she cruised through the first three innings.

In the bottom of the fourth, Paige Sinicki made the first of many exceptional defensive plays by the Ducks. She fielded a chopper off the bat of Ashley Trierweiler that hopped over the head of third baseman Katie Flannery – who herself made a number of impressive stops at the hot corner herself – and threw to Daniell at first in time for the out.

After the Antelopes (33-9) scored twice in the fourth, Morgan Scott relieved Sokolsky. Sarah Kirk-Groshong hit a sharp two-hopper into the hole at third that Flannery fielded and made a strong throw across the diamond to an outstretched Daniell to end the inning with Oregon ahead 4-2.

The Ducks used their speed to add an insurance run in the fifth. Luschar led off with an infield single and stole second, retaking the Pac-12 lead with her 21st stolen base of the season. Delgado pulled a grounder to the right that allowed Luschar to advance to third, and Carlson drove her in with an RBI ground out to make it 5-2.

Luschar arguably made the games’ top two defensive plays in the late innings. With no outs and runner on first in the bottom of the fifth inning, Brynn-Jordan Smythe hit a sinking liner in to left field that Luschar ranged far to her left to catch on the fly and then threw a strike to Daniell to double up the runner at first.

“As soon as I caught the ball, I looked down to see where the runner was and she was almost to second so I just gunned it,” said Luschar.

“That hyped me up crazy,” said Daniell. “It was the most perfect throw. I trust her and I trust her arm and I knew it was coming and I knew she would make the play.”

An inning later, it was Luschar racing into foul territory to make a diving catch on Trierweiler’s pop up.

The Ducks carried the momentum from their defensive efforts in the field into their at-bats in the seventh and turned it into a four-run inning.

“We always talk about ‘We got the Mo.’ We’ve got the momentum,” said Daniell. “We have made Mo into an actual person. We have Mo so that’s what we said. We got Mo and we’re going to use this to go into our hitting. And that’s how I felt going up to bat. I was excited.”

Pinch-hitter Tehya Bird singled up the middle. Sinicki re-entered to run for Bird, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. Luschar then reached on a throwing error by the pitcher that allowed Sinicki to score for a 6-2 lead.

The Ducks had two runners aboard after Delgado singled.  An out later, Daniell pulled a ball deep over the wall in right field for her second home run of the game, blowing it open at 9-2.

“I think it just takes one of us to get it going and then everyone has the confidence to do what they do up there and do their best,” said Luschar.

Scott threw 2.1 scoreless innings in relief to improve to 8-5 on the year.


OF Kai Luschar, who had a pair of hits that bounced over the third baseman

“The hard dirt in Arizona – I love it!”

Notable: With a home run and a career-high three stolen bases, Carlson is now one of just four players in the NCAA this season with 11 or more home runs and 13 or more stolen bases … Carlson eclipsed the 40-RBI mark on the year and now has 41 (second in the Pac-12 to Arizona’s Carlie Scupin) …Delgado extended her hitting streak to seven games, while Luschar ran her streak to six games … Daniell has an extra base hit in four consecutive games. Her home runs were her seventh and eighth of the season. Daniell’s four RBI were a career high … Daniel, Delgado and Luschar were all 2-for-4 on Wednesday … This was Oregon’s 19th error-free game of the season.

On Deck: Oregon opens a three-game series at Arizona Friday (5 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

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