FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Despite nearly five hours of TV's most intense drama, things flipped in a very Marvel-esque way as a 6-2 Arkansas win over Oregon seemingly came down to the actions of a rodent in the NCAA softball Fayetteville regional Saturday.
The Duck's Makenna Kliethermes and SEC Pitcher of the Year Chanise Delce were locked in a pitcher's duel that had the slight advantage in Oregon's favor with a one-hitter through five, when a feisty squirrel made a mad dash across the backstop before slipping under the netting into the stands behind home plate just seconds before the first pitch of the 6th inning.
Oregon Ducks pitcher Makenna Kliethermes pitches against Arkansas in Game 3 of the Fayetteville regional. Kliethermes had a 1-hitter going into what became the final inning of the game before the Razorbacks put together a 6-run inning.
Apparently the young grey squirrel's ju-ju was more than enough. After being shut out despite keeping the bases relatively full for five innings, the Razorbacks immediately found heat in their bats amid the cold chill and non-stop rain.
Danielle Gibson, who broke the game open Friday evening, ripped a shot up the middle, followed by Hannah Gammill's exact duplication to set the stage for the SEC's most dangerous hitter. Linnie Malkin, who has been in a race against Gibson to keep the Arkansas record for career home runs lifted the first pitch she saw all the way over the berm in center to the edge of the parking lot to make it 3-0.
While it would have been enough to clinch the win, Kacie Hoffman planted a home run just inside the foul pole in right to finally run Kliethermes from the game.
A few batters later, Hannah McEwen roped a line drive to left-center to bring in a pair of insurance runs to close out what turned out to be a 31-minute half inning that featured three Oregon pitchers.
"We clustered our hits together, which was huge," Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said. "Their hits early were just singles that didn't really catch a lot of momentum ... It's just passing the bat and finding a way, so it's really nice that we worked them together."
Delce gave up a 2-run homer to pinch hitter Tehya Bird to add a little drama, but followed with ninth strikeout and a game-ending grounder.
Arkansas pitcher Chenise Delce takes aim at the Oregon Ducks following a rain delay of roughly two hours at the Fayetteville regional. Delce went on to strike out nine batters while claiming the win.
Arkansas moves to the regional final where the Razorbacks' opponent will be coming off a late game and a much longer day in the rain than planned. The winner will face the winner of Texas and their opponent from the Seattle regional.
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