While fans showed up to see Texas take on 10th-ranked Louisiana at McCombs Field on Tuesday, the origin of the pitchers’ duel between Miranda Elish and Megan Kleist can be traced back to Eugene, Ore., when they were Oregon Ducks teammates.
Both ended up leaving the Oregon program and both ended up in the starting circle on Tuesday. The teams would split the doubleheader, but the Ragin’ Cajuns took the opener 3-2, rallying behind a strong fifth inning as shadows stretched across the outfield grass and the sun went down in advance of the nightcap.
“We had a game plan in the first game,” UT coach Mike White said, “and we talked about the fact that we didn’t stick to it. But we’re facing an elite pitcher — one of the best pitchers in the country — and they can make you come off your game plan in a hurry.”
White knows all about Kleist. He recruited her out of Appleton, Wisc. near the end of his nine-year tenure coaching the Ducks. He first heard about her from Mike Roberts, Kleist’s former travel ball coach — and currently the Ragin’ Cajuns’ associate head coach.
Kleist, who played for Oregon from 2016-18, chose to reunite with Roberts this season.
She threw a complete game Tuesday, striking out four and allowing two earned runs to earn her fifth pitching victory of the season.
“Megan, she dominates the mound,” said UT center fielder Shannon Rhodes, another former Duck and teammate. “And you’re not going to get too many mistakes up there. … She’s always sliced and diced me.”
Elish, though, was nearly perfect through the first four innings, striking out five batters and not allowing a hit. But things unraveled for the Longhorns (15-2) in the fifth when an infield single led to a Ragin’ Cajuns runner to reach second base on a throwing error. One batter later, another Cajun sprinted down the first base line, putting runners on the corners.
But it was Bailey Curry’s three-run home run that put Texas in a dire situation. She launched her homer off the center of the McCombs video board that was displaying her photo for everyone to see. The three-run shot was hit against a 15-mph wind that was blowing toward home plate.
“Unfortunately, Miranda made one mistake the whole day,” White said, “and the kid made us pay for it.”
Elish and second baseman Janae Jefferson led Texas with two hits each. Elish and Rhodes had Texas’ two RBIs. Jefferson scored both times.