By Maren Angus
When Lauren Burke was seven years old, she was sitting in the bleachers at a local park in Eugene, Oregon. She was watching her sister’s team play and was brand new to playing the game of softball but that didn’t matter when her sister’s coach asked her to play.
That memory became a full-circle moment for head coach Mike White. Just as he did years ago when he picked Burke out of the bleachers, he picked her to make her 13th start of the season.
“It’s pretty exciting because when I had a 10-and-under team, I had a seven year old sitting on the sidelines when we didn’t have enough players for the team,” White said. “So we said, ‘Hey, Crazy Legs, Lauren, come play for us.”
She played for White until she was 11 but knew she wanted to be a Duck.
“She came into my office and said, ‘I want to be a Duck,’” White said. “There was no hesitation what she wanted to do.”
In the third inning of the opening game at the Women’s College World Series on Thursday in Oklahoma City, Burke ripped a triple to right field, collected two runs batted in and extended Oregon’s lead over Arizona State to 5-2.
Primarily used as a pinch hitter during her freshman campaign, Burke hit two pinch-hit homers in the Eugene Regional against Albany and Drake. That earned her a chance to start in two of three games against Kentucky in the Super Regional.
In the postseason alone, she is 7-for-13 with two home runs and nine RBIs. Not bad for someone who only had 12 hits and eight RBIs during the regular season.
“This whole year has been a roller coaster of ups and downs,” Burke said. “I’m seeing the ball right now and I get lucky in situations. I (hit) with runners on and I just try to move them over.
“When I’m in the box, I’m really not trying to think too much… I have a tendency to overthink things, so when I’m in the box, I make it as simple as I can. Get a good pitch to hit, hit it hard and limit it to that. I don’t look for a certain pitch, just a strike that I can handle.”
Washington’s “leet” defense shuts down Oklahoma
Trysten Melhart sprinted towards the right field line as a line drive began to tail off the bat of Oklahoma’s Shay Knighten. Melhart left her feet, went full extension and held on to the ball as she rolled over.
The catch prevented the Sooners from tying the game and the Huskies held on to win 2-0.
“I would say that ranked in the top 10 of great catches I’ve ever made,” Melhart said with a smile. “In that moment, I felt like I had it. I went for it and I did catch it.”
The catch caused a bit of controversy as the ball squirted out on the transfer but Melhart was 100 percent confident she caught the ball and the umpires agreed.
“When I got up, people were still running and I just threw it in all nonchalant. It worked out for us and they saw what I felt,” Melhart said.
It wasn’t just Melhart dazzling the record-setting crowd of 8,561 for the opening session of the WCWS. Sis Bates was a human vacuum at shortstop, not allowing a ball to pass her if it remotely was in reach.
“We pride ourselves in our defense,” Washington head coach Heather Tarr said. “We’re pretty lucky to have these types of players that can come to Washington and do things… They are all together, as always, and they are a fun team to watch. It was a great game today on defense. It was pretty ‘leet’ (elite).”