No. 19 Ducks Drop Home Opener to Cardinal but Show Plenty to Look Forward to

By Dylan Farrell

EUGENE — No. 19 Oregon (18-7, 1-3) opened its first home series against No. 7 Stanford (23-2, 1-0) on Friday, and the Ducks looked like a completely different team than they did last weekend against Washington. Oregon put out a strong defensive performance, allowing just one run through seven innings of regulation play against a Stanford team that averages over five runs per game. Stanford’s bullpen will likely not allow the Ducks to put up 7-8 run performances like Washington did. Oregon ultimately fell to Stanford 3-1 in extra innings, but the team held its own against a very strong opponent. Oregon will need more of that defense to succeed later this weekend, but the offense will need to step up to give it a chance.

“I think it’s nice to keep runs off the board, because that puts less pressure on our offense,” Oregon second base Allee Bunker said postgame. “Today we did keep those runs off the board until the eighth, and we just need to be better on offense to capitalize when we have runners in scoring position.”

Bunker had a night herself, hitting her 43rd double in a Ducks uniform, moving into second all-time. All told, she went 2-for-3 at bat with one RBI in the game, and was ultimately the reason the Ducks made it to the eighth inning.

“I love what Allee’s doing. Every game she shows up and gets after it,” Oregon head coach Melyssa Lombardi said of Bunker’s performance. “You can see that, as a fifth-year senior, she wants to finish things the right way.”

Doing things “the right way” in sports often means grinding out wins in difficult games when necessary, and Oregon did just about everything it could in that department except finish tonight. Given the fireworks on display between Oregon and Washington last weekend, few would’ve expected this team to go past regulation while scoring just 1 run, but Stevie Hansen and Morgan Scott held fast for the Ducks through the first seven frames. Alana Vawter, Stanford’s All-Pac-12 pitcher who posted a stingy 0.95 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP prior to this game, pitched all of regulation for the Cardinal and allowed only one run.

Some of Vawter’s success came from Oregon’s baserunning woes, however. One notable instance came in the second inning. With runners on second and third, Tehya Bird reached base on a fielder’s choice. Hanna Delgado got caught in a pickle on her way home and retreated back to third, but Ariel Carlson had already reached the base and tried to run back to second. Neither made it to safety in time, resulting in a prime scoring situation turning into a painful end to the inning. Oregon also attempted four steals on the night and was caught out every time, including on the second-last out of the game when Kai Luschar was thrown out at second, leaving KK Humphreys at the plate with no chance to tie.

Outside of that, the Ducks played a complete game through the first 7 innings. When the offense appeared to stutter, the defense came up strong. The Ducks’ pitching staff saved them from a number of tight spots. Morgan Scott’s 0 ER kept Oregon in a contentious 6th inning and induced three outs on three batters after Stevie Hansen, who pitched a stellar 5 innings and allowed just 1 run, allowed a single on the first pitch of the sixth. She put up more of the same in the seventh, putting down three batters in three at-bats to give the Ducks a chance in the bottom of the inning.

Oregon showed little sign of giving any way defensively until the second at-bat of the eighth inning, when a review on a fielder’s choice reversed the initial ruling on the field — a runner out at second base — and put Stanford runners on first and second. The Cardinal eventually earned two runs in the frame, digging the Ducks a hole that they ultimately failed to climb out of. Oregon eventually went down the way it spent much of the game: pushing the envelope on risky steals and getting caught.

Baserunning troubles aside, the Ducks had a relatively strong showing against a difficult opponent and will look to correct their record against the Cardinal twice more this weekend — once on Saturday, and once on Sunday.