By Dylan Farrell
Tough, close losses continued to be the theme of Pac-12 play for the Ducks on Sunday afternoon, as the flock dropped the third game of its home-opening series to the Stanford Cardinal to the tune of a 3-2 loss following a series full of 1- and 2-run games. Despite the losses, No. 19 Oregon (19-8, 2-4) has been anything but disappointing in conference play thus far. Five of its six games in the Pac-12 have been decided by two or fewer runs against very strong opponents, namely then-No. 10 Washington last weekend and No. 7 Stanford this weekend.
Defenses shined bright throughout the matchup, and the showdown on the mounds between Stevie Hansen and Alana Vawter continued to live up to its billing. Stanford’s Vawter pitched a complete 7 innings and allowed two runs, though it certainly could’ve been more if not for stellar play from second base River Mahler. With a runner on third and just one out in the frame, Vallery Wong sent a blistering line drive between first and second that Mahler jumped to snag and prevent a potent on-base opportunity. Mahler was central to Stanford’s defense all afternoon, racking up 3 POs and 3 assists. Later in the fourth, Vawter made a similarly eye-catching play, snagging a line drive that appeared to be headed straight to the outfield had she missed the catch to end the inning with Wong stranded on first.
Oregon’s pitching, while not as strong as the Cardinal’s, made marks of its own. Hansen threw 4.1 innings and was pulled in the fifth after allowing a triple and a run through Stanford’s first three at bats of the frame. Raegan Breedlove looked to close out the game, but struggled in her appearance, allowing 5 hits and 2 runs through just eight at bats. A familiar face from this series, Morgan Scott, took over for Breedlove in the sixth and closed out the game for Oregon, allowing 0 runs and 1 hit on 4 at-bats. Scott’s stops kept the Ducks within one, but the offense ultimately failed to capitalize in the bottom of the seventh, logging 3 groundouts on 3 at bats.
Offensively, Hanna Delgado shined for Oregon, going 3-for-3 at the plate and scoring Oregon’s second run of the night off a Tehya Bird single at the bottom of the fourth.
Stanford’s Taylor Gindlesperger, River Mahler and Kaitlyn Lim collected runs for the visiting team. Lim went 2-for-3 at the plate, leading the team. Stanford failed to score until the fifth inning when the Cardinal were down 2-0 but took advantage of a tired Hansen and struggling Breedlove in the fifth and sixth to gain a 1-run advantage.
Despite the disappointment that comes with close losses, Oregon has consistently showed that it can hang with the nation’s best over the last two weeks. Losing may sting, but Oregon becoming just the third team to beat the Cardinal — a feat that puts them in the company of Duke and Oklahoma — is certainly nothing to scoff at.
The Stanford series is the second leg of the toughest stretch of Oregon’s schedule, as they have now faced two top-10 opponents in two weeks and will make it 3 in 3 when the now-No. 3 UCLA Bruins visit Eugene from March 24 to 26. Based on the last two weeks of samples, the series promises to be a contentious affair, especially since it will mark Rachel Cid and Brooke Yanez’s first appearances at the Jane since they transferred to UCLA last year.