The Ducks Win a Close Game on the Back of Isaac Ayon

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By Matt Lichens

The Ducks won a close game 4-3 against Arizona on the back of a stellar performance from starting pitcher Isaac Ayon who threw a 10 strikeout complete game.

The Ducks struck first in the bottom of the first inning. Brennan Milone reached 3rd on an error by the Arizona right fielder Tanner O’Tremba. He was hit in from 3rd base on a Drew Cowley rbi single to right field. Up 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning Bennett Thompson hit his first career home run in the form of a two run shot to put the Ducks up by three.

After 3 strong innings to start the game for Isaac Ayon gave up his first run in the 4th inning. Chase Davis of the Wildcats hit a solo shot to put them on the board. Arizona struck again in the 5th inning to tie the game at 3-3. Their runs came via a Daniel Susac double which scored 1 run, and a sacrifice ground out from Tanner O’Tremba which scored Nik McClaughry.

Both teams quieted down after the 5th and the game turned into a pitchers duel. Isaac Ayon had settled down and finished the game strong. Garret Irvin for the Wildcats lasted until the 7th inning before he was replaced.

The Ducks struck again in the 8th inning to take a one run lead. Gavin Grant was the hero scoring Tyler Ganus on a single up the middle.

After taking the lead Isaac Ayon came out and set a career high with 10 strikeouts, 5 of them coming in the last 5 batters, and finished the complete game.

The Ducks will finish the series against Arizona and the regular season tomorrow at 12:00 PM at PK Park.

Coach Wasikowski Interview

Isaac Ayon

Audio Story

By Alex Roth

PREVIEW: Oregon Softball Goes to Arkansas for the NCAA Tournament

By Levi Bergthold

#23 Oregon will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, as the #2 seed for its Regional matchup, in a grouping featuring #4 Arkansas, Wichita State and Princeton.  This is the Ducks 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance; they will open Regional play against the #3 seed Wichita State Friday, at 5:30 p.m. PT (ESPN+).  Oregon finished its season on a high note, going 5-1 to close out the regular season, in stark contrast to the brutal 2-11 stretch before that.  Facing the nation’s second toughest schedule, the Ducks went 10-14 in conference play (31-17 overall), good for 5th in the PAC-12.

The Ducks pitching staff came to life to close out the regular season.  After unexpectedly losing ace LHP Brooke Yanez before the season, the starting rotation was thrown into flux, and Freshman RHP Stevie Hansen was forced into the workhorse role, with RHP Makenna Kliethermes as the alternate starter.  Both struggled with inconsistency but were dominant over the last two series.  Hansen pitched a combined 20.1 innings over 5 appearances, giving up 5 earned runs with 14 strikeouts and 5 walks, good for an ERA of 2.24.  This included a gem of a final start, pitching a complete game shutout in the season finale, a 3-0 victory over Stanford.  Kliethermes also finished the year on a high note, pitching 16.1 innings over her final 3 appearances, giving up 4 earned runs with 17 strikeouts and 4 walks, equaling Hansen’s ERA of 2.24.

The PAC-12 released their All-Conference teams, and Oregon was rewarded with four appearances, plus three All-Defensive team and three All-Freshman team players.  Junior Catcher Terra McGowan earned 1st Team All-PAC-12 honors after her tremendous season both behind and on the plate.  She missed over a month due to an injury, but her excellent play made her impossible to exclude from the 1st Team.  She batted a 0.400 average, with 14 RBI’s, 10 extra base hits and just 3 strikeouts on the season.  Senior Allee Bunker made the 2nd Team at 2nd Base, and Sophomore Hanna Delgado (Centerfield) and Freshman Stevie Hansen made the 3rd team.  Bunker, McGowan, and Freshman Paige Sinicki (Shortstop) made the All-Defensive Team; Sinicki, Hansen and Allison Benning (Designated Player) made the All-Freshman team.

Opponent Previews

Third Seed: Wichita State: 33-16 (14-4 AAC)  

The Wichita State Shockers boast one of the best statistical offenses in the country, best known for their long ball – they crushed 118 over the season, 2nd best in the nation, matching their 407 season runs scored (8.3 per game), also good for 2nd in the nation.  They are led by two prolific bats:  AAC Player of the Year RF Addison Bernard and 1st Team All-AAC player SS Sydney McKinney.  Bernard is batting 0.409, striking out 32 times and walking 22.  She leads the nations in home runs with 32, which is 3rd most in NCAA history in a single season.  She is the only player in the nation to have at least 20 home runs and 20 or more stolen bases.  McKinney is less of a power hitter, but knows how to find contact, batting an absurd 0.511 average, with only 14 strikeouts and 16 walks.  Her batting average is the best in the nation.  While their offense has been elite, their pitching as struggled.  Their two primary pitchers, Senior’s Erin McDonald and Caitlin Bingham, have ERA’s 4.01 and 4.27 respectively.  The pitching staff’s cumulative ERA is 4.00.  Their path to victory lies through outscoring their opponents. 

The Ducks have met Wichita State 5 times.  Oregon holds a 4-1 lead, with the most recent matchup happening in 2009, when the Shockers won 15-12.

First Seed: #4 Arkansas: 44-9 (19-5 SEC)

The Arkansas Razorbacks are the SEC champions and boast one of the more complete teams in the country.  6 Razorbacks made 1st Team All-SEC, including SEC Player of the Year Centerfielder KB Sides and SEC Pitcher of the Year RHP Chenise Delce.  Sides bats 0.395, with 41 walks drawn, 22 strikeouts, and 12 homeruns, and Delce pitched 128 innings, with 161 strikeouts, 33 walks and an ERA of 2.19.  The offense is also highlighted by 1B Danielle Gibson, who is one of 10 finalists for USA Softball’s National Player of the Year award.  Gibson bats in the leadoff spot for Arkansas, with a 0.442 average, 16 strikeouts, 14 walks and 18 home runs.  The Razorbacks offense boasts a team batting average of 0.337, 102 home runs, and 388 runs scored – all ranking 4th nationally.  3 Arkansas pitchers have ERA’s south of 3.00, including alternate starter RHP Mary Haff, who was the 2021 SEC Pitcher of the Year.  This team is dominant in all facets of the game and will be a tough outing for the Ducks.

The Ducks are 2-0 against the Razorbacks all time, winning their most recent matchup 8-7 in 2011.

Fourth Seed: Princeton: 27-15-2 (17-4 Ivy)

The Princeton Tigers are making their 11th NCAA Tournament appearance, courtesy of an Ivy League championship.  Princeton’s pitching staff is one of the best in their conference, led by Junior RHP Alexis Laudenslager.  She won Ivy League Pitcher of the Year, with a 1.93 ERA, and 138 strikeouts to just 55 walks, over 109 innings pitched.  Princeton’s other Junior RHP starter is Ali Blanchard, boasting a 2.65 ERA, 151 strikeouts and 40 walks over 105.2 innings.  In addition to those 105.2 innings, Blanchard went to the plate 85 times, batting 0.306 with a home run, 13 strikeouts and 6 walks as a Designated Player.  Including Laudenslager, the Tigers sent 6 players to the All-Ivy League 1st team.  This includes Designated Player Adrienne Chang, who leads the team in batting average (0.368).  Laudenslager, Blanchard, and Chang also represented Princeton in the NFCA 3rd Team All-Mid-Atlantic Region team, but Chang has been rotating in and out of the lineup of late.  Princeton has the worst resume of any team in this Regional.  They are ranked 122nd in RPI (highest in Ivy League) and have gone 0-2 against top-50 RPI teams this season.

Oregon won the only matchup with Princeton, a 7-0 victory in 1996. 

Final Thoughts

Oregon faces a tough road to advance through the double elimination bracket of the Regional.  While Oregon’s pitching ended the season on a strong note, Stevie Hansen has struggled with giving up home runs – the Ducks happened to draw teams in Wichita State and Arkansas that hit for the 2nd and 4th most home runs nationally.  Oregon can draw some encouragement that Wichita State has faced an easier schedule (and thus inflated statistics), but Arkansas is the champion of the SEC, which boasts nine top 25 ranked teams.  Oregon’s path to victory involves Hansen and Kliethermes riding their hot streaks from the regular season.  In the Regional, only Arkansas has elite pitching, so generating offense against the Razorbacks is key – the Ducks have a season’s worth of practice stealing bases (1.69 per game, ranked 28th nationally), and they will need all their speed to score against the Razorbacks defense. 

Final Prediction

This regional goes all chalk.  Arkansas is too good and too deep, and they end up advancing, beating Oregon twice.