Ducks and Wildcats Split Softball Doubleheader Behind Elite Pitching and Stranded Runners

by Jackson Elliott

Oregon Softball is now 33-14 overall and 11-9 in the PAC-12, while Arizona is now 34-10 overall, 11-7 in the conference after Saturday’s doubleheader against the Wildcats. The Ducks will carry a 2-1 series lead into the finale Sunday afternoon, knowing that they at least have a series split against a very strong Arizona team.

Game 1 was a 1-0 pitchers duel between Brooke Yanez and Alyssa Denham, with only 10 hits given up between the two of them. Yanez struck out 12 batters, her best performance since the UCLA series. She got herself out of multiple tough situations with Arizona runners in scoring positions through strikeouts and groundouts, including once in the 2nd after giving up a leadoff triple. 5th inning back to back doubles made the difference for the Ducks, one being from Deijah Pangilinan, her first extra-base hit of the season. The other was from Haley Cruse, who finished the game 3-3, just a home run short of the cycle. Cruse talked about her turnaround mentally in the postgame press conference. “This weekend, I was really just focusing on getting out of my own way… I’ve been so focused on trying to hunt the right pitch… so this weekend I just went up there and didn’t want to have an approach, as ironic as that sounds.” She goes on to mention how she’s been playing more freely, and how this has been the key to getting back to her best after struggling with pitchers figuring her out. Clearly it worked.

Game 2 was most of the same, behind starters Samaria Diaz for Oregon and Hanah Bowen for Arizona, and relievers Makenna Kliethermes and Raegan Breedlove for the Ducks and Alyssa Denham for the Wildcats. Offensive outbursts late won the game 4-3 for Arizona, with Allie Skaggs crushing a 2-run homer in the 5th and Carlie Scupin bringing in another two with a single in the 6th. The story of the game for both sides was the stranded runners: Arizona with 6 and Oregon with 8. The Ducks put on an anti-bunting clinic, popping out bunts three times with runners in scoring position. However, Cruse did complete her two-game cycle with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the 1st.

Despite the tough loss, Coach Meylissa Lombardi continues to be proud of this Oregon Ducks team. She has preached their mentality and what it means to the program since day 1 of her tenure and she continues to stress the difference that it makes for them. “When you get to college, physically, everybody has it… I think your mentality is the difference maker, and I think this team had no choice but to have from day one and I think it was our foundation. From there, each year, it’s grown. I love watching their fight, I love when somebody jumps ahead of us that they come right back the next inning and score. This team doesn’t get panicked, they always stay poised, they have excellent composure and they expect to win.” This elite mentality has continued to make the difference for the Ducks, with six one-run wins on the season and only the one loss this evening. The final series next weekend away at Cal and the postseason following look bright for the Ducks as they are “peaking at the right time”, per Haley Cruse. Don’t miss the series finale against Arizona at 12 noon tomorrow though. It promises to be yet another nail biter. Follow live on Twitter @KWVAsports

Ducks Rally After Slow Start to Win Series vs. Huskies

Saturday afternoon the Oregon Ducks (28-11) faced off against the Washington Huskies (17-22) in game two of their three game series this weekend. It was a sluggish start from the Ducks offensively, who only got three hits in the first six innings, however a rally in the seventh lead to the 5-1 victory. 

            The rally was led by Sophomore Outfielder Tanner Smith who got things rocking for the Ducks with a three-run homer. The Ducks efforts were saw through in the eighth by an RBI triple from Josh Kasevich and a RBI double from Sam Olsson to push the Ducks run total to five. 

Kolby Somers came to relief in the eighth and earned the Save. Here’s what todays closer had to say about the Duck’s resiliency, “I think we are in a really good spot right now, it doesn’t matter if we’re down 5,10 runs, we always believe we are going to win the game until the very last out, that’s what makes this group pretty special…”

            Washington pitcher Tyson Guerrero got the start today and played well, pitching six innings, allowing zero runs and only three hits. For the Huskies, things fell apart in the seventh after Gabe Smith gave up the three-run shot. The Huskies weren’t able to recover, and only recorded one more hit after the seventh inning. Their only run of the day came from a wild pitch that allowed DH Michael Brown to steal home plate in the fifth inning. 

Coach Wasikowski spoke after the game about the Ducks performance. 

 “[It] Would have been an easy game in several situations to give in and allow runs, or give in and have quicker innings and at-bats and we didn’t do either. I thought it was a good sign.” He later stated, “You gotta earn beating them, and I think that’s what we did today.”

            The Ducks bullpen stayed strong today as Coach Wasikowski used four pitchers. Cullen Kafka started the game and pitched 5.2 innings with six strikeouts and one ER. Nico Tellache relieved him after a two-runner-on-base situation, but was able to get the Ducks out of the sixth inning. Andrew Mosiello faced two batters earning one strikeout, and as mentioned before, Somers came in and earned the save. In total, the Ducks threw 14 strikeouts, against just six hits. 

            Today’s victory can be equated to resiliency from the Ducks, who saw connections with the bat early on, but good fielding from the Huskies resulted in no offense.

Both teams batted in the .200s, with the Ducks finishing at .233, and Washington at .214. The Huskies struck out looking eleven times, and couldn’t muster any offense while on base earlier in the game, leaving a total of eight runners on base. Oregon Outfielder Tanner Smith finished today’s game with a HR and 3 RBIs, and was helped out by teammates Josh Kasevich and Sam Olsson who both added RBIs as well. 

            The Ducks will host the Huskies in the final game of the series on Sunday at noon here in Eugene, Oregon. Follow live on Twitter with KWVA – @KWVASports.