The weather in Eugene has been remarkably pristine for this early in the spring and the Oregon Ducks are taking full advantage of its presence. It seems these blue skies have provided the Ducks with just the right amount of vitamin D to succeed.
It has sparked momentum in both the baseball and softball teams, who sit in the top-10 of their respective rankings. After sweeping the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, the Ducks got off to a great start in their outdoor season with a lusty performance Saturday at Hayward Field with the Oregon Preview.
Let’s take a look at what’s next for the run-hungry machines.
Oregon is coming off the weekend with a conference sweep of Utah (9-13, 0-6 Pac-12) and has moved to the top of the Pac-12 rankings along side Washington (16-5-1, 5-1 Pac-12) and UCLA (14-8, 5-1 Pac-12), after the Oregon State Beavers dropped their first series at home since March 2012, to Arizona State over the weekend.
The Ducks have won five straight conference games since losing the home opener to USC and the Utah sweep was capped with a 3-1 win after Shaun Chase hit a two-run home run to break away from the Utes in the seventh. The USA Today baseball coaches’ poll now has Oregon at No. 8, just one spot behind the Beavs, who many believe to be the team to beat in the Pac-12.
Oregon will travel to the Bay Area to play San Francisco in a two game midweek series before a three game series against Stanford this weekend. A series with the Washington Huskies also lurks just around the corner in early April.
A week after falling in the final at the Pepsi Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu, Oregon (23-3, 3-0 Pac-12) softball routed the Utah Utes (11-12, 1-4 Pac-12) in a three-game sweep to open up Pac-12 play in Provo. Oregon is currently ranked No. 3 in the country in the NFCA poll after dropping from No. 2 – which was the highest in school history – with the loss in Hawaii.
Against the Utes, senior catcher Alexa Peterson and senior Kailee Cuico matched one another’s performance in back-to-back games, as both Peterson and Cuico exploded for grand slams and six RBIs to lead the Ducks in completing the sweep. Sophomore Koral Costa also had an outstanding game, going 3-4 with two solo home runs.
The conference sweep is just the start the team needs if they want to make a run to the Women’s College World Series. Last season, Oregon was upset in a three-game Super Regional series against Nebraska in Eugene.
The Ducks will stay in the state of Utah for a double header against BYU and Southern Utah on Tuesday, before returning home to host No. 5 Washington (21-6, 2-2 Pac-12), as play continues in the highly competitive Pac-12 conference.
Just a week after winning the indoor championships for both men and women, the Ducks were in action on Saturday at the Oregon Preview – a non-scoring invitational meet — and everyone is wondering: Can the Ducks sweep the outdoor championships, as well?
A few Oregon stars sat out Saturday but Hayward Field fans got an opportunity to see the new set of freshmen, transfers and beloved returning athletes that are continuing to fulfill the TrackTown dream.
Christian Brennan, freshman from Ontario, Canada, won the 200- and 400-meter hurdles just a week after running on the 4×400-meter team in Albuquerque, NM, and Lauren Crockett set a career best in the high jump with a 6.050 meters, tied for third best in Oregon history.
The Duck men also had strong performances by junior Johnathan Cabral, who finished first in the men’s 110-meter hurdles with a time of 13.77, and sophomore Matt Hidalgo tied for first in the men’s pole vault with a final jump of 5.00 meters.
For track buffs, the NCAA Outdoor track and field rankings will be released March 25 via USTFCCCA.com and every Tuesday following. They will compete next at the San Diego State Invitational beginning March 27.
Top photo by Gary Breedlove