Dominant. Explosive. Powerful. While these adjectives have generally been used to describe the Oregon football team, they can also be applied to this year’s softball team, which has found itself ranked No. 1 in the nation for the first time in school history.
Their record as of last Saturday was 43-5, with a gaudy 16-1 record in Pac-12 play. The only loss, it should be noted, was against the then-No. 1 UCLA Bruins. The Ducks are also peaking at the right time, heading toward the end of the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. Everything has come together for coach Mike White’s team: Offense, defense and pitching are all clicking, their depth is enviable and the team’s attitude is confident and hungry – but not yet satisfied.
Their final Pac-12 series will be a challenge, despite their dominance. The No. 4-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils will come to Eugene for a three-game series starting next week, but then the Ducks will travel to the heat of Tucson for a final trifecta with the Wildcats, a fitting end to the conference season, and a last challenge before tournament play begins.
This is unique territory for Oregon, but they have handled the accolades and lofty ranking with poise. Since attaining the No. 1 slot, they haven’t faltered, outscoring their opponents, 87-21. The only game that was a narrow victory was the 4-2 victory against the Portland State Vikings in a mid-week game.
Otherwise it has been all Ducks.
Oregon is near the top of most every conference statistic, from RBIs to ERA to fielding percentage. From top to bottom, this team has shown almost no weaknesses.
They hit, pitch and catch extremely well, but it might be the improvement on defensive front that has been the biggest turnaround from last year’s squad, and the biggest reason why the Ducks are where they are right now.
Nothing is a given in college sports, and it remains to be seen whether these Ducks will continue their stellar play and contend for a national championship. Yet every fan of Oregon sports should be celebrating the achievements of this team. They are making their school proud, and going about it with integrity and honor.
Oregon is primarily known for football, but with the lesser-known programs such as the indoor track teams’ winning national championships, the Acrobatics and Tumbling winning its fourth straight NCATA National Championship, and now with the softball team in contention for a title, perhaps it is past time for the nation to take notice of Duck sports — beyond the gridiron.
Oregon’s greatness extends far beyond football, and the softball team is now adding to what has been a fantastic year for all Oregon athletics. Go Ducks!
Top photo Gary Breedlove