The Oregon Ducks’ softball team took their next step in the playoffs last Sunday afternoon, by defeating the Wisconsin Badgers to wrap up the Oregon-hosted regional. The next step is to the NCAA Super Regionals, but judging by their collective calm and cool body language, you would’ve never guessed it. They just completed a three-game sweep of the Eugene Regional and outscored their opponents by a combined score of 24-2 over the weekend. Yet, they didn’t celebrate — and for good reason.
What they know is they are in the very same situation as last year, after getting through the Eugene Regional relatively easily. Their No. 3 tournament seed gave them the opportunity to host a Super Regional against the No. 14-seed Nebraska Cornhuskers, a team that many considered underdogs against the Ducks.
But it didn’t matter; the Ducks were unable to match Nebraska’s intensity and lost in two out of three games to the Cornhuskers, trailing in all but one inning.
It’s been almost a year since their heartbreaking loss in the Super Regionals, but the Ducks haven’t forgotten. As they prepare for this weekend’s Super Regionals against the Minnesota Gophers, the Ducks are trying to avoid letting outside voices distract the team from their ultimate goal: winning the College Softball World Series.
“Hopefully we don’t listen to the talk because last year with Nebraska coming in, everyone was saying ‘I’m booking my tickets, I’m doing this’ and I think sometimes you let all of that get to you,” White said on Sunday. ”When we were named N0. 1, it didn’t change [our approach], now we’ve gone through the regional, it’s not going to change. Hopefully we don’t listen to the outside influences and we focus on the mission … to be in the final eight and then the last [team] standing.” Left fielder Janie Takeda, who received Regional MVP honors by batting .545 with 5 RBIs over the weekend, had an interesting take on the Ducks’ current status as they head into the Super Regionals.
“This year, I feel like we’re still on the rise.”
Even though your team is currently ranked No. 1 in the country and the “team to beat” in the NCAA Softball Tournament? “Our standard is so high,” Takeda said. ”We all know what we’re capable of. Until one through nine is reaching their high potential, we’re always getting better.”
If the rest of the team shares Takeda’s belief, the sky is the limit for the Ducks. Although they are hungry and not even close to satisfied in their current position, there was still a sense of achievement among players. “There’s a high level of satisfaction,” Karissa Hovinga said after earning the win in the circle, Sunday. “Wisconsin’s a good team, and you can’t take anyone lightly.”
It’s safe to say the Ducks players and coaches will not be taking any team lightly after last season’s disappointing ending to Nebraska. Going into Super Regionals as the top-ranked team in the tournament is uncharted territory for the Ducks, but they don’t seem to care. It’s “OKC or Bust” for this year’s team. And they plan to go there and win their last game.
Top Photo by Will Denner