Oregon Conference Update: It’s Championship Time

Kailee Cuico (center) is mobbed by teammates after hitting a home-run against Washington

The playoff season is in full swing for all three major spring sports. While Oregon baseball showed signs of promise toward the end of the regular season, track and field took home Pac-12 Championships in both the men and women’s categories. After clinching its second trip the the Women’s College World Series in three season, top-ranked Oregon softball team can smell a national championship. Let’s take a look at how these teams got where they are and where they are headed next.

Baseball

After a six-game winning streak, the Ducks lost the final two games in a home series vs the Cal Bears. Oregon finished the season 42-18 overall and 18-12 in the Pac-12, which was good for third in the conference.

Oregon’s pitching was particularly stellar throughout the win streak. After beating Pacific 14-8, the pitching staff surrendered just six runs in the following five games.

Oregon baseball heads to Nashville on Thursday for the NCAA Regionals.

Oregon baseball heads to Nashville on Thursday for the NCAA Regionals.

The most crucial victory of the streak, and of the season, came Tuesday as the Ducks finally defeated No. 1-ranked Oregon State in a 6-2 home victory. The Ducks had lost their first four contests against the Beavers. Shaun Chase, who finished 1st in the Pac-12 with 12 home runs, hit two long balls. One of them, a monstrous three-run shot in the seventh and capped a five-run inning for the Ducks.

Jeff Gold finished the regular season with 23 career wins, which tied a school record set by Alex Kuedell, in 2012. Leading the conference, Gold allowed just 8 earned runs all season.

While Mitchell Tolman’s .315 batting average led the team, both Aaron Payne and Tyler Baumgartner were effective top-of-the-order hitters. Both remained healthy and finished the season first and second in plate appearnaces, respectively, in the Pac-12. Payne also led the conference, by far, by being hit 28 times by pitches. However, Tolman (57) and Payne (50) led the conference in strikeouts.

Regionals begin this Friday at 10 a.m., when Oregon faces Clemson (36-23) in Nashville, Tennessee. The double-elimination regional also includes Vanderbilt, the host, (41-18) and Xavier (29-27).

Softball

Oregon softball, ranked first in the country for the last six weeks, rose to the occasion and will return the Women’s College World Series after defeating Minnesota in the super regional. The series win marks the Ducks’ second appearance in the WCWS in the past three seasons.

Cheridan Hawkins

Gary Breedlove

Cheridan Hawkins

The Ducks were absolutely dominant in their three regional matches at home. After conquering Utah Valley 12-1, Oregon beat Wisconsin 6-1 and 6-0 in the final two games to advance.

In the super regional series vs Minnesota at Howe Field, Oregon dismissed the Golden Gophers with 10-2 and 6-2 victories.

Oregon proved that it was worthy of the nation’s top ranking, dominating in both the batter’s box and the diamond. The Ducks drove in an astounding 40 runs in five playoff games while allowing just six. Currently 5-0 in postseason play, Oregon’s closest game ended up being the 6-2 victory vs Minnesota, that clinched a trip to the WCWS.

For the entire season, Oregon is third in the country in batting average (.349) and tenth in e.r.a. (1.81). Courtney Ceo leads the nation with a .492 batting average.

Oregon’s first game of the WCWS in Oklahoma City is at 11:30 a.m., Thursday morning against Florida State.

Track and Field

Laura Roesler

Gary Breedlove

Laura Roesler

The third-ranked men and women both won Pac-12 Championships in Pullman, Wash., last weekend. The men moved from fourth to third in the national rankings after taking home the title. The men also totaled 176 points in the meet while the women racked up 163.25.

Jenna Prandini took home the Athlete of the Meet award by finishing first in long jump, 100-meter dash, and 200-meter dash. Prandini is the the first woman to win three events in the Pac-12 Championships since UCLA’s Seilala Sue in 1999. Jenna ended up gaining 38 points for the Duck women’s squad.

Laura Roesler, Sam Crouser, and Phyllis Francis all took home their third individual Pac-12 Championships. The Ducks also set multiple Mooberry Field records.

Oregon now heads to Fayetteville, Ark., to compete in the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds beginning on Thursday and ending Saturday.

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Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan

Jack is a journalism student at the University of Oregon. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Jack has been interested in sports journalism since middle school. He wrote for his high school newspaper, as well as two high school sports websites (prep2prep and Patch). In college, Jack covered both high school and college sports for Lane Today. He aspires to be a beat reporter covering a major professional sports team.