What makes Oregon softball so great? With rainy springs and aging facilities, the deck seems stacked against the Ducks, but they have a secret weapon: Coach Mike White. The Duck softball squad rides high these days, ranked No. 1 for much of last season and currently sitting in second place nationally, they have become a force in collegiate softball.
White, a New Zealand native, came to the Ducks with impressive credentials: a Hall of Fame pitcher, he led the United States to a World Championship bronze medal in 2000 when he went 2-0 with a .89 ERA and 19 strikeouts. This isn’t White’s first tour with the Ducks. He coached as an assistant in 2003 and 2004, helping the team reach the regional finals each year. His strength as a pitcher and a teacher has helped the Duck pitching staff to become one of the strongest in the nation.
Jessica Moore, White’s first great Oregon pitcher, won the Pac-12 pitcher of the year honors in 2013 and helped propel the USA team to a silver medal in the world championships the same year. Even though Moore has graduated to the national team, the cupboard isn’t bare at Howe Field. Junior Cheridan Hawkins continues the Oregon tradition of intimidating batters. She holds the Oregon single-season record for strikeouts and is intent on helping the Ducks reach another Women’s College World Series. Senior Karissa Hovinga, a Canadian national team member who went 17-2 last season, backs up Hawkins.
Though the Ducks got knocked out of the Women’s College World Series last year, White said of the experience, “We want to make the experience in the CWS the standard for us. We can’t be afraid of the Florida and Alabama names.”
And what about those rainy springs? Yet another challenge for White and his staff, Oregon plays its preseason on the road with long swings through the southland. “Bad weather is something for us to handle, something for us to overcome.” Howe Field is much like its neighbor, Mac Court; iconic, beloved but sadly out-dated. Never fear, Duck fans, help is on the way – Oregon is building a new stadium on the site of Howe Field, the Jane Sanders Stadium will be ready in 2016, just in time for another run at the National Championship.
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