It’s official – the regular season for women’s softball has come to a close, but the competitive fire is just beginning to ignite. Oregon finished as the top team in the Pac-12, winning its fourth consecutive Pac-12 title. The Ducks don’t want to stop there, though; the ultimate goal is a national championship and they are willing to obtain it at any cost. Standing in their way are the UCLA Bruins, who the Ducks will face in the NCAA Super Regionals – and they mean business.
– Oregon Duck Softball (@OregonSB) May 24, 2016
After finishing the regular season 38-13-1, the Bruins have clawed their way into the No. 12 seed heading into the Super Regionals. The Bruins finished the year in impressive fashion with a nine-game win streak, and they are hungry for more. After finishing off Cal State Fullerton in the Regionals, UCLA is looking on with just as much passion as the Ducks.
Earlier in the year, UCLA seemed to be Oregon’s kryptonite. The Ducks dropped a three-game home stand against the Bruins, coming away with only one win in the series. The Bruins came into Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene and made a statement. Since then, the Ducks have regrouped and faltered only twice.
If there’s one team that could potentially end the Ducks’ run to glory, it’s UCLA. They know how to play against the Ducks and match up well. There’s an old saying: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch – meaning although UCLA is a worthy adversary, UO will come to play – and here’s why.
In previous articles, I’ve discussed the separate categories the Ducks have dominated within the Pac-12. Their core strength doesn’t rely on one specific group; the team as a whole contributes in every way possible.
As a team the Ducks lead their division in: batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, runs batted in, doubles, home runs and total bases. That’s quite an extensive and impressive list when you think about the teams Oregon has gone toe-to-toe against.
It isn’t just hitting where the Ducks have thrived, though; they have managed to put up astounding pitching numbers, also. The list begins here with: earned run average, opposing batting average, strikeouts, wins, walks allowed and hits allowed.
UCLA has managed to lead the Ducks only in categories such as walks and saves. The reason UCLA could present an issue against Oregon is the team’s ability to stay patient at the plate. If the Bruins can play smart and rely on their ability to draw walks, they will use that to their advantage.
Names, numbers, stats and trends.
Everything you need to know for the 2016 NCAA softball super regionals: https://t.co/fWyjbQMY2I
— espnW (@espnW) May 24, 2016
The main issue for UCLA comes down to limiting their strikeouts. Over the course of the year, the Bruins struck out 218 times. Although this is a fairly reasonable number, the Ducks’ pitching staff led the league in strikeouts with 389. Being able to refrain from swinging is easier said than done, especially when you need to score runs to win. The post-season is a different beast than the regular season, and if the Bruins want a shot at advancing, they’ll need to rely on their primary strength.
The Ducks have been a force to be reckoned with all season long. They powered their way through the season and finished with a Pac-12 title and a 47-8 record. Coming off two solid wins in the regional round against No. 17 Baylor, the Ducks are ready for the Bruins. The success for the Ducks comes from their ability to rely on what has gotten them this far.
Head coach Mike White has managed to keep his team focused and staying in their lanes menatally. They aren’t working themselves too hard or attempting new things. Their arms on the mound, led by senior Cheridan Hawkins and freshman Megan Kleist, dominate in impressive fashion, while getting run support from the bats at the dish.
This intra-division battle is what people are excited to see as the Ducks lace ’em up against the Bruins on Saturday, May 28, for their first heavyweight bout in Eugene. Oregon is the first major opponent in the way of the Bruins as they try to return to glory with another title – they swept Arizona in 2010. The Ducks will seek its first national championship and is capable of hoisting the trophy at the end of it all.
NCAA Game Center is predicting the Ducks will take Game 1 with a 71 percent chance and a 67 percent chance for Game 2. UCLA is a team that has played well against the Ducks, but at the end of the day I think this is the year of Oregon’s rise to championship form.
Top Photo by Dave Peaks