Jordan Ingram reporting for FishDuck.com from Howe Field in Eugene, Ore.
The Oregon Ducks softball team will begin the last leg of the regular season with a No. 1 national ranking for the second straight year under head coach Mike White. The two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year has been down this road before.
— Oregon Duck Softball (@OregonSB) May 5, 2015
Last season’s heartbreaking 2-0 loss to Alabama in the NCAA Women’s College World Series kept the Ducks out of the championship game. This year, White says the goal is to win it all.
“We have our eye on the big prize,” White said. “Not only the conference championship, but the big prize, the championship. To do that, we’ve got to go out there and play these three-game sets, and we’ve got to win the sets.”
Oregon’s latest sweep of No. 18 California at Howe Field over the weekend was the Ducks fourth consecutive three-game series sweep for the first time in program history.
The Ducks (44-5 overall, 19-2 Pac-12) continue to rake in conference awards on a weekly basis. Most recently, junior Hailey Decker and freshman Lauren Lindvall were honored as Pac-12 Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week.
With a deep roster led by two all-Americans, junior pitcher Cheridan Hawkins and senior outfielder Janie Takeda, the Ducks are having a season for the history books. In the latest NCAA statistics, the Ducks rank 2nd in team batting average (.370) and win/loss percentage (.898).
Despite these impressive numbers, Takeda says the Ducks must remain focused.
“This whole season we’ve had our ups and our downs,” Takeda said. “But I think it’s starting to get more consistent and that’s what we’re really focused on is consistency, continually showing up and playing Oregon softball.”
Takeda is determined to guide her team to another World Series appearance. And she’s leading by example: this season, the two-time all-American has broken three school records – most career hits, most stolen bases, and most runs scored.
The overall mood around the program is upbeat, as the Ducks have a lot to be proud of as they prepare for their final road series at No. 17 Arizona. But there is still a lot of work to do if the Ducks want a shot at a national title.
“I think we’re feeling pretty good about our game right now, but we know that can change quickly,” White said. “So, we’re still going to work hard and approach each game with the cliche of one pitch at a time. It’s what we’ve got to do. We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Top photo by Dave Peaks