The Ducks are seeded second in the NCAA Softball Playoffs, but the selection committee did Oregon no favors when they filled out the bracket. It’s the only one in the tournament with four conference champions: Oregon from the Pac-12, Fresno State from the Mountain West, North Dakota State from the Summit and BYU from the West Coast Conference. All are worthy of their standing and all have very good pitchers.
Before the Pac-12 season began, Coach Mike White said his team would have to develop in two areas to seriously contend for a national championship. One was the improvement of his 4, 5, and sixth place hitters. He specifically named Hailey Decker as someone the team must rely upon. Decker has responded to White’s challenge; at the time of his interview, she was hitting .298, but she’s improved to a cool .338 with an outstanding slugging percentage of .632. Overall the Duck squad averages a hitting percentage of .370 against their opponents, one of the best in the nation.
White also wanted to see a second pitcher emerge to back up Cheridan Hawkins. Hawkins is arguably the best pitcher in college softball, but fans worry that she might be pressured to perform too often. In her last game against Arizona, she was stung by five home runs. Backup pitchers Karissa Hovinga and have a combined record of 17-3, but neither seems to have to stamina to last an entire game. Perhaps the key to winning the whole shooting match will be getting large enough to rest Hawkins.
The series kicks off Thursday afternoon with the North Dakota State and Fresno State tilt starting at 2 pm and Ducks taking on BYU at 5 pm. Apparently, ESPN didn’t think enough of Oregon to slot them into their coverage, so the only way for you to catch the games is to watch on GoDucks.com or snap up a couple of the few remaining tickets at the Duck ticket office.