NCAA Softball Regional Preview: Oregon welcomes Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois-Chicago
The Oregon softball team is back in familiar territory.
Regionals begin Friday for the Ducks, who are 21-0 under head coach Mike White and have outscored opponents 116-24 along the way. They’re hoping that Illinois-Chicago, Missouri and Wisconsin will be their next victims.
This season was projected as a rebuilding one for the Ducks. Instead, they earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and home field advantage in the regionals and the super regionals. Oregon will face Chicago-Illinois at 8:30 p.m. on Friday. The result will determine the schedule for the rest of the weekend.
Friday, May 19
Game 1: Wisconsin vs. Missouri – 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2: Oregon vs. Illinois – Chicago – 8:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Saturday, May 20
Game 3: Winner game 1 vs game 2 – 2 p.m.
Game 4: Loser game 1 vs game 2 – 4:30 p.m.
Game 5: Winner game 4 vs. Loser game 3 – 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 21
Game 6: Winner game 3 vs Winner game 5 – 4 p.m.
Game 7: Repeat of game 6 (if needed) – 6:30 p.m.
Here’s a breakdown of each team:
No. 3 Oregon, 47-6, 21-2 at home
The Ducks haven’t entered the postseason as anything other than Pac-12 Champions since 2012. However, they enter 2017’s postseason with momentum. Their current 10 game winning streak features a sweep of No. 2 Florida State. It was Oregon’s most impressive series win this season. They followed it up with a sweep of Stanford the next weekend.
Oregon’s elite pitching staff has dominated teams all season. The three-headed monster that is Miranda Elish, Megan Kleist and Maggie Balint led Oregon’s pitching staff to the fifth best ERA in the country (1.31).
With so many options, White has yet to decide who he’ll name as the starter.
“I’m confident whatever pitcher we throw out there, she’ll be able to handle that club,” White said.
The Horizon League champions are a bit of a mystery for Oregon. Mainly because film is difficult to come by given the lower-level conference in which they play.
“It’s probably the least I’ve known about any team,” White said.
On paper, though, it’s clear that Illinois-Chicago is led by a strong pitching staff. Sophomore Karissa Frazier leads the team with 1.53 ERA and has only allowed one home run all season.
Offensively, Illinois-Chicago uses aggressive base running and speed. It led the Horizon League in steals, converting on 84 percent of its attempts.
Missouri and Oregon met earlier this season. The Ducks handled business and beat the Tigers by a combined score of 17-5 in their two wins.
Overall, Missouri’s pitching is struggling. It has a team ERA of 3.26 which is the highest of the four teams in the region. To make matters worse, its team batting average of .283 is also the worst in the region.
Wisconsin’s offense is led by the formidable Chloe Miller. She’s 12th in the nation in on-base percentage with a .546 average and leads the team in home runs, doubles, triples, RBIs and batting average.
Miller and her teammate Brooke Wyderki, both earned second-team regional honors by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. Wyderki batted .346 with a .449 slugging percentage in conference play.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917