Softball earns No. 3 overall seed, will host Illinois-Chicago, Wisconsin, Missouri in NCAA Regionals

A strong end to the regular season once again netted Oregon softball home field advantage in the NCAA Tournament.

The Ducks (47-6), winners of 10 straight games, earned the No. 3 overall seed on Sunday night and will face Illinois-Chicago (38-20) to open their postseason run on Friday. The Ducks also welcome Wisconsin (33-15) and Missouri (29-26) to town as part of the NCAA Regional round.

“Every team’s difficult at this point,” head coach Mike White said.

White, 21-0 in regional round games, said playing at home to open the NCAA Tournament was the program’s No. 1 goal entering the 2017 season.

Oregon was just part of the Pac-12 dominance atop the rankings. No. 2 Arizona, No. 5 UCLA and No. 6 Washington also represent the conference in the top eight seeds.

“I think it says a lot about the Pac-12 this year that we’re very strong,” White said. “Hopefully that will continue into the postseason.”

If the seeds hold, the Ducks are in line to host No. 14-seeded Kentucky during Memorial Day weekend in the NCAA Super Regional round.

Of the three teams coming to Eugene this weekend, Oregon saw just one of them during the regular season. The Ducks picked up two wins over then-ranked No. 24 Missouri in early March.

“I think the key to this weekend is to never underestimate any opponent,” senior Danica Mercado said. “We really focus on taking one game at a time. The regional — it’s postseason. Anyone can win any given day.”

The Ducks lost three consecutive series during the heart of Pac-12 play to UCLA, Washington and Arizona. But then Oregon responded with a sweep of Oregon State before arguably its biggest series win of the year, a sweep of then-No. 2 Florida State in Eugene.

“I think we’re on a good path right now,” Mercado said. “I think the ball is rolling in the right direction.”

Oregon opens NCAA Tournament play with an ESPNU-televised game against Illinois-Chicago on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Jane Sanders Stadium.

Follow Jonathan Hawthorne on Twitter @Jon_Hawthorne

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Jonathan Hawthorne

Jonathan Hawthorne

Jonathan was an associate sports editor during the 2016-17 school year and worked at the Emerald from 2013-17. He covered women's basketball and football.