SoftballSports

Preview: Washington brings rival challenge to first game of WCWS



After passing the regional and super regional tests in dramatic fashion, the No. 3 seed Oregon softball team faces a familiar opponent in the opening game of the Women’s College World Series: the No. 6 seed Washington Huskies.

The Pacific Northwest rivals played one series in Eugene earlier this season in which the Huskies won two of three games, including coming back from a deficit in game three. The two losses against Washington are Oregon’s only losses at Jane Sanders Stadium this season.

It was during a stretch in Oregon’s season where the Ducks lost three straight series to top-15 Pac-12 opponents. Losses to UCLA, Washington and Arizona derailed what had been an undefeated season to that point.

Now, Oregon is in the midst of a 15-game winning streak. The Ducks have momentum after a seventh inning comeback against Kentucky propelled them to their third WCWS appearance in six years.

“Our team just fought, and fought and fought,” head coach Mike White said. “It shows the character of our team to come back from three runs down.”

The Ducks also have No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 15 Baylor in their bracket.

Oregon clobbered Baylor in last years regionals, but the Bears are coming off a super regional upset win over Pac-12 Champion Arizona where they scored an average of five runs per game.

Oklahoma made quick work of Auburn by holding them to two runs in two games to advance to the WCWS.

Oregon, no doubt, has confidence, but Washington knows they can beat them. In Washington’s two wins, the Huskies defeated Oregon pitchers Megan Kliest and Maggie Balint. The Ducks three pitchers combine for an ERA of 1.33 which ranks fifth in the NCAA.

In both of the losses, Washington’s Ali Aguilar and Morganne Flores did damage with their bat. Aguilar combined to go 6-for-8, scoring three runs and one RBI. Flores did most of her damage in the second loss when she went 3-of-5 with four RBIs.

Washington is on par with Oregon offensively. There is only a .003 separation in batting average. In total runs scored Oregon leads while Washington leads in RBIs.

The Ducks will not just be battling Washington in the first round, but the atmosphere as well. For many Oregon players, which includes a multitude of freshmen, this will be the largest crowd they’ve ever played in front of.

The USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium has a capacity of 7,300, while Jane Sanders Stadium holds 1,500.

“Sometimes you’ve got to stop and say, ‘Hey, this is pretty special right now.'” White said. “You’ve got to go; you’ve got to be on that stage. … It  gets to another level. That’s going to be the message this week, is just playing a normal game.”

The Ducks take on the Huskies at 4 p.m. PT today on ESPN2.

Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917


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Jack Butler

Jack Butler

I am the sports editor for the Daily Emerald. I cover football and basketball. Email me at [email protected]