Ducks advance to super regionals
EUGENE — The intensity of the moment didn’t faze Cheridan Hawkins.
In the second inning Sunday at Jane Sanders Stadium, Oregon’s senior ace walked a Baylor batter to load the bases with one out. Unrattled by the situation, Hawkins struck out the next hitter, pumped her first with a flourish, then ended the threat with a comebacker.
The intensity of the moment didn’t faze Nikki Udria, either.
In the sixth inning of Sunday’s NCAA Regional final, Udria came up with two on and none out. Udria quickly fell into an 0-2 hole, before evening the count. She patiently fouled off five of the next six pitches before, with a full count, blasted a home run to center field that gave the Ducks an eight-run lead.
Maybe there was a time, two or three years ago, when the intensity of those moments might have fazed the Ducks. But not Sunday. Not in Oregon’s 21st regional game under coach Mike White, all victories, the latest an 8-1 win over the Lady Bears before 2,098 at The Jane.
“I’m not nearly as nervous as I was the first year, and even the second,” said Hawkins, part of a third straight UO senior class that went unbeaten in four regional appearances. “Getting to play in four regionals definitely takes some of the nerves out of it.”
Oregon (47-8) handled Baylor in Sunday’s final the same way the Ducks won Friday and Saturday. They used stellar pitching, solid defense and outstanding situational hitting to finish the regional by outscoring the opposition 22-1 in three games, while allowing just 11 hits.
“They’re the most complete team I think we’ve played this year — and we’ve played some good ones,” Baylor coach Glenn Moore said. “… They were ready to play, and they were on a mission. They’re going to be hard to stop.”
Hawkins (23-3) got the win Sunday by pitching into the sixth inning, her second win in as many days over Baylor. The Ducks move on to face Pac-12 rival UCLA in the Super Regionals next weekend at home, on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m., to be followed by a tiebreaking third game if necessary. TV information is to be announced.
The only conference series the Ducks lost all season was to the Bruins, at home to open April. But Oregon third baseman Jenna Lilley missed that series due to injury. And Hawkins hadn’t yet found her groove, a groove that’s seen her go 9-0 in her last nine starts, with a 0.39 ERA and 66 strikeouts against seven walks.
“I’m looking forward to it,” White said. “Obviously UCLA is a very good team, and it should be a great matchup.”
OREGON STATE 4, USC 1: At Los Angeles, Bryce Fehmel made his first career Pac-12 Conference start, and he was pretty darn good.
The freshman held USC to six hits and an unearned run in 7 1/3 innings to help the Beavers to a series-clinching victory at Dedeaux Field.
Oregon State won the opener, 3-1, behind Travis Eckert’s complete game effort before the Trojans took game two, 10-1. The win on Sunday, meanwhile, improves Oregon State’s overall record to 32-19 with a 13-14 mark in Pac-12 play. UCLA visits Corvallis next weekend to close out the regular season.
Fehmel, who was making his fifth overall start, and 25th appearance of the season, stymied the Trojans. Jeremy Martinez went 3-for-4 to pace USC, but the rest of the lineup was just 3-for-25 against the starter.
USC (25-27, 13-14) was just 1-for-12 with runners on base against Fehmel, whose 7 1/3 innings are a season-long. He picked up the win to improve to 9-1.
Max Engelbrekt earned his 11th save of the season by throwing the game’s final 1 2/3 innings. He came on with two on in the eighth, and got out of the jam after a USC batter reached base via an error. Engelbrekt then retired the side in the ninth to close the game out.
ARIZONA 5, OREGON 4: At Eugene, Oregon scored three runs in the ninth inning and had the tying and winning runs aboard, but Arizona held on to win, and salvaged a game in the three-game series on senior day at PK Park.
Arizona (33-20, 16-14 Pac-12) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third on four hits and a Ducks’ error. A double and a single started the inning, and run came in on a single to right that Jake Bennett couldn’t handle, allowing a second run to score. A two-out single to left brought home the third run of the inning. The Wildcats picked up two more runs in the fifth, again aided by an error by the Oregon defense. Arizona loaded the bases with two outs and UO starter Matt Mercer (2-1) got a groundball that could have ended the inning, but it got past Daniel Patzlaff at third allowing two runs to score and pushing the Arizona lead to 5-0.
Oregon (28-23, 14-13 Pac-12) struggled to get things going offensively against Arizona ace Nathan Bannister (8-2). The Ducks were held to just two hits through the first seven innings before mounting a threat in the eighth, putting runners on the corners with one out after singles by Carson Breshears and Austin Grebeck. Bannister was able to escape the inning with just one run on the board, with Kyle Kasser picking up an RBI on a groundout.