AUSTIN, Texas - The #11 seeded University of Oregon softball team (42-16) opened action in its third straight Super Regional with a hard-fought 4-2 loss at #6-seeded Texas (47-11) Friday night.
“It’s a game of inches, and they made a couple of key plays when they needed,” Oregon head coach Mike White said. “We had opportunities to score early, but didn’t capitalize. I was proud of the way we fought back in the sixth and seventh innings. We were one swing away from tying the game both times. The third baseman made a great play on a hit by our pitcher that would have scored at least one run, maybe two. Those are the differences in the game."
After a scoreless first three innings, the Longhorns scored one run in the fourth, then added its last three runs in the fifth.
After it left single runners on base in each of the first five innings, the Ducks answered with its its first run in the sixth on sophomore Kailee Cuico's two-out solo homer.
Oregon brought the tying run to the plate three batters later after senior Christie Nieto walked, and sophomore Alexa Peterson doubled down the left field line, six feet below the top of the wall.
However, Texas starter Blaire Luna (22-5) answered with a swinging strikeout to end the inning.
In the seventh inning, UO scored again with junior Kaylan Howard and senior Kelsey Chambers both singled with two outs. Howard came around on to score on a failed pick-off attempt on Chambers near first base after she had strayed too far on a wild pitch in the dirt.
A four-pitch walk to Cuico put runners on first and second, but a ground-out to first base ended the game.
"We never gave up," Cuico said. "Once we started to get familiar with her, we started getting better looks, so we're not ready to go down without a fight. Jess and Blaire both pitched well, so it'll be another good game tomorrow."
At the plate for Oregon, Cuico (2-for-3) and Howard (2-for-4) led UO in hits, and three others hit safely once - Chambers (1-for-4), Nieto (1-for-2) and Peterson (1-for-2).
On Duck all-time lists, Cuico improved to seventh for homers in a season (12) and moved into a tie for the team season lead with Howard. The latter player also moved up two places on the Duck season total bases list to sixth (110).
So far in the postseason after four games, Howard is pacing UO in hitting (.462, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI), and five others are above .300 - Pappas (.375, 6H, 2 2B, 2 RBI), Janie Takeda (.364, 4H, 2 RBI), Nieto (.333, 3H, 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI), Cuico (.308, 4 H, HR, 2 RBI) and Peterson (.300, 3 H, 2B, 3 RBI).
In the circle for UO Friday, junior Jessica Moore (30-13) pitched the first five innings, struck out three, walked none, allowed eight hits, and all four of her runs allowed were earned.
Freshman Karissa Hovinga made her postseason debut, and pitched a scoreless sixth inning that included a strikeout, no walks and one hit allowed.
Texas scored the game's first run in the fourth inning after Courtney Craig led off with a double off the left center field wall. She advanced to third base on an infield grounder, then scored on a ground-out to shortstop.
An inning later in the fifth, UT put two runners on with two outs after Taylor Hoagland and Lexy Bennett singled. Nadia Taylor followed with her 11th homer of the season and fourth of the postseason over the left field wall on a 1-1 pitch.
At the plate for UT, three batters hit safely multiple times - Hoagland (2-for-3), Taylor (2-for-3) and Craig (2-for-3).
In the circle for the Longhorns, Luna struck out 10 - a Duck opponent season high. The three-time All-Big 12 honoree walked three, yielded five hits, and her one run allowed was earned in her 21st complete game of the campaign.
Looking ahead, the two teams return for the second game of the three-game series Saturday at 2 p.m. Pacific Time (4 p.m. local Central Time).
A would-be third game would follow immediately after Saturday evening at approximately 4:30 p.m., and both games will be televised by ESPN.