Ducks blank Badgers 3-0 to win NCAA regional

Ducks blank Badgers 3-0 to win NCAA regional

EUGENE – The #3 seed University of Oregon softball team (49-9) celebrated its fourth straight Super Regional bid with a 3-0 win over No. 25 Wisconsin (44-13) Saturday afternoon at Howe Field.

Offensively, the Ducks made the most of their three hits – two being homers – while its All-Pac-12 pitching duo raised their scoreless streak to 19 straight innings.

“It was great to win a Regional at home against some very good teams," Oregon head coach Mike White said. "We got better each game. Our pitching did their part, and I was even more pleased with our defense. Their pitcher was great, and even though we only had a couple hits, we had a lot of others that were hit hard, but right at them."

In the second inning, senior center fielder Samantha Pappas claimed her sixth game-winning RBI of the season in dramatic fashion with a solo homer into the left field bleachers.

The All-American from Mission Viejo, Calif., also moved into a tie for the Duck career homer record (37) shared by senior second baseman Kaylan Howard and Andrea Vidlund.

"I had an idea what to look for and did my best to hit it hard," Pappas said. "Getting to play in the postseason is such an honor, and especially at home in front of our friends and family. That will be a special memory for me for years to come."

After seventh-inninng walk to junior first baseman Kailee Cuico, freshman catcher Janelle Lindvall provided a pair of insurance runs with a two-out homer. That drive over the right center field wall stood as her 12th round-tripper of 2013 and moved her into a tie for eighth all-time in a season for UO.
 
Oregon’s other hit came on a single by sophomore left fielder Janie Takeda to open the game. That grounder past the diving shortstop moved her into a tie for most hits by a Duck in a season (87) with Lisa Wangler’s total from 2001.

In the circle, the Ducks staked their second straight shutout and 16th of the season after allowing only four Badger hits - all singles in different innings.

Freshman Cheridan Hawkins (18-5) won her first postseason start, struck out three, gave up two hits, walked none, and hit two batters.

UW best chance to score came in the second inning when it put runners on second and third base with one out on a single, hit by pitch and double steal.

The All-Pac-12 First-Team choice answered with a strikeout, then threw out the runner at third base after an attempted delayed suicide squeeze bunt.

White inserted senior Jessica Moore into the game in the fifth inning, and the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year finished her 16th contest of the campaign.

En route to her second save of the season, the All-American from Sutter, Calif., struck out four, walked none and allowed two hits in the final three innings.

“Cheridan mixed up her speeds well," White said. "She did exactly what we wanted and then Jess came in and switched it up on them. The luxury of having Jess coming off the bench is very nice. These players have worked hard for everything they get.”

In the circle for the Badgers, All-Big Ten pitcher Cassandra Darrah (27-7) notched her 27th complete game of the season. The junior right-hander struck out five, walked three, allowed three hits and all three runs allowed were earned.

"I thought our team played hard and gave everything we had," Darrah said. "I felt pretty good today and thought I pitched better than my prior grames this weekend."

At the plate for the Big Ten Tournament Champions, third baseman Michelle Mueller went 2-for-3, and two others hit safely once.

"It's tough to end a season that had so many key wins," Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy said, "but we can't be disappointed. Our kids did a phenomenal job against a group of great players. We have a lot to be proud of and gave them a run for their money. We picked up a lot of good experience against some great pitchers, and we can continue to develop into an even better team."

Raising its record in NCAA Regional play to 12-0 under White, the Ducks opened the tourney the previous two days with Moore's complete games over BYU (3-0) and North Carolina (5-2).

Earlier in the weekend, Wisconsin bounced back from a 3-2 loss to North Carolina in Thursday’s opener with Friday victories over BYU (6-0) and UNC (6-2).

“I though Wisconsin did an amazing job," White said. "Both teams played extremely well today. I thought their pitchers did a great job. It was the best defensive performance for us that I’ve seen in a long time.”

Moore was later tabbed the Regional MVP, and five others were selected to the All-Regional Team - Courtney Ceo (SS), Alexa Peterson (C/DP), Lindvall, Howard and Takeda.  Three Badgers were also selected - Shannel Blackshear (1B), Stephanie Peace (SS) and Darrah - as was UNC's Elisha Elliott (OF).

Looking ahead to Sunday evening, the Ducks will find out the dates and times of next weekend’s Super Regional dates vs. the Lincoln, Neb., Regional winner.

All 16 Super Regional sites will feature two teams in two-day, best-of-three game format, with every tilt televised by various ESPN channels.

Those winners will advance to the eight-team, double-elimination Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, May 30-June 5.

The Ducks claimed their second-ever WCWS bid last year after it took the Austin, Texas Super Regional by a 2-1 count.

Counting Oregon's second straight regional title at home Saturday, the program is is now 15-6 overall in the postseason under White in his four years at the helm (with 13 of those wins staked by Moore).

"It will be really nice to stay at home next week," Moore said, "especially with us still being in class. We can sleep in our own beds while someone else has to travel. The crowds keep getting bigger and bigger, and we have had great fan support which makes a huge difference."