Softball Season Preview

Ducks look to improve on last year’s World Series efforts

(Photo: Andrew Seng/Daily Emerald)

The University of Oregon softball team, winners of 56 games and owners of a 2-2 record in the Women’s College World Series a year ago, got 2015 off to a flying start when they went undefeated at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona.

The No. 2-ranked Ducks run-ruled three of the six teams they played, including a 9-0 win over No. 25 Texas. Junior All-American pitcher Cheridan Hawkins and freshman third baseman Jenna Lilley picked up Pac-12 pitcher of the week and player of the week awards for their performances in Arizona, with the newcomer batting .526 with eight runs scored in his first collegiate action.

Before the season began, Hawkins, Janie Takeda, and Janelle Lindvall were named to the USA Softball Top-50 Watch List, while Takeda and Lindvall were also selected to play for the USA Softball Women’s National Team. Hawkins was invited to try out for the national team but ultimately did not make the final roster of 18.

The Ducks have three more road tournaments and a swing through Texas, facing nine opponents who made last year’s NCAA tournament—including at least two matches against the defending national champion Florida Gators—before they begin play in the ultra-competitive Pac-12, where five of the nine schools are ranked in the NFCA Coaches Poll.

While last year’s leading hitter, Courtney Ceo, is now playing professionally with the USSSA Pride after being selected sixth overall in the 2014 NPF Draft, Takeda, Alyssa Gillespie, and Koral Costa—all of whom hit better than .350 last year—return for the Ducks, as does leading home run hitter Lindvall, who led the team with 13 round-trippers last season.

Hawkins, who went 35-6 with a 1.66 ERA while striking out 330 batters in 2014, will once again be a force to contend with in the circle. She will be spelled once again by Canadian National Team member Karissa Hovinga, who went 17-2 with an ERA of 1.80 in 34 appearances last year.

The Ducks’ home opener will come on March 13 when the team faces Oregon State. Seventeen games are scheduled to be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks, with a further three shown on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.

This season will be the last for 79-year-old Howe Field, as construction is set to begin on a new stadium in June. To be named Jane Sanders Stadium, after donor Robert Sanders’ late wife, the new facility will be built on the same site as the current stadium. Jane Sanders Stadium will be completed in time for the start of the 2016 season.