With half their conference schedule complete, the Oregon Ducks’ softball team finds themselves leaping to the top. After an impressive 5-1 record in their last two series, the team is first in the conference and recently ranked No. 6 in the nation. Their success comes as little surprise after last year’s impressive run for the college world series. With that same goal in mind and a strong core of returning players, the Ducks are on pace to have their best season yet. The squad is undefeated at home and stands at 33-6 going into their series against Arizona on Friday.
The Ducks’ success can easily be broken down into what every great team boasts: pitchers and hitters. Of course, maybe that’s a little over simplified. After all, they had these things last year. But this season the team appears more polished, poised, and also bears more tools in their arsenal. Perhaps the most lethal of those tools has been Cheridan Hawkins.
Hawkins, the left-handed pitcher from Anderson, California, has already caught the attention of the conference in her debut season. The freshman has earned Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year honors three times this year – and we’re only half way done. Hawkins is 13-3, allowing 44 hits in 95.5 innings pitched and only 27 runs. She boasts an ERA of 1.46.
Hawkins came to the team as much needed relief for the Ducks’ sparse bullpen. For the last few years, pitching responsibilities landed solely on hurler Jessica Moore, who has done more than her share of carrying the team. This year with Hawkins in the mix, Moore is thriving as well.
The senior was named this week’s Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week and was recently named one of 25 finalists for the USA Softball Player of the Year. The three-time All-Pac-12 pitcher ranks 15th nationally in wins and is in Oregon’s record book for career wins, strikeouts, innings, and appearances. Between Hawkins and Moore, Oregon leads the Pac-12 in pitching with an ERA of 1.47.
While Moore and Hawkins have held down work in the circle, Oregon’s bats have been hot. The Ducks have four players hitting over .400, led by catcher Alexa Peterson (.466). Peterson also leads the team in slugging percentage (.830) and on base percentage (.544) and is third in the league for batting average. Last year, Peterson spent a majority of her time behind the plate, but with Janelle Lindvall in the catching rotation, Peterson has had the benefit of resting her legs.
Other big contributors to the team’s offensive power are Courtney Ceo, who’s hitting .405 and is third in the conference with 15 stolen bases. She also leads the squad in runs scored. Kaylan Howard (.350) and Samantha Papas (.347) have also brought solid performances to the plate. Overall, the team is second in the conference for batting average with .343 and holds onto an OBP of .402.
Oregon will play No. 17 Arizona over the weekend and then will have only three more conference series left before the end of the year. If their success at the halfway point is any indication, the Ducks have the tools and the mentality to go all the way. So long as they keep the bats hot and the pitchers at their prime, the Ducks are likely heading into their greatest finale yet.
Samantha Saldivar is on Twitter. Follow him at @SammySaldivar