It’s not yet spring, but the University of Oregon softball team already has 16 games under their belt and stand with a strong 13-3 record. Since the beginning of February, the Duck women have been busy on the road, competing with teams from around the nation including Florida, Oklahoma, and Hawaii. The preseason has not only served as a way to shake off the rust and prepare for conference play but has also been a challenge in itself.
The 16 games I spoke of have been played in a total of 10 days. That’s 5-6 games a weekend (including Friday) and none of them have been at home – take a second to compare that to the baseball team which has only seen 8 games. Between travel, practices, and keeping up with school it’s not hard to imagine that the last few weeks have been packed and hectic. Just this Monday, the team flew into PDX in the early morning hours, arriving in Eugene at 3am. By Friday they’ll be flying back out to Orlando, Florida for six games. And the Ducks certainly aren’t the only softball team in the nation with this kind of strenuous schedule. It’s exactly what the top teams are doing to prepare for another shot at the College World Series – the very prize Oregon already has their eyes set on.
The Ducks recently closed out the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs with a 5-0 record – their first perfect weekend of the month. Ranked No. 10 in the nation, they will face off against No. 11 LSU and No. 14 Michigan this weekend at the Citrus Classic. The competition will be a good test for the squad as Oregon’s only losses have come against ranked teams including No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 4 Florida, and No. 20 Hawaii. The Ducks initially started their preseason ranked No. 5 in the nation and will fight to hold onto a top ten ranking in Orlando.
The multitude of games has provided Oregon many opportunities to give freshman and other new players time on the field. Though the team has a strong backbone of returning starters, the Ducks will also benefit from extra relief and depth on the bench this season. Most notably All-American pitcher Jessica Moore will have Cheridan Hawkins, a left handed freshman, to ease some of the load in the circle. Behind the plate, Junior Alexa Peterson will also have a chance to rest the knees with the help of Freshman Janelle Lindvall. Both Hawkins and Lindvall have already made appearances in preseason tournaments and will be essential in providing the Ducks with security at crucial positions.
Despite the strain of their current schedule, Oregon is preparing for an equally competitive regular season in conference play. Two other Pac-12 teams (No. 2 Arizona, No. 8 California) are ranked in the top 10 and 7 total are in the top 20.
Overall, despite facing one of the more rigorous preseason grinds of college sports, the softball team is well on their way to making big strides come spring. They have the returners, the mentality, and in the last month have been building plenty of experience. It may be early, but the Ducks are invested in national dominance and are quickly putting in the work to get there.