NCAA super regionals: Oregon advances to Women's College World Series
After Arizona was eliminated yesterday, the Pac-12 was down to three representatives in the 2014 NCAA softball super regionals. With tickets to the Women's College World Series on the line, Sunday proved to be cruel to some and delightful to others.
The Oregon Ducks are on their way to Oklahoma City, Okla. after beating Minnesota 6-2 Sunday to sweep the Eugene super regional. The No. 1 Ducks will head to the Women's College World Series for the second time in three years and will meet Florida State beginning on May 29.
— Oregon Duck Softball (@OregonSB) May 26, 2014
Sunday's game 2 saw the Ducks at their finest, getting big production from the loaded top of the lineup and stellar pitching from starter Cheridan Hawkins. Courtney Ceo, batting leadoff, was the table setter, as always, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. She now has a ridiculous .492 batting average on the year. Hitting third, Janie Takeda knocked in three runs on two hits, a double and a triple. As for Hawkins? Well, all she did was throw her 23rd complete game of the season and gave up only two hits while striking out seven.
After Ceo and Alyssa Gillespie both grounded out to start the top of the first inning Takeda was hit by a pitch then stole second. With Janelle Lindvall and her 50 runs batted in at the dish, this was a great opportunity for the Ducks to get a flying start and Lindvall came through, driving in Takeda with a single to notch the first run of the game.
Oregon added two more runs in the third, with Takeda doubling home Ceo then scoring on Koral Costa's RBI groundout. Minnesota made things interesting in their half of the third, though. After a leadoff walk, shortstop Tyler Walker went yard to cut the Duck lead to just one.
That was as close as the Gophers would get, however. Hawkins settled down and cruised through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings without giving up a hit.
Takeda put an exclamation point on the win and made some Duck history in the top of the sixth with a two-run triple. It was her eight of the season, good for the Oregon single-season record. She would later score on a wild-pitch to cap the scoring. Fittingly, it was the dominant Hawkins in the circle for the final out, a pop fly to second base, that sent the Ducks to Oklahoma.
The No. 3 team in the land woke up Sunday needing only one win to advance to the Women's College World Series for the first time since 2010 but the Kentucky Wildcats played spoiler on the Bruins home field and earned two wins on the day to advance to their first ever WCWS.
The Bruins must have been feeling good after Gabrielle Maurice's RBI single put them up 1-0 before Kentucky even took a swing against Ally Carda. The Wildcats weren't concerned though, and they plated five runs in their half of the first to turn the game on its head. Lauren Cumbess and Krystal Smith struck the biggest blows, each driving in a pair on a single and a double, respectively.
UCLA couldn't put together a rally against Kentucky starter Kelsey Nunley and would fall 7-3 to force a win-or-go-home game 3.
Head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez rolled the dice and selected freshman Paige McDuffie as the starter for the most important game of the season. It worked early, as McDuffie only surrendered one hit and one walk the first time through the Wildcat lineup. Kentucky stuck with their hot hand in the circle and Nunley matched McDuffie's solid start. It was 0-0 heading into the third inning.
Both teams would score in the third, as the Wildcats pushed across a run thanks to a Bruin error and UCLA used Carda's RBI single to left to knot the game back up.
That would be the last stand for the Bruins, though, as a three-run Kentucky rally chased McDuffie from the circle in favor of Carda who wasn't her usually sharp self. The Wildcats tacked on three more in the top of the seventh to make it a final of 7-1. UCLA will surely be disappointed about coming so close, yet so far from a WCWS appearance but 2014 will still be a season to remember.
52 wins (the most since 2003). 20 comeback victories. #AC3POY. It was a magical season in Westwood. Looking forward to 2015!
— UCLA Softball (@UCLASoftball) May 26, 2014
Needing a win to stay alive after falling in game 1, the No. 12 Washington Huskies looked to their star senior Kaitlin Inglesby to guide them through and she didn't disappoint. Inglesby was the hero in the circle and in the box in Washington's 4-3 game 2 win. Her two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth erased a 3-2 deficit and gave the Huskies a lead they would not relinquish, thanks to her ace pitching.
Inglesby only had one clean inning, the second, but was able to battle through traffic on the basepaths all game long like a true staff leader. The Gators made her work (she threw 140 pitches) but couldn't get a big hit to blow the game open.
Florida had the potential tying run thrown out at the plate in the sixth and opened the seventh with a leadoff single. But Inglesby induced a ground ball and two batters later finished off the win with a popout and pushed the Huskies to a decisive game 3.
Game 3 turned into a marathon as severe weather rolled through Gainesville, Fla. and forced not one, but two weather delays totalling almost six hours.
Still raining with lightning in the area. Minimum of 30 minutes to resume play after the last lightning strike. pic.twitter.com/SJSWslpSob
— UW Husky Softball (@UWSoftball) May 25, 2014
In between the rain and the lightning Forida raced out to a 4-0 lead before delay number two was announced in the bottom of the fourth. The biggest damage came from Kelsey Stewart's three run shot to right in the fourth.
It wasn't just rain that was ruining the day for Washington. Gators starter Hannah Rogers was electric in the first four innings, striking out five and only giving up one hit.
After play was resumed the Huskies were sent down quietly in the top of the fifth. Maybe a little rusty from sitting around for so long, UW pitcher Bryana Walker proceeded to walk to first two Gators she faced. A single to short off the bat of Justine McLean made it 5-0. Then, just like that, Washington's season came to an end as Kirsti Merritt drilled a three run homer to left to activate the run-rule and give Florida an 8-0 win in five innings.