They’ve got the new uniforms, the team motto and the talent. Now all Oregon softball has to do is win.
Following last year’s trip to the Women’s College World Series, expectations remain high for head coach Mike White and his preseason No. 5 Ducks. Leading the way will be two All-Americans — senior outfielder Samantha Pappas and senior pitcher Jessica Moore, but they won’t be alone. Junior catcher Alexa Peterson joined Pappas on the 2012 Women’s College World Series All-Tournament Team, and senior second baseman Kaylan Howard, junior first baseman Kailee Cuico and junior infielder Courtney Ceo were honored on the All-Region teams as well.
“With our success and consistency, people across the country believe that we belong among the nation’s best teams,” White told GoDucks.com. “We still we have a lot of work to do this year, especially with our defense. This year we have a deeper pitching staff, infield and lineup, so things look good on paper, but we have to put it together on the field and play like champions consistently.”
After finishing third in the nation’s best softball conference last season, Oregon turned heads with a remarkable run in the WCWS. The Ducks knocked off Tennessee to set up a showdown with top-ranked California, but were dropped by the Bears, 6-3, to end their season.
It was Oregon’s first trip to the WCWS since 1989.
Now, reloaded and boasting a freshman class featuring four ESPN Top 100 recruits, Oregon will look for conference vengeance.
Thirty-three of the Ducks’ 56 games this year are against NCAA returnees, including four that advanced to the WCWS — Pac-12 rivals Cal and Arizona State, LSU and national runner-up Oklahoma.
For Moore, the schedule offers an opportunity to solidify her already sterling resume. The Sutter, Calif., native is the program’s career leader in wins (73) and strikeouts (718) and is fifth in shutouts (15). She also holds the top-three records for strikeouts in a season.
“We expect big things from Jess again, and hopefully with our depth she can get a little more rest this year and take us a little deeper in the postseason,” White said. “(Sophomore) Karissa (Hovinga) pitched well both for us and for Team Canada against world champion Japan in the World Tournament. (Freshman) Cheridan (Hawkins) has a bright future and broke Jess’s California section strikeout record.”
The Ducks kick off the season against Western Michigan in the Kajikawa Classic tournamentin Tempe, Ariz., on Thursday, Feb. 7. After that, Oregon’s nonconference slate includes tournaments in Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Calif., Orlando, Fla., and Fresno, Calif.