Oregon softball: Ducks show why they lead Pac-12 after first ever sweep against Washington

Posted by Hayden Kim on Sunday, Mar. 30 at 7:17 pm.

For the first time in program history, the No. 2-ranked Oregon softball team (30-4, 6-0 Pac-12) completed the series sweep against No. 5-ranked Washington (21-10, 2-6 Pac-12) at home. The Ducks now sit atop of the Pac-12 standings, just ahead of UCLA (33-2, 8-1 Pac-12) as they head into the thick of conference play.

The Ducks had a lot to be happy about on both ends of the field. In addition to giving up just three runs to a Huskies team that entered the series batting .336, Oregon also managed to bring home a total of 16 runs. The biggest one came in the bottom of the seventh in game three when Kailee Cuico hit a walk-off two-run homer to right center field to clinch the series sweep.

“I was thinking changeup, but I just had to remind myself: just see it all the way through, don’t get overhyped, don’t get over excited, stay really small and it paid off,” Cuico said. “It’s (the sweep) so big for us, especially as a senior class. We’ve never done that. It means so much to do it at home in front of our home crowd, seniors especially. It means so much to all of us.”

On the pitching side, the Ducks couldn’t have asked for much more. In the first two games, pitcher Cheridan Hawkins threw 12 scoreless innings with eight total hits given up. Karissa Hovinga started the third game and threw 4.1 innings, gave up three hits, one run and coughed up one error. Hawkins closed the final 2.2 innings with five hits, two runs and two errors as she improved to 18-2 on the year.

“I think we’re very good,” Hovinga said about herself and Hawkins as a duo. “We complement each other very well. I think it (the experience together) is going to pay off very well (down the stretch) because we have each other’s backs.”

Coming of this series, the Ducks have positioned themselves for a second straight regular season Pac-12 title. After falling short of the College World Series last season with a loss to Nebraska, the Ducks have been looking to take another crack at an NCAA title.

But with five Pac-12 teams ranked in the Top 25 USA Today/NFCS Coaches poll, the Ducks still have a long way to go before they can start thinking about the postseason. This series just happened to be another step in the right direction.

“This is huge,” head coach Mike White said about the series sweep. “Even if it wasn’t Washington, this is the No. 5 team in the country. To get a game like this and the series sweep, it’s huge because it’s pretty good RPI and that’s important going into the postseason. Also it keeps chances of a (Pac-12) championship alive because UCLA lost to Washington, so it’s very important.”

Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim