Within the month of April, the Oregon Ducks (41-7, 15-3) have fourteen wins and one loss. Though this is an impressive run in and of itself, the competition that they have faced during this stretch is what sets them apart. The Ducks are at the top of the RPI rankings, and though we won’t know if they truly are the best in the country til the world series, we already know that they are capable of beating the best.
The Ducks started off the season with promise, beating the then-no. 25 Georgia Bulldogs in their season opener followed by five straight run-rule victories in the Kajikawa Classic. However, losses to Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Tennesee, and Florida State (all top 25 teams at the time) begged the question, “is Oregon Softball good, or elite?
After a 17-1 victory over the Bryant Bulldogs, the Ducks opened PAC-12 play at home against the powerhouse UCLA Bruins (44-3, 15-3). The series opened up with an Oregon loss, 2-6. Fortunately, Miranda Elish and company were able to hand the Bruins their first loss of the season, setting up for a crucial rubber match.
Tied 0-0 at the bottom of the seventh, Shannon Rhodes delivered a three-run, walk-off homer that saved the series and sparked a dominating run by the Ducks. Oregon’s final win over UCLA has proven crucial. At the moment, the Ducks are tied with the Bruins in conference play with the tiebreaker going to Oregon thanks to Rhodes’ late-game heroics.
Going into the series in Seattle, the Ducks and huskies (41-8, 12-8) knew that the overall winner would gain a conference lead that could very well decide the PAC-12 champion. Though each game was competitive in the final innings, Oregon proved itself the better team in the final stretch. Miranda Elish (1.04.ERA) and Megan Kleist (0.93 ERA) can take control of any lineup, giving Duck batters like Gwen Svekis, DJ Sanders (who has recently rekindled her offensive fire) and Shannon Rhodes more potential for game-changing home runs.
Last weekend’s Seattle trip featured three homers, multiple double plays, and a 9th inning grand slam by DJ Sanders, but the previous week’s game against Oklahoma (44-3) will most definitely be the most memorable moment of the regular season. The 5-0 victory over the two-time national champion is the exclamation mark on the Ducks’ impressive resume.
Oregon’s seven losses will likely keep them in the No. 2 spot in the rankings, even if they win out their last two remaining series against Utah and California. The good news is that their No. 1 RPI is likely to earn them the top seed in the playoffs.
This historic Duck squad has beaten six out of the current top ten, and now that they’ve sharpened their skills against the nation’s best, this could be the year that Oregon Softball finally wins the world series.