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Amid rough season, Oregon Softball faces off against #1 UCLA Bruins

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Is there an upset Bruin?

FloSports: FloSoftball Mary Nutter 1 Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

After the transfer of ten players in a single offseason, it was clear that this was going to be a rebuilding year for Coach Melyssa Lombardi and the Oregon Softball team.

Chosen by the media to finish last in the PAC-12, the once mighty Ducks started out strong with six straight wins but have since accumulated a 16-19, 1-8 record. Oregon has fallen victim to nine run-rule losses and has struggled with consistency in all phases of the game.

To make things worse, the transfer of Maddie MacGrandle leaves Oregon with one scholarship pitcher. MacGrandle may not have been lighting the conference on fire (3-7 record, 7.81 ERA), but her departure puts even more pressure on sophomore Jordan Dail, Oregon’s only scholarship pitcher.

Walk-on Kailey Krueger (0-4) and third baseman Rachel Cid are the other options in the circle for the Ducks, showing just how far the Ducks’ pitching staff has fallen from the days of having three ace pitchers.

Fortunately for the Ducks, Dail has proven herself as a more than competent pitcher, racking up a 13-8 record and 3.53 ERA. The transfer from Virginia Tech has allowed 86 runs, 77 earned, on 121 hits while tallying 165 strikeouts.

After leading the Ducks to three straight wins in a brief conference hiatus, two against Pittsburgh and one against Missouri, Dail was named PAC-12 Pitcher of the Week. She was stellar despite playing three complete games in a span of 24 hours, and if the Ducks have any chance at upsetting the Nation’s best team when the travel to Los Angeles for their three-game series, then Dail will need to recreate her most recent success.

The #1 UCLA Bruins (35-1, 9-0) have dominated the world of college softball this season. Their lone loss against #21 Michigan seems like a distant memory, and even fellow PAC-12 powerhouse #4 Washington failed to play a competitive game against the Bruins despite having homefield advantage.

Homerun savants like Bubba Nickles and Aaliyah Jordan will look to capitalize on Oregon’s trouble in the circle, and whether Rachel Garcia, Megan Faraimo or Holly Azevedo get the start, Oregon’s young batters will have a tough time against the Bruin’s impressive pitching rotation.

Perhaps it’s unrealistic to hope for a series sweep of UCLA, or even a series win. Already this season, Dail has played complete games and made starts in every game of a series. That seems like a tall and even dangerous order against a team that has made short work against better equipped squads. But a single win could spark something great for this young Oregon team.

After the Ducks travel to LA, they’ll return home to play conference bottom-dweller California (22-18, 1-10) in a three-game series followed by a two-game homestand against Portland State. Then, the season will wrap up with three three-game match-ups against Oregon State, Utah, and Arizona State.

Reaching the Regionals seems more than unlikely at this point, but finishing above .500 would gain Lombardi a lot of much needed credit. A single win over #1 UCLA would also go a long way towards saving a lost season.

  • #1 UCLA, 7 PM, APR 12, Friday, Los Angeles, PAC-12 NETWORK
  • #1 UCLA, 7 PM, APR 13, Saturday, Los Angeles, PAC-12 NETWORK
  • #1 UCLA, 1 PM, APR 14, Sunday, Los Angeles, ESPN2