Oregon’s baseball and softball teams visited UCLA this weekend with a chance to maintain or challenge for the Pac-12 lead. Unfortunately, neither Oregon team could get anything going offensively, and both were swept 3-straight by the Bruins. It was a disappointing weekend for the Ducks, particularly on the baseball side where the team had been generating lots of offensive fireworks.
Softball - Oregon simply could not get its offense untracked against the excellent Bruin pitching, losing the first two games 3 - 1 and 5 - 2. In Sunday’s final game, UCLA won again, 4 - 2. UCLA’s pitching and defense held Oregon to a total of 5 runs over the weekend, well below Oregon’s per-game average coming into the series.
In the series finale, the game story was similar to the previous two. Oregon starter Stevie Hansen (8-2) and Bruin starter Lauren Shaw went cleanly through the first two innings, allowing only 3 total hits.
In the third inning, however, Oregon went 3-up-and-3-down, while UCLA struck hard in its half. The Bruins led off with a single and Hansen got the next batter to foul out to left. But a bunt single was followed by a home run and UCLA was out to a 3 - 0 lead. Hansen then got a ground out and a strikeout to end the inning.
Oregon moved a runner into scoring position in the top of the 4th as Ariel Carlson singled to left and then stole 2nd. Unfortunately, there were already 2 outs and the next Duck batter struck out looking to end the Oregon threat. UCLA posted another run in the bottom of the 4th on a walk and a double. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, the Bruins got a groundout to 2nd that advanced both runners and plated the runner from 3rd. After a flyout to center, UCLA led 4 - 0 after 4 innings.
Oregon finally got on the board when Jasmine Williams got all of a 2-out, 0-1 pitch and drove it over the left field fence. For the UCLA half of the 5th, Makenna Kliethermes came on in relief of Hansen. She mixed 3 groundouts with a walk to hold the Bruins scoreless but holding a 4 - 1 lead.
Neither team could get anything going in the 6th inning, and Oregon came to bat in the 7th needing 3 runs to send the game to extra innings or 4 to take the lead. After a pop-up to 2nd base for the first out, Oregon had some life as Paige Sinicki reached first and advanced to 2nd base on a throwing error. Even though the error came from 2nd base and not the circle, UCLA brought on Faraimo - the game one complete-game winner - in relief. She promptly gave up an RBI single on her 2nd pitch to Rachel Cid, and the Ducks had clawed back one of the runs they needed, trailing now 4 - 2. Gabby Herrera came on to pinch-run for Cid and got into scoring position on a subsequent wild pitch, but it came after the 2nd out on a strikeout. A groundout to short then ended the game.
Hansen took the loss for Oregon, and Shaw got the win for UCLA, with Fariamo picking up the save. Oregon dropped to 4 - 5 in the Conference after suffering the series sweep and is now in 4th place in the Pac-12. Although perhaps not the best team in the country, UCLA is representative of the kind of competition Oregon would face were it to qualify for the College Softball World Series.
The Ducks host what is probably the 2nd-best team in the Pac-12 next weekend when the Arizona State Sun Devils come to Eugene for a 3-game set.
Baseball - The Ducks led in each of the 3 games early, but could not score late, which had been one of its calling cards in games this season. Oregon lost the first two games 3 - 2 and 4 - 3, which for Oregon was very low offensive production. The Ducks had not scored such a low number of runs over 2 games since the first two games of the season against San Diego.
Sunday’s finisher gave Oregon the chance to get untracked, and to perhaps maintain a share of the Pac-12 lead. Unfortunately for the Ducks, the game trod a familiar path as the Ducks took an early lead they could not hold, generating only 5 hits.
Oregon got off to another promising start as Tanner Smith drew a lead-off walk and then advanced all the way to 3rd on a Colby Shade groundout to first and a throwing error to try to catch Smith off 2nd. Brennan Milone followed with a groundout RBI to 2nd base, scoring Smith. UCLA matched Oregon’s run against Ducks starter Matt Dallas on a walk, a hit batter and then a single.
Oregon took the lead again in the top of 2nd when Josh Kasevich hit the 3rd pitch of the inning over the left-field fence. Anthony Hall followed with a walk, but the next three Duck players popped up to the infield. Dallas got the Bruins in order in the bottom of the inning.
The teams traded single runs again in the 3rd. Oregon had a nice-looking inning going when a pair of walks gave them runners at first and second with only one out. But Shade was caught trying to steal third base, giving the Ducks 2 outs with a runner on 2nd. Jacob Walsh delivered a single, scoring Milone from 2nd, but a following line drive out to 2nd base ended the Oregon threat. UCLA got a lead-off homer on a 2-0 count, followed by a walk and a single, and Dallas was pulled in favor of Rio Britton. Britton walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but the next batter grounded into a 5-2-3 double play and a foul pop to third from the next Bruin batter ended the inning. After 3, Oregon led 3 - 2.
Oregon inched another run ahead when Hall knocked the third pitch of the inning out of the park in right, putting Oregon ahead 4 - 2. Josiah Cromwick followed with a single, causing a Bruin pitching change. Cromwick got into scoring position on a wild pitch, but was out on a subsequent line-drive to the shortstop that turned into a double play. A pop-up to first ended Oregon’s at-bat. Dylan Sabia came on for Britton in the bottom of the 4th and gave up 2 walks and a single with a strikeout sandwiched in between again loading the bases for UCLA. But a lineout and a groundout stranded the Bruins.
Neither team could generate much in the 5th - Oregon had another runner caught stealing 3rd to end their half and UCLA managed to get runners on from a hit batter and a walk from new pitcher Caleb Sloan, but a double play and fly out again snuffed out the threat.
Oregon could not score again in the 6th, bringing only 4 batters to the plate, and when UCLA generated a two-run, two-out rally, the game was tied 4 - 4 after 6.
Oregon was done for the day from the plate, but the Bruins had one more game winner in them. Kolby Somers came on in relief in the bottom of the 7th and gave up what turned out to be the game-winning home run to the first batter he faced. Oregon could not score in the 8th or the 9th, and UCLA no longer needed to, winning the game 5 - 4 and the series 3 - 0.
Oregon used 5 pitchers, and Somers (1-1) came on late and took the loss. Oregon now sits at 7 - 5 in Conference, sliding all the way from first to a tie for third over this weekend. Last season, Oregon came within one game of winning the Pac-12. If that happens in 2022, it will be easy to point to this weekend as a massive, missed opportunity.
The Ducks have a 4-game non-Conference series at home next weekend against Ball State.
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