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Oregon Ducks Softball: 2023 Season Preview

Will the Ducks pitching improve this season?

COLLEGE SOFTBALL: APR 17 Oregon at Washington Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

To recount - in 2021-2022, Oregon’s softball and baseball teams were coincidentally a lot like their men’s and women’s basketball programs, in that they eerily mirrored the strengths, weaknesses, and season of the others. It would not take much effort to go all Stephen King on the bad coincidences between the men’s and women’s teams in the two sports and come away kind of creeped out.

Like the baseball team, Oregon softball struggled mightily last season with their pitching performance. Stevie Hansen came out of last year being the ace for the Ducks. The Ducks had little backup options and had to rely on their freshman pitcher to carry them. At season’s end, pitchers Brooke Yanez, Jordan Dail and Makenna Kliethermes left the program. This left a glaring pitching need, as the Ducks were only returning Hansen as a sophomore and Raegan Breedlove as a junior.

Coach Melissa Lombardi used the transfer portal - and used it well - to bring in some veteran pitching help, in the form of Melissa Scott from UNC Greensboro and Elise Solkolsky from UConn. You can read about them here.

The transfer portal is not just about pitching. There are always field players that will leave, and to accommodate those gaps, Oregon brought in the following veterans:

The 2023 season will be challenging for these Ducks. Their schedule includes competing against six of the eight teams that played in last season’s College World Series: Arizona, Florida, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and UCLA.

“The teams that we face the first month of the season will prepare us for a loaded Pac-12 schedule,” commented coach Lombardi. “We’re also looking forward to playing 17 games in front of our home crowd at The Jane. And of course, we’re excited to be part of the first Pac-12 Tournament at the end of the season. It will allow softball fans across the nation to see how relentless the Pac can be.” In addition to scheduling top teams that played in the WCWS, the Ducks have scheduled 29 games against teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament a year ago.

The Oregon Ducks open their season tomorrow at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge:

The Ducks will indeed be challenged from the start. The PVCC includes Power 5 matchups from four of the five opponents, including a game against #3 Oklahoma State.

Oregon will then travel to San Diego for the Campbell/Cartier Classic on February 17-19.

In February 23-26, Oregon will be part of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Perhaps even more so than last year, we’re going to come out of this one with a solid sense, good or bad, of what kind of 2023 Oregon squad we have. Opponents at Mary Nutter include #8 Northwestern and #4 Florida. There will be some noteworthy matchups to look forward to.

Oregon will play in their fourth tournament of the preseason on March 2-3 at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Ca.

First things first - we have an exciting tournament coming in Mexico as part of an equally exciting February, and the 2023 Oregon softball team is - at least on paper - a very solid team ahead of the opening of the season.