The Oregon Ducks played their first game of the NCAA tournament on Friday in Fayetteville, Arkansas against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. After having built up a lead and weathering - almost literally - a Notre Dame rally, the Ducks ultimately survived to win the match 5-4.
Stevie Hansen took the circle against the Irish, and after Notre Dame took the 1-0 lead in the first inning, she kept them scoreless for the next four innings. The damage in the first could have been worse, were it not for great defense such as this robbery of a home run by Hannah Delgado in the first inning:
In the second inning, Teyha Bird’s critical 3-run homer put the Ducks up 3-1.
BOOOOOOOM!!!!— Oregon Softball (@OregonSB) May 19, 2023
A 3️⃣-run shot off the bat of @tehyaabirdd gives the Ducks the lead! Part of a 5️⃣-run 2nd inning (so far).
B2 | Ducks 5, ND 1
https://t.co/jriBmlO8jp#GoDucks | #Version5 pic.twitter.com/c3Kej7RWtp
That was followed by and RBI triple from Kai Luschar and an RBI single from Allee Bunker that gave Oregon the 5-1 lead.
Hansen’s pitching was very good through the fifth inning, and her rhythm may have been set askew by a 2 hour 24 minute rain delay in the bottom of the fourth inning.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Irish hit a double off Hansen, which brought Raegan Breedlove to the circle. The game became more tense for Duck fans when Notre Dame dinged Breedlove for three runs to make it a 5-4 contest.
Morgan Scott came in for relief and picked up the out to end the sixth inning, then the next three outs in the top of the seventh to earn the save.
Tehya Bird’s home run gave much needed lift to Oregon’s season. The Ducks ended a four-game losing streak, and at least for now have regained their mojo.
Oregon may have hiccuped in the sixth inning, but they came away with the win, and that’s all that matters in NCAA Tournament play, as UCLA would attest. The #2 Bruins were stunned yesterday when they fell 3-2 to a Grand Canyon team that was making only its second appearance ever in the tournament, and their first win ever was at the expense of UCLA. The win is all the more shocking because the softball tournament is far more likely to follow chalk than, say, the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
The Oregon Ducks face regional host Arkansas today at 12:00 pm PT. They played Arkansas twice in last year’s tournament and lost 2-6 and 3-9. This matchup will be interesting because the Ducks are better than last season’s version, and the Razorbacks are not quite as good as last year - but they are the host for a reason. It looks to be a great game.