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Oregon Softball 2023 Season Review

We look at a specific question: Are the Ducks improving?

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

2022 was something of a bumpy year for Oregon softball. The Ducks endured their Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad April, and in spite of that they did pick their game up - so to speak - at the end of the regular season, with a sweep of Oregon State and a series win over Stanford. Heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Ducks won both games against Wichita State but lost both games to #4 Arkansas, who advanced into the Super Regional (the Razorbacks hosted the Super Regional, but were bounced by Texas, who made it to the CWS and were runner-up to champion Oklahoma). Regardless, in spite of that disappointing April, they did make it to the post-season.

Oregon ended 2022 with a 33-19 (10-14 Pac-12) record. At home they were 9-7, away they were 14-8, and were 10-4 at neutral sites.

What followed was the usual matter of players entering the transfer portal, but what was glaring was that half their pitchers jumped ship. (Brooke Yanez did not play last season due to injury, but she was eligible to return in 2023 and instead elected to bolt for UCLA).

ATQ-EXCLUSIVE Softball Morgan L. Blackwell

The 2023 season ended on a different note, especially emotionally, for Ducks softball. This season, they nearly completely turned around 2022’s April with a 13-game win streak, and even though they were swept by Utah at the end of the season, it felt different. Then, they lost in the first game of the Pac-12 Tournament to put a damper on the feel-good April. Going to Fayetteville and defeating Arkansas to get to the Super Regional kind of felt different - never mind that they lost to #4 Arkansas in 2022 but defeated #13 Arkansas in 2023. Sure, they lost to #6 OK State in Stillwater, but they were better, right?

Let’s take a look at some general statistics.

Oregon’s record in 2023 was 38-17 (14-10, Pac12). At home they were 8-7, away they were 14-5, and at neutral sites their record was 16-5. (A double-header at home against Portland State was cancelled in mid-April. The Ducks likely would have been 40-17, 10-7 at home, but it doesn’t count if you don’t play the games). The only meaningful difference in the overall season record is that the Ducks won more neutral games sites, because they won more of their preseason games than in 2022. Otherwise, the overall win-loss record doesn’t show much when 2022 and 2023 are compared. The major difference is that the Ducks ultimately made it to the Super Regional this season, but that’s not reflected in the win/loss statistics.

ATQ-EXCLUSIVE Softball Morgan L. Blackwell

The 2023 Ducks performed better in most offensive categories than their 2022 counterparts. This was lead in batting average - softball hit .296 in ‘22 and .306 in ‘23. 2023 saw eight batters hit over .300 as opposed to four in ‘22. The 2023 offense was also superior in hits, runs, RBIs, and on-base percent. 2022 performed better in slugging percentage, doubles, and home runs. But over the course of 52 or 55 games, these differences are not statistically significant. For example, ‘23 drove in 318 runs as opposed to 309 in ‘22; however, the 2023 team played three more games, so the difference isn’t terribly significant.

Fielding percentage for 2022 was .977 and 2023 was .968. The difference in the two is largely due to ‘23 having committed 48 errors to 30 for ‘22. There will be ups and downs from season to season, and again this doesn’t strike me as significant.

ATQ-EXCLUSIVE Softball Morgan L. Blackwell

So, what about pitching? Ah, it turns out that we have something to work with in examining the stats from the circle.

Pitching was a perceived issue in 2022. When all was said and done, it certainly seemed like Oregon had an ace in Stevie Hansen, and no one else. The pitching room needed significant help and it turns out the when coach Melyssa Lombardi nabbed senior Morgan Scott from the transfer portal, the Duck got the help they needed. Lombardi hit a home run, so to speak.

But first, what about the common denominators from the previous season: Stevie Hansen, Raegan Breedlove, and Allison Benning? We see significant improvement from all three.

Last season, Hansen pitched to a 13-8 record, with an ERA of 3.27 over 124.1 innings. In ‘23, she improved to a 20-7 record, with an ERA of 2.63 over 146.1 innings.

In 2022, Breedlove won two games, with an ERA of 6.27 over 25.2 innings. This season, her record was 4-3, and had an ERA of 2.81 on 67.1 innings.

It’s easy to forget about Allison Benning. Her ERA last year was 8.40 in 5 innings, but this year it was 2.33 over 15 innings.

All three were better pitchers in 2023.

Now add in Morgan Scott. Scotty saw more playing time after April than she did earlier in the season. She finished with a 13-7 record, with a 2.83 ERA in 128.2 innings. She had a tendency to not walk batters, walking 22 to Hansen’s 34.

Last season, the team combined ERA was 3.82. This season, it was 2.79.

Based on all of the above, the numbers would appear to point to Oregon progressing in a positive direction. For Lombardi version 6 to improve on version 5, she’ll need to 1) Be able to replace the seniors that are leaving and have made a huge impact on all versions of Lombardi softball, and 2) Assuming Scotty comes back for a fifth year of eligibility, the Ducks need to add one more pitcher that is at least on Hansen and Scotty’s level. Accomplish that, and we could be seeing Oregon in the CWS in 2024.

ATQ-EXCLUSIVE Softball Morgan L. Blackwell