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Did Oregon Softball Pitching Improve in 2023?

Discussing the Ducks Bullpen’s Progress

ATQ-EXCLUSIVE Softball Morgan L. Blackwell

In softball, the pitcher is the key player. Just as the quarterback is involved in every offensive play in football (aside, of course, from a play like a direct snap to a running back or wide receiver on an end-around), in softball the pitcher starts every defensive play. A team can win with offense or defense, but if it has a lockdown pitcher, the game suddenly becomes a lot easier.

ATQ-EXCLUSIVE Softball Morgan L. Blackwell

Although it’s not ideal, it is also possible for a single pitcher to dominate games in the same way a great quarterback can. The mechanics of softball pitching are much less taxing on a pitcher’s arm than, say, a baseball pitching motion is in that sport. While fatigue can always play a factor, there are really no “pitch counts” in softball indicating when a pitcher should come out of a game. It is common for a softball pitcher to appear in every game of a weekend series and throw hundreds of pitches.

The last two seasons have seen some massive changes in Oregon’s softball bullpen. Beyond even the general disruption most sports have endured due to recovering from Covid, the expansion of portal accessibility, NIL and so on, the Ducks have also had their share of injuries and pitching staff upheaval with which to deal.

This article will provide some comparisons of Oregon’s pitching staff for the 2022 season and 2023 season by looking at results and statistics from those two Pac-12 seasons. A future article will discuss what Oregon’s pitching staff will look like for the 2024 season.

2022 Softball Season (10-14 Conference Record)

In 2022, Freshman Stevie Hansen emerged as the “Ace” of a weakened Oregon staff in something of a surprise. Before the season, it was expected that Brooke Yanez would be the Ducks #1 pitcher. During her first two seasons at Oregon Yanez went 31 – 7, including 9 – 1 in the Covid-shortened 2020 season and 22 – 6 with a 2.11 ERA in 2021, and pitched 16 complete games with 362 strikeouts over the two seasons. Yanez, however, would suffer a season-ending injury before throwing a pitch in 2022 for the Ducks. After remaining on scholarship for the 2021-22 academic year, Yanez transferred to UCLA for the 2023 softball season.

With Yanez out, Oregon still had five pitchers on the roster. In addition to Hansen, Junior McKenna Kliethermes, Fifth-Year Lefty Jordan Dail, Sophomore Raegan Breedlove and Freshman Allison Benning were in the Ducks bullpen. Sixty percent of the bullpen were Freshmen and Sophomores, not an ideal ratio from an experience standpoint. Oregon softball, though, is a meritocracy under head coach Melyssa Lombardi, and the seemingly obvious rotation of Dail and Kliethermes receiving the bulk of the starts/innings quickly went by the wayside.

Syndication: The Register Guard Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

By the time the Pac-12 season rolled around in mid-March, Hansen had established herself as one of Oregon’s starters and frequently the “first reliever” when the starter faltered. Hansen started 14 of the 24 Pac-12 games, Kliethermes had 6 starts and Dail 3. Hansen also had 5 appearances in relief, giving her work in 80 percent of Oregon’s Pac-12 contests. However, Hansen also worked just 74.1 innings, slightly less than half of the Pac-12 season. Hansen went 8-8, Kliethermes 2-3 and Dail 0-3. Breedlove and Benning had just one start and 11 appearances in total during the Pac-12 season.

Hansen had the best ERA at 4.14 which is not particularly good. The other pitchers’ numbers went up from there with Kliethermes at 5.76, Dail at 6.58 and Breedlove and Benning in the stratosphere at 13.76 and 14.00. The top 3 pitchers were closely bunched in WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) but in slightly different order as ERA – Hansen (1.28), Dail (1.45) and Kliethermes (1.53).

One thing that rarely happened in 2022 was a complete game by a pitcher. Hansen had 4 and Kliethermes 1. Most of Oregon’s staff was likely to give up a run in any inning they pitched – for example, Dail gave up 22 runs in 22.1 innings pitched, and Kliethermes 37 runs in 45.0 innings. Hansen was best here again, allowing 50 runs in her 74.1 innings.

Overall, Oregon was outscored 133 – 104 in Pac-12 games. There were a number of odd series and outcomes. For instance, the Ducks were swept by #3 UCLA but were outscored only 12 – 5 in the three-game series. The next two weekends, Oregon gave up 26 runs to #16 Arizona State and then 26 again to #25 Arizona in those series.

2023 Softball Season (14-10 Conference Record)

For the 2023 season, Oregon’s bullpen would undergo a bit more change. With Dail graduated and Kliethermes leaving, two quality pitchers portaled in. Senior Morgan Scott came from UNC-Greensboro and Sophomore Elise Sokolsky arrived from Connecticut to bolster the staff. Hansen, Breedlove and Benning all returned for the Ducks. While it’s possible to argue the competition was somewhat less daunting at her previous stop, Scott was a key addition for Oregon’s bullpen. At Greensboro, she had 22 complete games in 32 starts for the Spartans, striking out 10 or more batters 8 times, and was two-time Pitcher of the Year in the Southern Conference. Sokolsky showed great promise as a Freshman, going 20-6 in 2022 for the Huskies with a 2.55 ERA and was an All-Big East first-team selection.

The major questions coming into the season were whether Hansen’s seemingly growing confidence and excellence in the circle during 2022 would continue, and whether Scott would provide the second shut-down starter for the Ducks. Of secondary importance was whether the rest of the pitching staff could step up and improve on the relief performance when called upon.

For the Pac-12 season, Lombardi was able to spread out her starting rotation a bit more broadly. Hansen again started most frequently for the Ducks, although her starts dropped from 14 in 2022 to 11 in 2023. Scott (9) and Breedlove (4) earned the remaining starts. Breedlove appeared the most in relief for the Ducks, notching 11 such appearances, while Scott appeared 10 times and Hansen in 5, as she had in 2022. Benning made two appearances in relief and Sokolsky did not pitch during the Conference season.

Scott turned out to be Oregon’s most effective pitcher overall. She was 8-3 in Conference with a 2.74 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP, both best on the team. Breedlove was 2-3 with a 2.90 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP. Hansen matched her 2022 record at .500, going 4-4. Her ERA improved slightly to 3.81 and her WHIP fell slightly to 1.32. Scott was the only Oregon pitcher to record a complete game in Conference in 2023, with 6 along with earning 4 saves in her relief appearances. Breedlove had 2 saves and Hansen just 1.

Scott led Oregon in innings pitched as well, clocking in with 74.1 in Pac-12 action. Hansen fell to 57 and Breedlove pitched 31.1. The Ducks also improved in runs allowed, holding Pac-12 opponents to just 89 while scoring 111 themselves. Oregon gave up double-digit runs in only one Conference game in 2023, down from 3 the previous season.


As with most sports, defense in softball is only half the battle. A pitcher can allow zero runs, but if her team cannot score, it’s still not possible to win. Overall, Oregon’s pitching staff showed statistical improvement in 2023 over 2022, mostly due to the replacement of Kliethermes with Scott. Breedlove also showed improvement, lowering her ERA from 13.76 to 2.90 in about 3 times as many innings. Hansen’s production was about equal overall, with many fewer innings pitched. The following tables compare the key statistics for Hansen and Breedlove for the two seasons. In addition, a table showing Scott’s production vs Kliethermes is also provided.

Stevie Hansen Statistics

Stevie Hansen IP ERA WHIP W-L CG Hits Runs KO BB HBP
Stevie Hansen IP ERA WHIP W-L CG Hits Runs KO BB HBP
2023 57 3.81 1.32 4-4 0 58 32 27 17 8
2022 74.1 4.14 1.28 8-8 4 73 50 60 22 6

It seems clear that to be successful, Oregon needs at least two pitchers who can perform consistently well – a starter and a reliever, each keeping opposing players off the basepaths and who can switch starting and relieving roles each game. As noted above, it’s perfectly possible for a softball pitcher to start two games in a weekend and pitch a majority of innings in those games in addition to providing short relief in the middle game. Despite this, there was a feeling that Hansen was relied on too heavily in the 2022 Conference season - but Lombardi seemed to have little choice.

Scott/Kliethermes Statistics

Player/Year IP ERA WHIP W-L CG Hits Runs KO BB HBP
Player/Year IP ERA WHIP W-L CG Hits Runs KO BB HBP
Scott (2023) 74 2.74 1.09 8-3 6 71 33 45 10 4
Kliethermes (2022) 45 5.76 1.53 2-3 1 46 37 39 23 8

Having three pitchers who can fill each of these roles – or at least a third pitcher who can provide quality relief – is an area where Oregon made progress in 2023. The Ducks appear to have functioned the last two seasons with 1 to 1.5 such pitchers in some games. Hansen, particularly, seemed to have good and bad days (as we all do), while Scott was more consistent, perhaps owing to her greater level of experience. Scott also proved more durable, pitching complete games in 2/3 of her starts. Breedlove’s statistical improvement shouldn’t be dismissed despite her relatively lower work level compared to Scott and Hansen.

Raegan Breedlove Statistics

2023 31.1 2.9 1.51 2-3 0 39 22 12 8 2
2022 9.2 13.76 3.15 0-0 0 23 20 1 6 1

Oregon definitely showed improvement in their Conference performance, going from a losing record (10-14) in 2022 to a winning record (14-10) in 2023.

It should be emphasized that pitchers don’t operate in a vacuum. It’s a lot easier to pitch a complete game, or be relaxed even when you give up runs, if your teammates are hitting the ball and scoring runs on the opposition. Instructive was Scott’s complete game victory at Cal in which Oregon scored 9 runs. Scott gave up 9 hits in that game to an underpowered Cal team, but the Ducks gave her enough of a cushion that there was no reason for tension.

Next week, we’ll get out our green and yellow crystal ball and take a look at the 2024 Ducks projected bullpen.