Gwen Svekis has already begun putting her belongings into boxes.
For the senior catcher, life after Oregon softball feels like it’s coming at her faster than a Megan Kleist or Miranda Elish pitch.
But before graduating next month, Svekis plans to pack for one last road trip with the Ducks to take care of some unfinished business in Oklahoma City.
Top-seeded Oregon hosts No. 16 Kentucky in the best-of-three NCAA Eugene Super Regional, beginning Thursday at Jane Sanders Stadium (6 p.m., ESPN2), with a berth to the Women’s College World Series on the line.
“I started packing up my house today, and it’s just weird thinking, no matter how this season plays out, I only have a couple weeks left here,” Svekis said before Tuesday’s practice. “So I’ve got make the most of them.”
Svekis could have moved on to a different program after not getting much playing time as an underclassman, a common practice for young quarterbacks that don’t win the starting job or basketball players who don’t log heavy minutes.
After two seasons backing up Janelle Lindvall — who she describes as her “greatest role model” — Svekis emerged as a team leader and earned first-team all-Pac-12 honors this year. She is second in the conference with 53 RBIs and third in the conference with a team-high 16 home runs.
“In this sport you never know when it’s going to be your day, when it’s going to be your season,” Svekis said. “I think it comes down to what kind of player you want to be. Do you want to be a big fish in a little pond or do you want to be on a team that has the potential to win championships? For me, even though I didn’t play that much my freshman year, I wanted to be on this team. I loved the way the coaching staff worked, and this was the environment I wanted to be in.
“So I just had to trust that if I put in the work, eventually it would come through. It’s a lot more pointing the finger at yourself than pointing it at anyone else.”
During Oregon’s sweep of Arizona earlier this season, Svekis hit .750 with two home runs, three doubles, five runs and six RBIs. During last year’s super regional, also against Kentucky, Svekis was 3-for-3 at the plate with a double, an RBI and two runs scored while drawing four walks.
The girl can rake. Or take (pitches).
Svekis’ most important contribution on the field is behind the plate, where she makes sure Kleist and Elish are focused on coach Mike White’s game plan and executing the pitches he calls.
“Gwen is our funny person. She’s the one that keeps it light,” White said. “Sometimes what I say and how (the pitchers) perceive it are two different things. Sometimes she straightens that out for me. She’s been a big help. Obviously with the pitcher working in the bullpen and on the field, she really can see the nuances of the pitchers now. I think she learned a lot from Janelle Lindvall when she was here.
“Offensively, you just never know when she’s going to pop one out of the yard. She can look bad on a swing and all of a sudden, boom, it’s gone. That’s the dangerous Svekis that we need.”
Oregon didn’t need a dangerous offense during the regional with Kleist (21-5, 0.92 ERA) throwing a one-hit shutout and Elish (22-1, 0.92 ERA) throwing a pair of complete-game shutouts.
The Wildcats (34-19) will present more of a threat after outscoring the opposition 28-1 with three run-rule wins during their sweep of the NCAA Lexington Regional.
“They’re not going to be as surprised as they were last year with the environment from the Jane, so we’ve got to come with our A game for sure because they’re a good team,” Svekis said. “I think we’re calm, cool and collected. We’re trying to tell the younger girls that this is when it’s fun and this is when it gets real.
“You’ve just got to trust in your preparation. We don’t want to get too high or too low. We don’t want to get too eager, because that’s when you start to rush things and mistakes happen.”
The Ducks (50-7) enter the super regional on a 16-game winning streak, which began with a 5-0 victory over two-time defending national champion Oklahoma and includes a sweep of then-No. 4 Washington en route to the outright Pac-12 championship.
Oregon has faced some adversity this season with three losses to SEC opponents (Mississippi, Texas A&M and LSU) in February, losing to Florida State despite Kleist pitching a no-hitter, and then bouncing back from losses at Oregon State and Arizona State to eventually catch UCLA in the Pac-12 race.
Svekis’ sense of humor has helped lighten the mood in the dugout on the road back to Oklahoma City.
“Gwen’s personality is definitely a light on our team,” Elish said. “If we had a bad day at practice or maybe we didn’t play as well as we wanted to, Gwen definitely picks us up and shows us there is life at the end of the dark tunnel sometimes.”
In her spare time, Svekis is getting ready for the next chapter of her life. But during the super regional, which is the final chance for the four seniors on the team to take the field at Jane Sanders Stadium, she try to make sure the Ducks live in the moment.
“It’s important to know when to be joking around and when to be a little frivolous, and then when to be serious and in game mode,” Svekis said. “There are definitely days when you can tell everyone needs to be a little pumped up. On those days, I’ll probably be a little more loose. There are definitely days where maybe the whole team is a little more loose and we need to focus and be a little more serious. I think just knowing when the right moment is to bring that kind of energy is important. …
“I think this week it will be important for us to come locked in, and then as the week goes we can see how we progress.”