Melyssa Lombardi's team needs to win five of its last six games to qualify for NCAA Tournament
The Oregon softball team is already entering a double-elimination regional of sorts.
After getting swept by rival Oregon State last weekend, the Ducks (21-25, 4-14 Pac-12 Conference) must win five of their final six regular-season games to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Oregon begins a three-game series against Utah on Friday in Salt Lake City.
First-year coach Melyssa Lombardi was pleased with the way her team bounced back from the disappointing Civil War series during practices this week.
“You could feel their urgency, you could feel they were on a mission. They know what they want, they know what they need to do,” Lombardi said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how they respond. Any time you don’t get something that you want, this is where you get to see how your team is going to respond.”
The Utes (16-32, 4-14) are tied with Oregon for seventh in the eight-team conference standings.
Lombardi will continue to hand the ball to struggling ace Jordan Dail (17-13, 3.83 ERA), who allowed 26 hits and 20 earned runs against the Beavers.
The sophomore left-hander has pitched 213 2/3 innings this season, which is 53 2/3 more innings than any of her Pac-12 peers.
“I think all season she’s done a great job at recovering during the week and knowing what’s she’s expected to do during the weekend,” freshman second baseman Allee Bunker said of Dail. “We’re hoping this weekend we can show her more support and have her bounce back.”
Utah stepped out of conference play and clobbered in-state rival BYU 11-2 on Wednesday.
Ally Dickman went 5-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs to lead the Utes. Alyssa Barrera added a two-run home run and leads the Pac-12 with six triples.
The Ducks know they will have to get back to playing solid defense after committing six errors over three home losses to Oregon State.
“There’s no panic,” Lombardi said. “They know what they need to do, they know they’re capable of doing it.
“It’s just getting up there, being clean, being timely, and as a group doing it all together.”
Haley Cruse leads Oregon with a .350 batting average. The junior center fielder delivered a three-run inside-the-park home run to cap the 9-8 comeback win over Portland State on April 23.
Bunker is batting .433 over the last 18 games, and freshman shortstop Jasmine Sievers is batting .373 with nine doubles and two home runs over the last 19 games.
Third baseman Rachel Cid, another freshman, has started all 46 games and allowed two hits and one run in 2 2/3 innings of relief for an exhausted Dail last weekend.
Sophomore catcher Shaye Bowden leads the team with 31 RBIs and leads the Pac-12 with 13 runners caught stealing in 35 games behind the plate.
“I do believe that next year is looking very bright,” Bunker said. “Myself and all the rest of the freshmen have been feeling good on the field lately. We feel comfortable with each other and we’re excited for the future.”
The Ducks’ 2019 goal of making the postseason remains alive as long as the team can avoid two losses over its final six games.
“There’s a sense of urgency from everyone,” senior April Utecht said. “The season, we don’t want to say it’s coming to an end, we’re just taking it one game at a time. We’re really trying to play each game like it’s our last.”