The box score suggests the Oregon softball team is going out with a whimper.
The Ducks mustered only two hits during a 10-1 loss to Arizona State in the penultimate game of the season Friday in front of a crowd of 2,104 at Jane Sanders Stadium.
Coach Melyssa Lombardi, who lost nine talented players from last year’s Pac-12 championship roster before her first season began, is confident the program will end the season with a roar and will make some postseason noise again in the future.
“I’m a huge fan of this team,” Lombardi said after the Ducks lost for the eighth time in their last nine conference games. “Is it frustrating not to win? Absolutely. You know why? Because my heart breaks for this team. Everything they’ve dealt with, it stinks when you work as hard as they do and you don’t get the breaks you want to get.
“It’s OK, because I trust this process and I know this team is going to be just fine. I believe in this team.”
Shaye Bowden ended Cielo Meza’s bid for a no-hitter with a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to make the score 7-1. The sophomore catcher added an infield single in the seventh off Samantha Mejia.
Jordan Dail set the tone by loading the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning for the second consecutive game.
After scoring three first-inning runs en route to a 4-0 win in the opener, the Sun Devils (32-18, 12-11) turned this shaky start from Oregon’s only scholarship pitcher into a 5-0 lead.
Denae Champman and Jade Gortarez delivered RBI singles, Kindra Hackbarth came home on a passed ball and Kiara Kennedy delivered a two-RBI single.
The Ducks (22-29, 5-18), who are tied with California for last place in the standings a year after winning the Pac-12 title, never recovered from the early deficit and fell to 4-12 at home.
Two of those wins at the Jane came against the Bears (28-27, 5-18) and the other two came during a doubleheader sweep of Portland State.
Dail (18-17, 4.16 ERA) allowed nine hits and eight runs with four strikeouts and three walks over 5 2/3 innings. The sophomore left-hander has pitched 245 1/3 innings, by far the most in the conference.
“I don’t think I have to touch her confidence. Her confidence is good,” Lombardi said of her workhorse. “I just think you’ve got a tired pitcher on the mound.”
Meza walked Haley Cruse and hit Allee Bunker in the bottom of the first before getting Jasmine Sievers to hit into a double play and Rachel Cid to fly out to deep center field.
The pitchers settled in and allowed their defenses produce some highlight-reel plays.
Gortarez made a spectacular snare at shortstop to rob Bunker of a hit in the third. Cruse made a leaping catch at the top of the wall to take away an extra-base hit from Morgan Howe in the fourth.
Then Howe made a running catch into the wall in left center to glove a line drive off the bat of Sievers. Cherish Burks made a similar catch on a screamer hit by Howe in the sixth.
Maddi Hackbarth didn’t leave anything to chance with a deep two-run home run off Dail to make the score 7-0 in the fifth.
Kindra Hackbarth hit an even longer home run to chase Dail in the sixth to make the score 8-1.
Howe tacked on a two-RBI double in the seventh. Cruse and Cid, who pitched in relief to spell the struggling Dail, were each charged with an earned run.
“I think about how I go out to make a pitching change and I bring in my third baseman (Cid), who hasn’t pitched since she was 12 years old, and that excites me because she cares about this team,” Lombardi said. “I think about the four different changes on the field I have to make to make that work for her to be on the mound, and that excites me.”
Oregon, which will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years, will finish the regular season against Arizona State at noon Saturday at the Jane.
The program will say goodbye to seniors April Utecht, Cherish Burks, Darya Kaboli-Nejad and Bayley Bruner.
“You might not see some things happening for us on the scoreboard, but I promise you a lot of great things are happening,” Lombardi said. “These guys will come in just like they would any other game and they will fight to the very end.
“I think (Sunday) is going to be a great day. We’re going to send our seniors off, and I know this team will make it a really special day for them.”