The Oregon softball program’s painful journey from first to worst is complete.
The Ducks, the reigning Pac-12 champions, finished alone in last place in the conference standings after a 12-4 loss to Arizona State in a six-inning game Saturday at Jane Sanders Stadium.
Oregon coach Melyssa Lombardi’s tumultuous first season ends with a 22-30 overall record, including a 5-19 mark in Pac-12 play.
This is the first time since 2009 the Ducks have had a losing record and missed the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the stunning downward spiral since the program entered last year’s Women’s College World Series as the No. 1 overall seed, a crowd of 2,368 showed up to bid farewell to four seniors and watch a promising young nucleus show flashes of a brighter future.
“Next year they’ll be going, ‘If we can do last year, we can do anything.’ Those are the comments you’re going to hear from these guys,” Lombardi said of her returning players. “It was important for this group to fight from the beginning all the way to the very end and walk off the field as a group the way they wanted to walk off. They did it right.”
The Sun Devils (33-18, 13-11 Pac-12) completed the sweep with 29 hits and 26 runs over the three games.
Jordan Dail (18-18, 4.22 ERA), who allowed eight runs in the first inning during the first two games of the series, started the finale with an efficient 1-2-3 frame.
Allee Bunker, hitting in the leadoff spot for an injured Haley Cruse, followed with a double and then scored on Jasmine Sievers’ ensuing double to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Jade Gortarez hit a solo home run in the second to tie the score.
Cherish Burks, one of the four seniors honored during a pregame ceremony, doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bailey Cook to make the score 2-1.
“My motto this whole season was enjoy the moment. I had that written on my glove, my walk-up song says enjoy the moment, and I really internalized that today,” Burks said after going 3-for-3 with two RBIs. “I was going to enjoy the moment and take in the fans and take in the smells and really capture what it is to have my last game at the Jane because it is amazing.”
Once again, the lead was short-lived as Dail gave up a solo shot to Kiara Kennedy in the third.
After an RBI double by Skylar McCarty, twin sisters Kindra Hackbarth and Maddi Hackbarth each smashed two-run home runs to give the Sun Devils a 7-2 lead.
Lombardi replaced Dail with third baseman Rachel Cid after the sophomore lefty allowed six hits (four home runs) and seven runs (six in the third) over 2 2/3 innings.
Oregon’s only scholarship pitcher gave up 22 hits and 19 runs (17 earned) during the series. Dail started the team’s final 17 games and was second nationally with 248 innings pitched.
“It was amazing what (Dail) did, going so many innings no matter what the circumstance was,” senior April Utecht said after going 1-for-2 at the plate with a walk in her final collegiate game. “She went out there and she did her job. As a senior, I can’t be more thankful for that. She did everything.”
Burks’ two-RBI single in the third cut Oregon’s deficit to 7-4.
Morgan Howe hit a two-run triple off Cid and scored to extend Arizona State’s advantage to 10-4 in the fourth.
Cid made a self-preservation snag of a line drive off the bat of Alli Tatnall to begin a double play during a scoreless fifth.
The Sun Devils tacked on a pair of runs in the sixth. Cid allowed six hits and five runs over 3 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and no walks.
Lombardi plans to add some depth behind the foundational players during the offseason so Dail won’t have to carry such a heavy burden and standouts Cid and Cruse can focus on their positions in the field.
“We’ve got some great athletes coming in, we’ll obviously have to go to the (NCAA transfer) portal as well,” said Lombardi, who lost nine players from last year’s roster before this season’s first pitch. “But I look at the nucleus that’s here and it’s good, it’s good. It’s really, really good.
“And what’s cool is they know it. They know as a group it’s good.”