The next step for Oregon’s resurgent softball program is to re-establish the home-field advantage at Jane Sanders Stadium.
The 11th-ranked Ducks (17-2), who were 4-13 at home during a 22-30 finish to coach Melyssa Lombardi’s first season, will host the Oregon Tournament beginning Friday with a doubleheader against Seattle and Loyola Marymount.
“I always refer to it as a lion’s den,” Lombardi said of the atmosphere at Jane Sanders Stadium. “Because that’s how it felt when I came here as an opponent.”
During Mike White’s final season in 2018, the Ducks were 24-2 at home, including a 5-0 victory over Oklahoma, where Lombardi was a longtime assistant.
Oregon was the No. 1 seed at the Women’s College World Series that season after winning an NCAA Super Regional over Kentucky in the friendly confines of “The Jane.”
Lombardi’s deeper and more talented 2020 Ducks are on track to get back into the postseason after last year’s difficult transition.
Oregon enters its first homestand as the only team ranked in the top 15 in batting average (.345), earned-run average (1.53) and fielding percentage (.987).
Third baseman Rachel Cid leads the team with five home runs and is tied with catcher Terra McGowan for the team lead in RBIs with 21. Center fielder Haley Cruse is hitting .462 and second baseman Allee Bunker is hitting .453.
Brooke Yanez (8-1, 1.80 ERA) and Samaria Diaz (6-0, 0.58 ERA) have been solid in the circle, which has allowed for Jordan Dail’s (3-1, 2.20 ERA) workload to be dramatically decreased.
The Ducks opened the season with 16 consecutive wins before suffering two one-run losses last week against Louisville and No. 15 Oklahoma State.
“We showed a fight and we could have won those games with little tweaks,” utility player Shaye Bowden said. “We made a few errors that could have been cleaned up and we could have won those games easily.”
Oregon plays Seattle and Portland State on Saturday and wraps up the weekend against Portland State on Sunday.
A home sweep would give the Ducks 22 wins to match last year’s season total.
“We don’t take failure well and we were never planning on failure,” freshman Ariel Carlson said of the team’s fast start. “So it might be a surprise to outside people, but it’s not a surprise to us at all because we’re there every day at practice grinding it out.”
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