Oregon ends season for NDSU softball team with 6-1 regional tournament win
EUGENE, Ore.-Oregon left no doubt for North Dakota State. The Ducks are that good. The softball team ranked No. 1 in the nation by coaches and seeded second overall in the NCAA tournament looked and played the part Saturday, putting an end to NDS...
EUGENE, Ore.-Oregon left no doubt for North Dakota State. The Ducks are that good.
The softball team ranked No. 1 in the nation by coaches and seeded second overall in the NCAA tournament looked and played the part Saturday, putting an end to NDSU's season with a 6-1 victory to wrap up the regional at Howe Field.
"Oregon's a great team and you can just see that," NDSU coach Darren Mueller said. "They're just loaded.
"I think they're the best team in the country ... They're probably one of the best teams we've played over the past few years."
While the No. 25 Bison (45-11) had taken it down to the final out in a 4-3 loss to Oregon on Friday, they were dominated Saturday as the Ducks (49-6) pounded out two home runs and four doubles among their nine hits off NDSU ace Krista Menke. Two Oregon pitchers held the Bison to Amanda Grable's two singles and an unearned run in the seventh inning.
In advancing to an NCAA super regional for the fourth consecutive season, and upping its record at home in regionals to 18-0, the Ducks also became the only team this season to record two wins over the Bison.
"That was one of our goals we set this year, to not lose twice to a team all year," Mueller said. "If Oregon is the team for us to lose twice to, I'm not going to be too disappointed in that."
Mueller spoke of being "proud" of his team's many accomplishments this season, including a Summit League title with a 19-2 conference record before sweeping through the conference tournament. The Bison not only earned their sixth NCAA appearance in the past seven years, but were ranked for the first time in program history, at No. 24 in one poll and No. 25 in the voting by coaches.
"An extremely tough team," Oregon coach Mike White said. "I think they're underrated ... They do a lot of things right."
The Ducks threw an early curve at NDSU, choosing Karissa Hovinga (11-1) as their starting pitcher instead of Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Cheridan Hawkins. It was not only a right-handed pitcher instead of the lefty Hawkins, but a different style with Hovinga working the inside corner and staying low while the out pitch for Hawkins is her rise ball.
"When you see the difference between what Hawkins has and what (Hovinga) has as a pitcher ... We didn't adjust as soon as we should have," Mueller said.
Hovinga worked two hitters into the seventh inning, but after a two-base throwing error and Grable's second single produced NDSU's lone run, Hawkins came in to record two strikeouts before the game ended with pinch runner Katie Shoultz thrown out attempting to steal second.
"We were trying to make something happen," Mueller said.
The Bison had only two base runners through five innings on Grable's single in the second inning and a walk to Logan Moreland in the fourth, but they were both wiped out by inning-ending double plays. NDSU never was able to get more than three batters to the plate in an inning until the sixth.
NDSU had the bases loaded in the sixth with one out on a hit batter, fielder's choice grounder and walk, but that ended when Moreland grounded into a force at home before No. 3 hitter Cheyenne Garcia struck out swinging.
Though Menke gave up the six extra base hits, Mueller said he didn't think it was weariness from pitching in her fourth game in a span of 48 hours. The NDSU senior, after throwing 317 pitches over 20 innings of her first three games, threw another 134 pitches Saturday against one of the best hitting teams in the country.
"For Krista to keep battling ... when every pitch matters, it's tough," Mueller said. "She was actually pretty good ... She stayed pretty loose.
"We weren't going to take her out, as a senior and after everything she's done for our program."