by Rob Moseley
When No. 3 Oregon met No. 1 UCLA at Howe Field on Friday afternoon, Dana Lindvall and her daughter Devon sat just behind home plate in UO gear.
This was notable because each is a UCLA graduate; Devon is the fourth generation Bruin in her family, having played her senior year with the UCLA softball team last spring. But they found themselves on the right side of Friday's matchup when Devon's younger sister Janelle, the Ducks' starting catcher, drove in five runs to help the Oregon softball team win, 9-7, in the series opener with the top-ranked Bruins.
The Ducks (33-4, 7-0 Pac-12) and Bruins (33-3, 8-2) will meet for the second game of the series at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Howe Field, with Pac-12 Networks again televising the matchup.
Janelle Lindvall cleared the bases with a sharp single to center in the first inning on Friday, singled with two outs to drive in a run in the third, then homered in the fifth as Oregon jumped out to a big early lead against the nation's top-ranked team.
"We believe — at least I believe — that if we play to our potential, we can beat anyone," said Lindvall, whose youngest sister, Lauren, has signed a letter of intent with Oregon and will join the team next season. "We just need to focus on our game more, and we hit very well, so I think it showed."
Lindvall's fireworks helped the Ducks overcome a rare off day for starter Cheridan Hawkins, who allowed three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. Karissa Hovinga closed out the game, allowing four unearned runs in the seventh as UCLA rallied from down 9-3 in its final chance at bat.
Lindvall's fifth-inning homer was the first of back-to-back shots along with Koral Costa. A sophomore catcher from Stevenson Ranch, Calif., Lindvall now has six home runs this season, second on the team, and 26 RBIs, third-best among the Ducks.
"I've been feeling good lately," Lindvall said. "I'm happy; my family's here. I'm just feeling good, keeping it calm at the plate and I feel like I'm seeing it well."
Hawkins struggled with her grip early on, leading to command issues that explained two hit batters in the first inning. But she struck out the final two hitters of the frame and cruised until the fifth, when UCLA's Stephany LaRosa went the other way with a homer high off the right-field scoreboard to get the Bruins within 6-3.
"It's a small ball park; it's 190 down the lines and 220 to center," UO coach Mike White said. "So anything can happen, (if) you get some people on base and then you pop one out there. But I'm proud of the way the ladies battled today with their bats."
White said he looks for an "answer inning" after Oregon's opponent scores. The Ducks got three on Lindvall's first RBI single to answer UCLA's first run, then two more in the bottom of the fifth on the back-to-back homers to lead 8-3.
Oregon almost needed another "answer inning" in the seventh after UCLA's Ally Carda blasted a three-run homer with two outs to make it 9-7. But Hovinga coaxed a groundball by the next hitter to end the game.
Carda had earlier been chased from the game after starting for UCLA and allowing eight runs — five earned — in 4 1/3 innings. She led the Pac-12 in ERA at 0.79 entering the game, and saw that rise to 1.01 with Friday's result.
Hawkins sported a 0.98 ERA entering the game, and thus the expectation was for a pitchers’ duel. That dissolved quickly, with a slugfest developing that the Ducks ultimately won.
"Our hitters did really well today, and that was great," said Hawkins, who figures to start again in Sunday's series finale, after Hovinga gets the ball Saturday. "It was awesome to see."
Hovinga got out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, after inheriting two runners and then walking the first batter she faced. The Bruins also got the four unearned runs in the seventh off Oregon's junior right-hander, though White said he still plans to give Hovinga the start Saturday.
"Why they got on top of her and why they hit her so well was because we were falling behind in the counts, and not controlling the counts, not controlling the strike zone," White said. "That's what we've got to adjust to. They're good hitters. You're going to have to pick your poison here, going to have to challenge them and go right at them."
Postgame Notes: Oregon is now 3-8 against No. 1 ranked teams in 4+ seasons under head coach Mike White...The Ducks' last win over a top-ranked team was on April 21, 2012 in a 1-0 win over California in Eugene...The Ducks have hit a home run in 11 straight games.