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NORMAN, Okla. - Behind a three-run first inning, the UO softball team (34-28) beat Arkansas, 3-0, and won its second straight NCAA regional game Saturday to advance to Sunday's NCAA regional final.

UO (35-28) jumped out in its first at-bat behind the bats of sophomore Neena Bryant who had a sacrifice fly and freshman Monique Fuiava who belted a two-run homer to propel UO into a rematch with No. 7 Oklahoma Sunday afternoon at 11 a.m. Pacific Time / 1 p.m. Central Time.

“We weren’t about to let our seniors go home,” Fuiava said. “They have worked too hard, and we couldn’t let them down. Our pitchers and defense had been carrying us, so it was time for the offense to do its part.”

Junior Duck starter Melissa Rice (12-11) pitched the first five innings and gave up no runs, struck out one and walked one. The Colbert, Wash., native posted her fourth combined shutout of the year, to go along with three complete game shutouts of her own.

After Rice gave up two hits to open the sixth inning, senior Alicia Cook came in and walked her first batter, then logged two strikeouts and a groundout to the second baseman to hold the Razorbacks scoreless. With a 1-2-3 seventh inning, Cook notched her fifth save of the season, and helped UO enjoy its second shutout of the day after Cook pitched a 1-0 complete game over Tulsa immediately before.

“Coming in with the runners on, I did my best to forget they were there,” Cook said. “I wasn’t expecting the strikeouts (in the sixth inning), but it was an added plus. We have nothing to celebrate yet – we have an even bigger test to face tomorrow.”

Junior Sari-Jane Jenkins led off the game with her fourth walk of Saturday’s two games, stole second base, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, then scored on Bryant’s deep fly ball to center field. Senior Joanna Gail next ripped her team-leading 12th double of the season to center field, and trotted home on Fuiava’s blast into the fourth row of the right center field bleachers. Fuiava’s shot was her seventh of the season – tying her for second-best on the team with Gail – and her third the past month after other four-baggers vs. Arizona State and Oregon State.

Fuiava and Gail both ended 2-for-3 at the plate, while Jenkins went 2-for-2 with her walk – her 37th of the season which ties her for third all-time for UO in a season, and is one away from second (38). Senior Kayleen Hudson added a single up the middle later in the first inning, and Bryant singled up the middle to lead off the first inning.

For Arkansas (37-29), starter Miranda Dixon (12-13) lasted only the first 2/3 of an inning and gave up all three runs. Katy Henry pitched the final 5.1 innings, allowed six hits, struck out four, walked none and gave up no runs.

At the plate for the Hawgs, the Ducks also cooled off Dixon who went 0-for-3 – mere hours after she had sent a two-run homer over the center field fence in the bottom of the seventh vs. Oklahoma to force the 11-inninng contest in the day’s opener. Oklahoma came back to win that game on a solo homer by shortstop Savannah Long.

Arkansas had four players hit safely, and only Dayna Huckabee had multiple hits (2-for-3).

In Saturday’s other contest, UO’s 1-0 win over Tulsa (34-25), the Ducks scored their run in the sixth inning when Bryant reached on an error by the third baseman, stole second base, then scored on a double by Fuiava down the left field line.

After it entered the Oklahoma Regional ranked as the lowest of the four seeds, Oregon has now advanced to the regional final for the fifth time under sixth-year head coach Kathy Arendsen. In ’05, the Ducks also matched up against the Sooners at OU’s Marita Hynes Field in the regional final, but lost 2-1. The two teams have met twice in ’08 with Oregon’s Cook pitching a 1-0 shutout earlier this year in Palm Springs, and Oklahoma winning the rematch Friday night, 6-0.

“We played very good softball today,” Arendsen said “If we play this well tomorrow we have a legitimate shot at beating them. We know that Oklahoma is very good team, and we certainly respect them. We also know that we’re even with them so far this year, so we’re going to come out with the approach to try and win the season series.”

Looking ahead, a live radio broadcast of Sunday’s Duck game (s) vs. host and overall No. 10 seed Oklahoma (45-12) will again be on KSCR 1320-AM in Eugene and will feature Joe Giansante and Terry Jonz. The same broadcast will also be available online to www.GoDucks.com subscribers.

If the Ducks win Sunday's first game of the double elimination format, they will play the Sooners one more time immediately after to decide who advances to the best-of-three Super Regional series next weekend against the winner of the New York regional that includes returning national champion Arizona.

More NCAA regional information is located at the www.SoonerSports.com and www.NCAAsports.com websites.


 

LINESCORE

 

Oregon 3, Arkansas 0 (May 17, 2008 at Norman, Okla.)
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Arkansas............ 000 000 0 - 0 5 0 (37-29)
Oregon.............. 300 000 X - 3 8 0 (35-28)
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Pitchers: Arkansas - M. Dixon; Katy Henry(1). Oregon - Rice, Melissa; Cook, Alicia(6).
Win-Rice, Melissa(12-11) Save-Cook, Alicia(5) Loss-M. Dixon(12-13) T-1:45 A-1095
HR ORE - Fuiava, Monique.
Weather: 74, sunny, wind 2-6 mph
Rice, M faced 2 batters in the 6th.

 

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