CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – The sixth-ranked Oregon softball team extended its win-streak to 10 Friday night after the Ducks downed No. 23 LSU, 4-1, in their opening game of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. The Ducks’ top four batters went 7-for-12 at the plate while Cheridan Hawkins threw her fourth complete game in the win, giving up one run on six hits while fanning 12 batters. It is the third time the sophomore has recorded 10-plus strike outs in a game this season.
“Our top two hitters are so important to our success,” head coach Mike White said. “We go as they go. They have to be one of the top 1-2 combinations in the country right now. LSU is a well-coached team. They are very fast and have good power as well.”
Oregon (10-1) started hot out of the gates scoring two runs in the first inning. Takeda opened up the game with a single to LSU’s pitcher, Ashley Czechner, beating out the throw to first. With Courtney Ceo at the plate, Takeda advanced to second on a passed ball and then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Alexa Peterson. Janelle Lindvall then bombed Czechner’s pitch over the right field wall for the 2-0 UO lead.
The Ducks threatened once again in the top of the fourth. Alyssa Gillespie started things out for Oregon after she caught the LSU (10-5) defense sleeping with a bunt single. Sara Goodrum and Karine Shaver then drew back-to-back walks to load the bases with two outs for Nikki Udria. The freshman however wasn’t able to extend the Ducks’ lead, and popped out in foul territory just next to third base.
The Tigers cut Oregon’s lead after Bianka Bell crushed a ball to dead center to make it 2-1 Oregon. Hawkins settled right back into the swing of things, getting Kellsi Kloss to strike out followed by a fly out and ground out.
Oregon put the pressure on the LSU once again in the fifth, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Peterson reached first on hard single up the middle before Lindvall was able to draw a walk. Kailee Cuico wasn’t able to get a hold of the eighth pitch of the at-bat and grounded out to third to end Oregon threat.
“Czechner pitched well and really made us work,” White said. “We created quite a few opportunities through the game but she was able to get the big out.”
Heading into the bottom of the sixth, LSU had its own two-out rally after Sahvanna Jaquish reached on a grounder to Shaver who muffled the ball. Alex Boulet stole second after coming in to pinch run for Jaquish but Allison Falcon wasn’t able to plate the tying run after flying out to right.
With the top of the order back up for Oregon, Takeda walked to start the seventh inning. Ceo followed with a well-placed bunt right in front of Kloss to put runners on first and second. Peterson then roped a ground-rule double to left center to score Takeda. Lindvall then walked to load the bases but Ceo was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice on Cuico’s grounder to short. Gillespie then plated Peterson on another fielder’s choice that went off of Czechner’s glove. Goodrum ended Oregon’s attack, fouling out to left field, but not before the Ducks were able to put two more on the board to make it 4-1.
Hawkins opened the bottom of the seventh with two-straight punch outs before a wild sequence ensued. A.J. Andrews then drew a two-out walk for the Tigers. Bailey Landry then singled to second on an errant throw from Ceo and moved onto second after Shaver’s unsuccessful attempt to throw out Andrews at third. With Bell at the plate representing the winning run, Hawkins blew a 2-2 fastball past her to collect her 12th strikeout of the game and the 4-1 victory.
“I was definitely nervous, but I knew my defense was going to pick me up if a ball would be put in play,” Cheridan said. “I knew that if I continued to pitch the way I did throughout the game and attacked the batters that I would be fine.”
“Hawkins was fantastic the first four innings and was in control,” White said. “She definitely gutted it out the last two innings and with the winning run at the plate, captured a huge strike to end the game.”
The Ducks return to action Sat., Feb. 22, for a double-header against Fordham and Virginia. Oregon will start its day with the Rams for a 9:30 a.m. first pitch with break afterwards before taking on the Cavaliers at 2:30 p.m. who are coached by former Oregon assistant Blake Miller.