With their pair of victories over Louisiana-Lafayette last week, Arizona State advanced to their 10th Women's College World Series in school history and kept their championship repeat dreams alive.
Their first opponent during the double-elimination bracket portion of the WCWC will be fellow Pac-12 member Oregon. The Ducks are making just their second WCWS trip in school history.
Let's take a closer look at the Ducks, who will battle with ASU tonight at 6:30pm.
Record: 44-16 (17-3 on neutral sites)
Path to the WCWS: Entering the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed, the Ducks hosted their opening round regional. They beat Portland State 7-3 in their opener, then topped BYU in consecutive games to advance to face No. 6 seed Texas.
Like ASU, the Ducks fell in their opener, 4-2, but rallied to post consecutive wins--5-4 and 10-6--to advance to their first WCWS since 1989.
Previous Meetings: ASU and Oregon battled twice earlier this season, with the final game of the series in Eugene cancelled due to weather. Oregon won the first of a doubleheader on March 31st 3-0, thanks to Jessica Moore's seven-strikeout shutout. The Sun Devils rebounded with a 7-4. ASU pounded pitcher Karissa Hovinga for all seven of those runs in the first two innings, highlighted by Haley Steele's two-run home run.
Offense: After facing the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation in ULL, ASU may feel some relief against the Oregon offense, but they shouldn't. The Ducks are still a potent lineup, ranking 12th in the nation in scoring (5.95 runs-per-game) and 13th in slugging percentage (.493).
While there are no major standout performers for the Ducks, they have several key players that will present challenges for ASU's pitchers.
Leadoff hitter Samantha Pappas leads the team with a .396 average and is the Ducks' top base stealing threat with 21 on the year. She also has some pop with nine homers on the year, third best on the team. She teams with Kaylan Howard to form a potent 1-2 combo at the top of the order. Howard tied for the team lead with 12 home runs, drove in 52 and had 15 doubles while hitting .337. Kailee Cucio led the team with 53 RBI and tied Howard with 12 jacks.
No. 3 hitter Kelsey Chambers brings some good pop, with 10 homers and 48 RBI. The Ducks are a bit top-heavy in the lineup, but Janie Takeda helps to turn the order over at the bottom, thanks to a .326 average and 16 steals, often setting the table for Pappas.
Pitching Staff: Unlike some teams that feature two potent starters with roughly equal workloads, the Ducks have a clear No. 1. Junior Jessica Moore has started 44 of the team's 60 games, including all six of Oregon's postseason games, posting a 32-13. Those 32 wins are good enough to rank Moore 12th in the nation. She's posted a solid, if not spectacular 2.57 ERA. Moore's apt at getting strikeouts, but can hand out free passes with walks (106).
If for some reason Moore can't start, the team would turn to freshman Karissa Hovinga, who made the team's other 16 starts. She had some struggles, and has some issues with control, but is a capable young pitcher with a bright future