Oregon appeared to be one of the teams that could possibly challenge Oklahoma and UCLA at the top after its April 9 win over the Bruins.
It was the second victory of the season over UCLA, which were the Bruins only two losses at that point. However, things have changed quickly for Oregon.
UCLA won the rest of the series. Washington took three of four from the Ducks. Stanford split the series in Eugene and had a lead in every game at one point.
Oregon is now 3-8 since the win against the Bruins and the 27-2 start seems so long ago.
What has changed?
Leading into the series with Arizona State, what has been the biggest change for Oregon? Look no further than Ducks’ ace Brooke Yanez. The Oregon workhorse in the circle has seen a rise in her ERA over the past 11 games.
In Oregon’s slump, Yanez has allowed 18 earned runs in that span, which is more than half of her season total. She didn’t go longer than three innings in any of her three outings against Washington.
The other good news for Arizona State is that Yanez has allowed 10 home runs this month. Look for the Sun Devils to try and jump on her early to keep her confidence down.
Oregon’s offense has also struggled in that span. The Ducks have only scored more than three runs twice in that 3-8 record.
Haley Cruse leads off the lineup and there’s a good correlation with her runs scored. In seven of Oregon’s 10 losses, Cruse has not scored a run.
Home runs are also not Oregon’s forte. Coming into the series, the Ducks have only hit 42 dingers. That ranks sixth in the Pac-12 behind the other four ranked Pac-12 teams and Utah.
The middle infield duo of Alyssa Brito and Allee Bunker have combined for 17 home runs. However, Brito hasn’t hit one since March 26 and all of Bunker’s in April were in the UCLA series.
The super seniors; Kindra and Maddi Hackbarth, Cielo Meza, Alli Tatnall, along with Olivia Miller, who is graduating early, will be honored this upcoming weekend.
Of course, the Hackbarths will be attached to many different categories in the Sun Devil record books and have made a huge impact on the Trisha Ford era in Tempe.
The other three have made different impacts as well.
Meza has had a tough year, but when she transferred into Arizona State, she was asked to do quite a tough task.
She was expected to be the lead arm after Giselle “G” Juarez left the program. She seemed to be headed for a good season in 2020 and will forever be included in the Arizona State record book after her no-hitter against Seattle last year.
Tatnall has been part of multiple walk-offs. Over the last three years, she’s had the game-winning hit against Utah (2019), Kentucky (2020) and BYU (2021).
More than her play on the field, all of her teammates constantly speak to her energy in the dugout and the things she does to help as a friend and a teammate.
Miller’s biggest impact for the program and Arizona State athletics is far greater than the game of softball. It’s going back to the fall when she helped advocate and push voting registration amongst Arizona State student-athletes. Read more about that here.
Also, if you’ve ever been to a game at Farrington Stadium, she was really good at the Pick Your Pocket game, usually having chapstick or gum on hand.
Heading into the series with Oregon, Arizona State has the resume and most likely, the COVID protocols to host an NCAA Regional. Different reports say that in the next week or so the NCAA will create a list of 20 possible hosts and narrow it to 16 on Selection Day.
Unless Oregon sweeps the Sun Devils in all four games, it seems unlikely Arizona State would drop from that hosting position. D1Softball’s projections have the Sun Devils with the 12-seed before the start of the series.