BY TALYA FRANCO
University of Oregon softball has been one of the most successful programs for years now. They were the PAC-12 champions from 2013-2016. They have also competed in the Women’s College World Series the past few seasons, and last year, they made it to semifinals. Unfortunately, they’ve yet to make it to the ‘ship. But is this the season?
On Tuesday, NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) and USA Softball came out with their top 25 polls and Oregon softball landed in the number three spot for both. This is a huge accomplishment for the Ducks, but they have a long road ahead of them with their packed schedule coming up this spring.
2017’s roster was filled with some talented players that have a lot of high expectations for the upcoming season. On Monday, there were four players named on the watch list for USA Softball National Player of the Year: Oregon pitchers Maggie Balint and Megan Kliest, outfielder Alexis Mack, and transfer infielder DJ Sanders.
Pitcher Maggie Balint was an outstanding player for the Ducks last season as she dominated every single batter. At the end of the season, her ERA was 1.22, fifth-best in the NCAA. She was in the top three for the NFCA National Freshman of the Year. She received a lot of recognition throughout the season with Pac-12 All-Freshman, First Team all PAC-12 and First Team All- Region.
In the 2018 season schedule, they have 24 games that are against top-25 teams. Not only will they be facing tough competition all season long, but they will be competing against ranked No. 25 Georgia in the season-opener.
Their conference is filled with some extraordinary athletes already but they will be facing their toughest competition on April 18 in Jane Sanders Stadium against the reigning champion Oklahoma Sooners. They will also be facing Texas A&M, LSU, Florida State, Tennessee and many more out-of-conference schools that will give them a run for their money.
The only PAC-12 teams joining the Ducks in the polls are No. 4 Washington, No. 5 UCLA and No. 7 Arizona.
The Ducks’ first tournament games are right around the corner (February 8th) and will be traveling to Tempe, Arizona to compete in a weekend full of softball against Georgia, Fresno State, and more.