EUGENE — The intensity of the moment didn’t faze Cheridan Hawkins.
In the second inning Sunday at Jane Sanders Stadium, Oregon’s senior ace walked a Baylor batter to load the bases with one out. Unrattled by the situation, Hawkins struck out the next hitter, pumped her first with a flourish, then ended the threat with a comebacker.
The intensity of the moment didn’t faze Nikki Udria, either.
In the sixth inning of Sunday’s NCAA Regional final, Udria came up with two on and none out. Udria quickly fell into an 0-2 hole, before evening the count. She patiently fouled off five of the next six pitches before, with a full count, blasted a home run to center field that gave the Ducks an eight-run lead.
Maybe there was a time, two or three years ago, when the intensity of those moments might have fazed the Ducks. But not Sunday. Not in Oregon’s 21st regional game under coach Mike White, all victories, the latest an 8-1 win over the Lady Bears before 2,098 at The Jane.
“I’m not nearly as nervous as I was the first year, and even the second,” said Hawkins, part of a third straight UO senior class that went unbeaten in four regional appearances. “Getting to play in four regionals definitely takes some of the nerves out of it.”
Oregon (47-8) handled Baylor in Sunday’s final the same way the Ducks won Friday and Saturday. They used stellar pitching, solid defense and outstanding situational hitting to finish the regional by outscoring the opposition 22-1 in three games, while allowing just 11 hits.
“They’re the most complete team I think we’ve played this year — and we’ve played some good ones,” Baylor coach Glenn Moore said. “… They were ready to play, and they were on a mission. They’re going to be hard to stop.”
Hawkins (23-3) got the win Sunday by pitching into the sixth inning, her second win in as many days over Baylor. The Ducks move on to face Pac-12 rival UCLA in the Super Regionals next weekend at home, on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m., to be followed by a tiebreaking third game if necessary. TV information is to be announced.
The only conference series the Ducks lost all season was to the Bruins, at home to open April. But Oregon third baseman Jenna Lilley missed that series due to injury. And Hawkins hadn’t yet found her groove, a groove that’s seen her go 9-0 in her last nine starts, with a 0.39 ERA and 66 strikeouts against seven walks.
“I’m looking forward to it,” White said. “Obviously UCLA is a very good team, and it should be a great matchup.”
In an oddity of the regional format, Oregon was the visiting team Sunday. That allowed the Ducks to score in the top of the first, when Lilley singled before eventually coming home on a sacrifice fly by Janelle Lindvall.
Right fielder Alyssa Gillespie, who went 7-for-8 to earn regional co-MVP honors with Hawkins, had a hand in the next two UO runs. The Ducks’ No. 9 hitter reached on a bunt in the second, and scored on a double by Lilley. In the fourth, Gillespie doubled in a run for a 3-0 lead.
Gillespie also scored on Udria’s homer in the sixth, Oregon’s school-record 93rd of this season but the only one of the regional. More common were rallies like the one the Ducks mounted in the fifth, in which Lindvall — who is tied for the UO career record for homers — brought in a run on a safety squeeze.
“Our team played extremely well today — good pitching, good defense and timely hitting,” White said. “We did a lot of things right, and I think that showed the whole weekend.”