Oregon Ducks

Backs against the wall, Oregon softball shows no fear

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NBCSNW staff

Backs against the wall, Oregon softball shows no fear

Backs against the wall, feathers ruffled, a must-win situation, Oregon softball had quite the test in front of them Friday night in front of a sell out crowd at Jane Sanders stadium. In the biggest test of their season, the Ducks are in a win or go home situation down 0-1 in a best-of-three series to the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats in NCAA Super-Regionals. After giving up nine runs on 10 hits in last night’s loss, many wondered how and if the Ducks would bounce back because Oregon had not been put in a situation like this all season long.

The Ducks haven’t given up that many runs since playing at the Arizona Wildcats in April 2017.

It was a different story tonight. Oregon came in focused, fired up, feeling good, and defeated the Wildcats 6-1.

“Just a much better overall performance, especially defensively. We made some big plays,” said Oregon coach Mike White. “You could tell we were fighting for our lives. That’s what we had to do with our backs up against the wall. I was really proud of our team… hopefully tomorrow we can do the same thing.”

“It was there and I didn’t want it to be,” said senior infielder Jenna Lilley on dropping the first game vs. Kentucky. “You have to acknowledge that that’s the reality of it and what we’re playing for to keep our season going. So definitely the thought was there but do everything we can to not let that happen.”

Freshmen sensation and home-town kid Lauren Burke has not phased a bit in her first postseason play as a collegiate player. Burke, from Marist High School here in Eugene, Oregon, has batted 5-for-6 with seven RBI’s and two homers this postseason.

But this is not over quite yet. One down, one to go. Oregon softball must have back-to-back wins over the Wildcats to advance to the college World Series. One more game tomorrow evening, 6 PM, and Jane Sanders stadium.

Will the same team that came in focused in game two repeat itself in game three? Or will the momentum swing back to Kentucky’s side as it did in game one? Softball fans are in for a real treat tomorrow night with a trip to nationals on the line.

 

Oregon softball shakin’, not stirred

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NBCSNW Staff

Oregon softball shakin’, not stirred

Four errors. Nine runs given up. 10 hits allowed… a rather uncharacteristic night for the No. 1 seeded Oregon Ducks in round one of the NCAA Super Regionals. The No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats, coming off run-ruling all three of their opponents last weekend, the bats were hot and junior Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Kleist was tested early and often. Kleist did not seem like her usual self, and besides striking out the first Kentucky batter, had a rough first inning giving up a three-run homer to Wilcats' ace hitter Abbey Cheek.

The Ducks offense did manage to put up six runs on the night, but the defense did not hold giving up four errors on bad throws.

“We know our backs are up against the wall right now,” said coach Mike White following the game. “It makes it pretty simple: we have to come out and win otherwise our season is done. I thought our team fought hard, we never gave up, we battled until the last out, unfortunately it didn’t work out today. Hopefully tomorrow it can be a different story.”

Oregon will face a do or die situation tomorrow in this best-of-three series with the Wildcats already down 0-1. 

“Kentucky, I give them a lot of credit, they came in here and they came to play. So like coach says, pretty simple, you win or you don’t,” said senior catcher Gwen Svekis.

Oregon must flush this game and move on. Focus on the task at hand, do all the little things right, and flat out win tomorrow. With their backs against the wall, how will this team respond? 

“Now, it’s what we do tomorrow and the next day that matter the most,” said White. “How are we going to bounce back? Sure we had a bad game, but if we want to be the national champions and be the number one team in the country, we need to be able to come back from this. Plenty of teams have done it before. We need to be fired up and come out and play a better game.”

Oregon softball has both the steak and the sizzle

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USA Today Kelvin Kuo

Oregon softball has both the steak and the sizzle

The No. 1 overall seeded Oregon Ducks are built on a foundation of experience. Players like seniors Gwen Svekis, Jenna Lilley, and Lauren Lindvall who have been in the national tournament before. Post-season success relies on experience such as this. But it doesn’t stop there for the Ducks.

Coach Mike White and his staff have made quiet the effort in terms of recruiting and can be seen with the electric underclassmen on this Oregon roster. 

For starters, first baseman Mia Camuso was second on the team last year with 47 RBI’s. Camuso is just a sophomore. Outfielder Shannon Rhodes made her name known last season with her powerful hitting, also just a sophomore. Haley Cruse finds herself sitting higher in the batting order this year in post-season play, combined with her speed, rounds out this impressive sophomore class. 

Two freshmen in particular really jump off the roster. Local kid Lauren Burke out of Marist High School, Eugene, Oregon, hit a two-run homer in the Ducks’ first game vs. U Albany to boost Oregon into round two of the NCAA Eugene regionals. Backing up senior Svekis behind the plate is freshman Mary Iakopo, who looks as confident as ever behind the plate, has a deadly arm, and a threat at bat as well.

Speaking on the freshman and sophomore class, coach White said, "They are putting a lot of pressure on the upperclassmen... we are loding a great senior class and that next class has to be ready to go... That's what we try to do: to have depth."

This roster has potential all-around, but the most solid group of all has to be on the mound. Pick your poison between Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year junior Megan Kleist and sophomore stud Miranda Elish, both with ERA’s under 1. On top of that, sophomore Maggie Balint proved last season as just a freshman that she can make quiet the impact as well. Elish and Kleist allowed zero runs over the course of regionals weekend.

The Oregon Ducks await the winner of the Lexington region to be played next weekend in super-regionals.

Oregon softball may just crack the National Championship code

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NBCSNW

Oregon softball may just crack the National Championship code

Oregon softball may just have the formula for a National Championship and it starts on the mound.

14 strikeouts. 77 pitches with 61 strikes in seven innings. Zero runs. Just a glimpse into the life of Oregon Ducks sophomore pitcher Miranda Elish in game one of the NCAA Eugene regional vs. u Albany. Elish took command of the game right away going three up, three down in the first inning leading the Ducks to a 4-0 victory over the Great Danes.

But this is nothing new. Elish has been doing this all season long. The Ducks head into the post-season as the No. 1 overall seed behind the stellar one-two punch on the mound of Elish and Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, junior Megan Kleist. The consistancy of Elish and Klesit have propelled the Ducks to a Pac-12 conference championship in an already gruesome conference with constant top-10 national caliber teams.

Both Kleist and Elish were also selected this season to the First Team All-Pac 12. 

Oregon finished with a 47-7 overall record, a 21-3 conference record, and an overall No. 1 seed in the USA Today poll, heading into the NCAA post season. 

When deciding who would get the starting nod vs. U Albany, coach Mike White said, “We’ve got two number one’s out there…It could have gone either way.” Having not one, but two pitchers in your arsenal combined with the power off the bats for Oregon softball, could call for a deep tourney run…

 

Dillon Brooks breaks down his rookie experience

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USA Today

Dillon Brooks breaks down his rookie experience

The Starters on NBA TV had a very special guest on Friday, former Oregon Basketball star Dillon Brooks.

Brooks recently wrapped up his rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies, and boy did he have a year. Drafted 45th overall in the 2nd round of the NBA Draft, few expected much from Brooks. All he did was silence all his naysayers and put together a great rookie campaign.

Brooks played in all 82 games for Memphis, starting 74 of them, while averaging 11.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. Not bad for a guy drafted in the second round.

While on The Starters, Brooks talked about Memphis, the challenges of being a rookie in the NBA, who he thinks is the toughest player to guard, and much more.

Check out the video below to hear from the former Duck.  

Get to know Oregon’s newest wide receiver, Tabari Hines

Get to know Oregon’s newest wide receiver, Tabari Hines

Welcome to the flock. It was just last week that former Wake Forest star Tabari Hines announced his intentions to leave the Demon Deacons and take his talents to Eugene.

The 5’10”, 175lb wide receiver instantly helps bring some much needed talent and depth to Oregon’s receiving corps. Junior Dillon Mitchell had a productive 2017 for the Ducks, and hopes to build on that in 2018, but the rest of the group is young and unproven.

Hines looks to change that.

As a junior last season at Wake Forest Hines led the team with 53 receptions, and was third on the team with 683 receiving yards and seven scores.

To put that in perspective, Mitchell was the leader in two of those categories for Oregon last season, hauling in 42 receptions for 517 yards, while tight end Jacob Breeland led the team with five touchdowns. Hines would be number one in all three.

There is little doubt that Hines will make a difference on the field, but enough about that. Let’s get to know a little bit more about the newest Duck:

- Hines had narrowed his transfer options to Oregon, USC, and Texas before ultimately deciding on UO.

- Says players and the coaches really helped set Oregon apart.

- Thanks to all the jerseys, he says he actually watched a lot of Oregon football as a kid.

- How does he describe his new quarterback, Justin Herbert? Simply, “he’s the real deal.”

- Hine says he doesn’t know how to fish, but wants to learn how. This is the Pacific Northwest! It might be kind of hard to find someone to teach him, *wink*

- The emoji that best describes him? He says it’s the cool guy with the glasses.

Want to learn even more about the newest Duck? Be sure to tune into The Bridge tonight at 6PM for the full interview with Serena Winters and Bri Amaranthus.

And since Bri does call him a “hastag king,” it would serve you well to follow Hines on Twitter (@TabariHines) and Instagram ( @TabariHines1).

Tyrell Crosby drafted by Lions in 5th round

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USA Today

Tyrell Crosby drafted by Lions in 5th round

With the 153rd pick in the NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected Offensive Lineman Tyrell Crosby out of the University of Oregon.

Crosby was a first-team all-state selection in Nevada prior to heading to Eugene, and came to Oregon with high expectations. He didn’t start his career as a starter, but injuries on the line thrust him into the spotlight.

Crosby seized the opportunity presented to him, starting nine games at tackle and never letting go of the starting job.

Injuries cut his 2016 season short, forcing to miss all but three games, and gave him the juice to come back better than ever for his senior season. He did just that.

Crosby started all 13 games in his final season in Eugene, winning the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Year. He also earned numerous honors, including: First-Team All-Pac-12, College Madness Third-Team All-America, SB Nation and CollegeFootballNew Honorable Mention All-America, and Pro Football Focus First-Team All-Pac-12.

If you need any more evidence of how good he is, just looks at the career stats of the man he opened up running holes for: Royce Freeman

Crosby has all the tools for a long, lucrative NFL career.

 

Justin Herbert is taking on a new leadership role

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USA Today

Justin Herbert is taking on a new leadership role

By 

Although Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert is already considered to be one of the favorites this year to win the Heisman trophy, in order to seal the deal, his offense has to thrive. This means that Herbert, along with his young, talented wide receivers will have to step up and make big plays against teams like Stanford, Washington, and Utah. The only problem, however, is that this has been a difficult task for Oregon to accomplish throughout the past couple seasons.

To make matters worse, wide receiver production has crumbled throughout the years in Eugene, ever since the departure of Marcus Mariota — the 2014 Heisman trophy winner. But not all hope is lost for the Ducks, since they have candidates that can turn things. Aside from Herbert himself — who’s demonstrated key leadership skills in the classroom due to his academic achievement, the Oregon Ducks also have their receivers. Dillon Mitchell, Johnny Johnson III, and Brenden Schooler have all shown head coach Mario Cristobal and quarterback Justin Herbert what they can do with the ball in their hands.

In order to be recognized nationally and win the Pac-12, however, the Oregon offense will have to put up big-time numbers. How much are we talking? They’ll have to put up at least 950 more yards than they did last year. In other words, their offense would have to average out between Mariota and Vernon Adams Jr. in order for Herbert to get an invitation to New York in 2019 for the upcoming draft. With that much pressure on their plate, it’s easy for athletes like Herbert to forget how important rest and rejuvenation are when it comes to staying energized and injury free.

What needs to be done moving forward?

Oregon has to find ways to put the ball in the hands of their playmakers. Schooler, who’s become one of those much-needed players did well during his first season as a wide receiver. In fact, he did so well, fans forgot he was once a safety as he caught three touchdown passes and averaged 13.7 yards per catch last year. Now that he has a full year of practice under his belt at the wide receiver position, Schooler has shifted his focus from learning the plays to leading his team to victory.

Mitchell (another much-needed receiver), not only led the team in receptions, he also led the team in receiving yards. That, however, hasn’t slowed down his work ethics, which means this is another key player Oregon can count on. Johnson III, who’s become a return specialist for the team has also improved throughout the off-season. With that kind of potential, along with a healthy quarterback, the Oregon ducks could easily find themselves making a run for the Pac-12 championship.

One other thing that makes the receiver’s abilities even stronger is the relationship they all have with their quarterback. Michael Johnson III, for instance, noted that their quarterback is pretty special and that guys enjoy being around him — another key leadership quality that Herbert has shown his teammates throughout the off-season. The question fans are wondering, however, is with so much talent surrounding Eugene, can Oregon pull through and be the team they were three years ago? If everyone can stay healthy and Herbert can avoid having another season dealing with chronic pain, then the Ducks could possibly be a top contender. For now, however, only time will tell.

Ruthy is ruthless in Ducks' Sweet 16 victory

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USA Today Img.

Ruthy is ruthless in Ducks' Sweet 16 victory

How Oregon won: A bit of nerves perhaps in the opening minutes, for the Oregon Ducks settled in nicely in this NCAA Sweet 16 matchup against the Central Michigan Chippewas. Lead by sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard down low, on both sides of the court, the No. 2 Ducks cruised to an 83-69 win over No. 11 Central Michigan and punch their ticket into the Elite 8.

It took awhile for both team to get settled in. Two hot-shooting three-point teams, and neither hit a three-pointer until halfway through the first quarter. Hebard established her game early. Her teammates found her down low, one or two dribbles to get to her right side, and then a high-percentage layup, the shot she has mastered so much this season. 33 times in a row, in fact. Hebard records her second double-double of the post-season tournament with 23 points and 14 rebounds. She needed four more blocks for a triple-double.

The Ducks defense came to play as well. Central Michigan comes in ranked No. 13 in 3-pt field goals attempted. Oregon coach Kelly Graves said during pregame that the Ducks must be mindful and defend the three-point line, and make sure the Ducks get on the boards because the Chippewas like to pass the ball out if they get an offensive rebound. Oregon’s defense held Central Michigan to 7-of-27 (26%) from behind the arc. Along with making sure there was a hand in the air on the Chippewas shooters, Oregon also recorded 11 total blocks, six alone coming from Hebard. Oregon will need that same defensive pressure down low against Notre Dame on Monday with their height down low.

What it means: The No. 2 Ducks are headed to the NCAA Elite 8 for back-to-back consecutive seasons and will face No. 1 Notre Dame on Monday evening in Spokane, WA. The Irish are coming off a 90-84 battle against No. 4 Texas A&M lead by starters Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale’s 25 points each.

High-flying Ducks: Sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu continues to shine when the spotlight keeps getting brighter. Ionescu was one rebound shy of her 11th career triple-double. She finished with 16 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds. Senior Lexi Bando finished with 14 points hitting 4-of-11 from three-point range. Junior Oti Gildon, playing in front of her home town fans of Spokane, came up again huge with 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench. She continues to be a stable presence off the bench for Graves.

Foul play: Gildon finished with three fouls. 

Ducks flying north to Spokane in dominant fashion

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USA Today Img.

Ducks flying north to Spokane in dominant fashion

How Oregon won: If you wanted high-scoring, fast-paced, an all-around offensive efficient battle, then you came to the right game. Two of the top-10 leading team scorers battled head-to-head in a matchup that did not disappoint with 174 total points scored. Both teams off to a hot start as buckets were raining from the ceiling of Matthew Knight Arena in front of a full house. But in the end, it was all Oregon on both sides of the court with an 101-73 victory over No. 10 Minnesota in round two of the NCAA tournament in Eugene, OR.

“Had to have been a fun game to watch for a fan to watch, it wasn’t always fun to be a coach to watch,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “I thought that first half, especially in the first quarter was, that’s high level offensive basketball…”

Offense production was there but the defense was on point tonight and picked up right where it left off Friday evening vs. No. 15 Seattle U. The Ducks held the number three team in the nation in scoring at 85.2 points per game, to just 73 points, 14 in each the second and third quarters. The Ducks defense limited the leader of the Gopher pack Kenisha Bell to just 14 points making sure that there was someone in front of her at all times in Oregon’s zone and clogging the lanes with multiple defenders there to challenge her shot.

Graves said, “I remember at the media timeout, second quarter, we talked about the first team to make a three-minute defensive stand was going to separate themselves from the others and that’s what we did.”

Ducks go on an 11-0 run to close out the first half and take a 51-36 lead. And it didn’t stop there. Oregon outscored Minnesota 30-14 in the third quarter and rode that momentum all the way until the final buzzard. 

Sabrina Ionescu was on triple-double watch by the end of the first quarter. She is on another level when the spotlight continues to get brighter. It is remarkable that with so much ice in her veins, Sabrina Ionescu can still heat up. Ionescu’s night finished just shy of yet another triple-double with 29 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Add in a step-back three-pointer, while getting fouled for the chance at am and-1 and four-point play, but missed the free throw.

What it means: The No. 2 Oregon Ducks hit the road north to Spokane, Washington to continue the next few rounds of March Madness play. The Ducks await the winner of No. 11 Central Michigan (28-4) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (27-6) to be played on Monday, March 19th. 

High-flying Ducks: Lead by Ionescu, her partner in crime sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard recorded another double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. This duo combined for 21-of-28 shots from the field. Freshman Satou Sabally, who started tonight with five quick points and finished with 12 total points. 

In her final game in Matthew Knight Arena, senior and Eugene native Lexi Bando ended her career in front of Ducks fans doing what she does best: hitting three-pointers. She finished with 11 points hitting three triples.

Foul play: A very clean game from Oregon defensively found no one in any foul trouble.