EUGENE, ORE. – It is no coincidence that Oregon softball coach Mike White develops some of the top pitchers in the nation. After all, he once was a premier pitcher on the U.S. national men’s fast-pitch team.
White wasn’t about to reveal his secrets for pitching success after his Ducks ended the Gophers’ season Sunday in a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional. Nor would White reveal what he said to Cheridan Hawkins after the Ducks ace gave up a home run in the third inning.
“I can’t repeat that,” a grinning White said after the top-seeded Ducks completed a sweep of the Gophers with a 6-2 victory and advanced to the Women’s College World Series.
Tyler Walker’s two-run homer narrowed Oregon’s lead to 3-2, but Hawkins (33-4) allowed only two baserunners the rest of the way. The sophomore lefthander struck out seven in her second three-hitter in as many days.
“She’s a great pitcher,” Gophers coach Jessica Allister said.
Gophers starter Sara Moulton kept the explosive Ducks (54-7-1) in check most of the way. The senior from Eagan limited Oregon to six hits before she was chased after giving up hits to the first three batters in the top of the seventh.
Janie Takeda’s two-run double expanded Oregon’s lead to 5-2 and ended Moulton’s day. Moulton, the all-time wins leader at Minnesota, finished 27-8 for the season and 112-50 for her career.
“Moulton’s meant a lot to this program … she competed like crazy today,” Allister said.
The 16th-seeded Gophers (44-12) played without Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Sara Groenewegen, who doubles as a slugging first baseman. Allister said Groenewegen was injured Saturday. Allister declined to specify the injury, but White said it was a concussion.
After a sloppy, 10-2 loss Saturday, the Gophers shored things up on defense. Allister said Erica Meyer “was awesome at second base,” and the coach raved about left fielder Sam Macken’s throw home to nail Takeda in the fifth inning on a disputed call.
Despite the loss, the Gophers had to feel good about one of the best seasons in school history.
“We’ve done a lot this year,” third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson said. “It’s kind of hard right now to look at it and be satisfied with the season. I think in a few weeks, we’ll be satisfied.”