Oregon thrashes Gophers in NCAA softball

  • Article by: HOWIE STALWICK , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2014 - 9:45 AM

The Ducks hammered out 12 hits, and Minnesota hurt itself with four errors.

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The Gophers’ Sam Macken slid home with the game’s first run as Oregon catcher Alexa Peterson took the throw in the first inning of Saturday night’s NCAA softball Super Regional opener in Eugene, Ore.

Photo: CHRIS PIETSCH • Special to the Star Tribune,

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– The Oregon Ducks are ranked No. 1 in college softball, and the Gophers can certainly understand why after getting pounded by the Ducks on Saturday night in the NCAA tournament.

The Ducks spotted Minnesota a run in the top of the first inning, then scored eight consecutive runs in a 10-2 triumph in the opener of best-of-three Super Regional at Oregon’s Howe Field. The game was called in the bottom of the sixth inning because of the eight-run mercy rule.

The Gophers, the No. 16 seed in the 64-team NCAA field, must defeat top-seeded Oregon twice Sunday to advance to the Women’s College World Series. Minnesota (44-11) plays Oregon (53-7-1) at 4 p.m. Twin Cities time on ESPN, with another game, if necessary, to follow at 7 on ESPN2.

Oregon, one of the most explosive hitting teams in the country, outhit the Gophers 12-3, hitting the ball ferociously even on outs.

“Just a great all-around performance by the team,” Oregon coach Mike White said. “Offensively, defensively and pitching.”

The Gophers did themselves no favors by committing all of the game’s four errors.

A school-record, sellout crowd of 1,954, seated at the foot of forested hills near the picturesque Oregon campus, turned out on a pleasant evening in the Pacific Northwest.

Well, pleasant for one team.

“We struggled a little bit today,” Gophers shortstop Tyler Walker said. “We got the nerves out of the way. Tomorrow’s a whole new day. ”

Sara Groenewegen singled in fellow freshman Sam Macken for Minnesota’s first-inning run. The Gophers’ only other run came on Walker’s 11th home run of the season, a line drive to right-center in the fifth inning.

Oregon wasted little time tying the score in its first at-bat. Leadoff hitter Courtney Ceo, the nation’s No. 2 hitter in the Division I statistics (through last Sunday) at .484, slammed an off-field homer that barely cleared the fence in left. Ceo wound up 3-for-3 to boost her average to .492.

Minnesota’s errors helped the Pac-12 Conference champions tack on four runs in the second inning and three more in the third.

Sophomore lefthander Cheridan Hawkins improved to 32-4 by throwing a three-hitter and striking out four.

Minnesota senior righthander Sara Moulton saw her record drop to 27-7. She gave up eight runs (four earned) on eight hits in three innings before sophomore lefthander Nikki Anderson finished up in relief.

“I could tell they’re a great team,” Moulton said. “They were really aggressive, and they were attacking when I threw strikes.

“We’re going to make the plays tomorrow.”

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