OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oregon Ducks had one of the most prolific offenses in the country this season. Besides scoring 434 runs, it was second in the nation in batting with a .362 average.
But once the second-seeded Ducks arrived at the Women's College World Series, their bats disappeared and they were swept out of the tournament. The final defeat came Saturday when Oregon fell 2-1 to Alabama at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
After racking up 51 wins this season, the Ducks didn't envision themselves being one of the first two teams sent packing from the tournament.“I don't know what it is: We're a very consistent team,” Oregon coach Mike White said. “Over the three years we've played extremely well. We won three Pac-12 championships in a row which puts us on the level playing field with Arizona and UCLA. But unfortunately we haven't found a way yet to get over the hurdle here at the big one but that doesn't mean we didn't try.”
The early exit was extremely painful for senior Janie Takeda, who sat stoned faced after the game. She still seemed to be stunned that their season had come to an end in the fashion that it had. But that doesn't take away from the pride she has in her program.
“Becoming a Duck was the best decision I made in my life because you don't get that all the time,” Takeda said. “And I think just living in Eugene with that community and how much support they put behind our softball program for the past few years has been incredible. Especially because football dominates people's interests usually in that town. So I definitely think Oregon softball is growing exponentially in Eugene.”
Oregon now heads back to the drawing board to figure out how they can not only get back to the WCWS, but also find the success that other leagues are having. That means seeing the same type of improvements in the facilities that are taking place in other conferences.
“A lot of it comes down to what generates the revenue to build them,” White said. “It's football money, obviously, a lot. But we had a great sponsor stand up. So separate from all football money and everything else we found our own sponsor. But hopefully it does lead, it's competition. Now Oregon has this. We hope that it spurs the other schools to do things. Cal obviously needs an upgrade. UCLA could do with some new facilities. You see little bits and pieces -- like ASU, Arizona has a new batting format out there. You are seeing bits and pieces, but I'd really love to see some of these new stadiums get as glitzy as the SEC and Big 12 and Big Ten.”
But the first changes the Ducks have to come up with is their own play. In two games at this year's WCWS the Ducks scored two runs and collected nine hits. White knows if his program is to reach the next level and actually contend for a title, they have to produces on the biggest stage.
“We're playing here for a reason. It's going to make us better and stronger and be able to come back and finally bust through,” White said. “We have to come out with some determination and we have to make it happen because right now we're just leaving our best game not in this environment. And that's what we've got to change. We've got to find a way to elevate our game to the game we can play in this environment.”