DECADE OF DOMINANCE FOR THE DUCKS!
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The streak of Oregon’s Pac-12 dominance continued on Sunday, as the men’s and women’s track and field team swept the conference meet for the eighth straight year at Husky Track on the University of Washington campus.
Each of the team wins marked historic feats, as the men tied UCLA for the most in conference history, at 17. The women, who have extended their streak to eight years, took sole possession of the longest reign in conference history, a feat the men accomplished last season with their ninth straight.
Oregon received some star-studded performances including Athlete of the Meet honors for Hannah Cunliffe and Devon Allen, but it was again the depth of the Ducks that earned 155.60 points on the men’s side and 185 for the women.
Cunliffe’s homecoming to Seattle was a success, as the Federal Way, Wash., native won all three events in which she was entered. The sophomore won the open 100 (11.08) and 200 (22.49) and joined Jasmine Todd, Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington in a 4x100 win, just missing the school record they set earlier in the season and finishing in 42.71.
“I was happy that I’m in my home town and my family was here, so that was great support that always helps,” Cunliffe said. “To win all three, that’s just a great feeling.”
It was the fact that Stevens and Washington were always next to Cunliffe on the awards stand that allowed the Oregon women to win going away, finishing 73.5 points ahead of second-place USC. The trio did something that had never been done before in Pac-12 history by sweeping the top three spots in both the women’s 100 and 200. Oregon also extended another streak, winning the women’s 100 at the conference meet for the seventh-straight year.
Allen has already shown versatility by competing on both the football field and track at Oregon, and only added another layer on Sunday, winning the 110 hurdles and 200, while also taking third in the 100 and third as part of the 4x100 team. The redshirt sophomore scored a total of 27.5 points on a busy two days, similar to the stunning outings he put in at Hayward Field earlier in the season.
Oregon head coach Robert Johnson said that the performances from both athletes were made possible by a plan put in place early on in the season.
“It was a great day for Hannah, this was a homecoming for her, being from Federal Way,” Johnson said. “And we’ve kind of been talking about this all along with Devon, for months out, knowing that this was going to be the plan and the preparation that goes along with that. For them to come out and execute what we put on paper long ago is always exciting.”
Allen was joined by Marcus Chambers who finished third in the 200 and repeated his Championship performance in the 400 with a season best and winning time of 45.94, all after anchoring the men’s 4x100 to start the day on the track. Chambers rallied late with what has become a signature finish for the junior.
“I knew when the time was right I’d be able to kick at the end,” Chambers said. “It was a great game plan and it worked out.”
The women continued the trend of the Ducks, sporting their all-white uniforms for the first time, in the front of the pack. Raevyn Rogers and Annie Leblanc took the top two spots in the 800 and the duo of Sasha Wallace and Alaysha Johnson finished first and third in the 100 hurdles, respectively. Wallace and Leblanc each notched a third-place finish as well. Wallace left the triple jump early after the preliminary rounds with a mark of 41-9.75 (12.74m) to assume her duties in the hurdles while Leblanc made a strong charge in the final stretch of the 1,500 to lead Lilli Burdon and Ashley Maton as Oregon’s top scorer in 4:18.70.
The Oregon women entered the day with a sizeable lead over the field after performances in the 10,000, javelin and shot put on Saturday, but the men’s team had ground to make up as they trailed Washington 51 to 61. The Ducks went head-to-head with the Dawgs in key middle distance events where Oregon came up with crucial points that kept their hopes for a 10th-straight title alive.
In the 1,500, freshman Matthew Maton continued his late-season surge with a second place finish in 3:39.97. He was followed by Sam Prakel in third with a personal best of 3:40.11 and Chris Brewer who finished seventh in 3:44.35. Meanwhile Grant Grosvenor was the 800-meter runner-up with a big personal best of 1:47.72, finishing ahead of two Washington opponents who had combined to take home the last two 800-meter crowns.
It was a big day for the throwers on Saturday that set up finals day and the group added five more scorers on Sunday. Madeline Middlebrooks and Brittany Mann started the day with fourth- and eighth-place finishes in the hammer throw respectively. Middlebrooks set a personal best 189-5 (57.73) which is fifth in Oregon history and a regional qualifying mark.
Itohan Aikhionbare finished eighth in the women’s discus while Drake Brennan and Cullen Prena went 7-8 in the men’s discus. Aikhionbare, who recently gain Belizian citizenship, set national records in the shot put and discus over the weekend.
By the time the men’s and women’s 5,000 competitions began, the Ducks had the meet in hand, but the Ducks received some additional points from each. Jake Leingang set a personal best of 13:43.04 to finish fifth followed by Jeramy Elkaim in eighth with a time of 13:57.06.
Alli Cash put in a gutsy performance during the women’s race, taking the lead in the final two laps before ultimately finishing fourth in 16:14.25, closing out a strong showing from the women’s distance group.
All that was left for the Ducks to do then was celebrate as they have for the past eight seasons.
Next up for the Ducks is the road to the NCAA Championships which first goes through Lawrence, Kan., for the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds, May 26-28 before returning to Hayward Field June 8-11. NCAA Preliminary round entries will be announced on Thursday, May 19.
Oregon pitcher Stephen Nogosek, seen during the 2014 regionals, pitched the eighth and ninth innings Sunday to earn his 13th save of the season. (Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)
CORVALLIS – Following a loss Saturday that had pushed Oregon's postseason dreams further from reality, head coach George Horton remained optimistic at the chance to make history. The focus narrowed to the following day's rubber match with Oregon State. Since their program restarted in 2009 after a 27-year absence, Horton and the Ducks had not won a series in Corvallis against the Beavers. That changed on Sunday afternoon at Goss Stadium, when Oregon built a five-run lead and held on for a 6-3 win to take the second of three games from OSU.
It marked the program's first series win in Corvallis since 1973. Simultaneously, Horton believed the victory kept the once reeling Ducks' hope alive for a miracle run to the NCAA Tournament. "We got some ugly memories in this place," he said. "I'm really just elated and tickled to death that not only did we accomplish that, we probably kept our season alive and the last nail is not in the coffin yet. "If we're fortunate enough to win all six (remaining) conference games, I like our chances."
By putting six runs on the board Sunday, Oregon (24-22, 12-12 Pac-12) tallied 16 in the three-game series after mustering 18 combined in its nine previous Pac-12 games at Oregon State (30-18, 11-13 Pac-12).
Follwing three hitless innings for both teams, the Ducks broke through in the fourth when left fielder A.J. Balta doubled down the right field line to score Austin Grebeck. Balta had gone 1 for 15 in four games this week but finished 2 for 4 with two runs batted in Sunday, helping freshman righty Matt Mercer improve to 2-0 in his second career start. That lead expanded when Oregon State starter Jake Thompson walked two of the first three hitters he faced in the fifth inning. Second baseman Carson Breshears ended up scoring from third on a squeeze bunt by Austin Grebeck to take a 3-0 lead.
When Tommy Paul replaced Thompson to start the sixth inning, Balta hammered an 0-2 pitch over the right field fence to push the Ducks' lead to 4-0. The shot gave the sophomore his 14th multiple-RBI game of the season. Jake Bennett and Steven Packard then tag teamed for two standup doubles to put Oregon up 5-0 and chase Paul in 1/3 innings. "We've been thinking about this series all year," Balta said. "Getting to the tournament is obviously the main goal, but this is a big milestone for the program. You have to stop and acknowledge that excellence."
Oregon will play Portland on Tuesday in Eugene and then host a three-game series against No. 22 Arizona, which starts Friday. Oregon State is off until Friday and will head on the road for a three-game slate at USC
Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks hosting fifth consecutive NCAA softball regional
By Andrew Grief
In what has become an annual tradition, the NCAA softball tournament is coming to Eugene. Oregon was one of 16 programs chosen Sunday to host a four-team NCAA regional and will open postseason play Friday against Fordham at Jane Sanders Stadium at 8:30 p.m. Long Beach State and Baylor also are playing in UO's regional. Oregon's No. 5 overall seed puts it in line to host a super regional the following weekend with a win.
It marks the Ducks' fifth consecutive season hosting an NCAA regional, and in that time they've earned a reputation as an impeccable host having never lost a regional game it's hosted since Mike White became coach seven seasons ago. White doesn't expect such success to dull Oregon's edge this weekend. "We know better than that," he said.
The Ducks (44-8) wrapped up their fourth consecutive Pac-12 Conference title Saturday with a series-clinching win against Utah but were challenged by the unranked Utes in a reminder that "anybody can beat anybody," White said. "They beat us up pretty well."
Florida earned the tournament's top overall seed, with Michigan, Oklahoma and Auburn filling the top four.
Friday's matchup with the Rams, broadcast on ESPN2, begins Oregon's first postseason held at $17 million Sanders Stadium, which opened in March and where UO is 13-3. The team and several supporters watched the NCAA's selection show live Sunday evening from inside an attached facility that holds the stadium's brand-new locker rooms and indoor training facility, among other creature comforts.
Oregon has three of the conference's six-highest batting averages with center fielder Koral Costa (.415), shortstop Nikki Udria (.414) and second baseman Lauren Lindvall (.408). Udria and Costa typically hit second and third in Oregon's lineup, respectively. Friday's start could go to Oregon career shutout and strikeout leader Cheridan Hawkins (21-3). A senior from Anderson, California, Hawkins didn't enjoy the kind of near-flawless season that has come to define her career in Eugene, with her fewest victories since her freshman season, when she split innings with a veteran ace, and a career-high ERA of 2.02. Yet the rise-ball thrower's high standards belie another largely dominant season: Her ERA finished as the second-lowest in the conference, and her opposing batting average of .175 was the lowest among qualified pitchers.
Baylor is 43-12 and lost just four games away from home en route to a second-place finish in the Big 12. Long Beach State (32-20), which faces the Bears at 6 p.m. Friday, finished third in the Big West. Fordham (39-19) lost the opening game of the Atlantic 10 tournament before winning four straight and the conference title Sunday. The Rams are 3-7 against teams from Power Five conferences.
By Geoffrey C. Arnold
Vernon Adams' eyes are likely looking northward.
The former Oregon quarterback will likely sign with the CFL's British Columbia Lions after he did not sign a contract following a tryout at Washington's rookie mini-camp during the weekend, according to a report.