Ducks sweep Utes with 5-2 win

EUGENE - The No. 9 University of Oregon softball team (31-5, 8-1) capped its series with Utah (14-19, 1-8) with a 5-2 win Wednesday afternoon at Howe Field.

The Utes struck for two runs in the third inning, thanks to a back-to-back solo homers by Chalese Fankhauser and Jackie Sweet.

The Ducks battled back with three runs in the fourth inning and two more in the sixth to remain in second place in the Pac-12.

Junior shortstop Courtney Ceo and senior second baseman Kaylan Howard ignited the Oregon comeback in the fourth inning by reaching on an error and single - both to shortstop.

Ceo came around to score on a pair of bad throws by the catcher and center fielder on a failed pickoff at second base.

Howard narrowly stole third base the next at-bat, then scored on a single by senior right fielder Samantha Pappas to right field.

The latter player added the go-ahead run on junior catcher Alexa Peterson's double to center field - her team-leading ninth two-bagger of the season.

In the sixth inning, Howard and Peterson added solo homers to right field - their 11th and sixth round-tripppers of the campaign, respectively.

The senior from Riverside, Calif., Howard also moved into a tie for second all-time on the Duck career home run list with former teammate Kelsey Chambers (36) - one behind Andrea Vidlund's school record (37).

Howard also improved to sixth on the Duck career list for runs (131) and passed Suzie Barnes (130).

Howard and Peterson ended with 2-for-3 days, and freshman third baseman Koral Costa also went 2-for-2.

The Temecula, Calif., native Costa collected UO's first hit of the day in the third inning - a double to center field. She also singled in the fourth inning and nearly knocked in Peterson (who was was thrown out by the center fielder at home trying to score from second base).

Duck starter and sophomore Karissa Hovinga pitched the first two innings, struck out one, walked none and allowed two hits and no runs.

Freshman Cheridan Hawkins pitched the next inning, struck out one, walked one, allowed three hits and both of the Utes' homers in the third.

Senior Jessica Moore (15-3) got the win in relief, struck out four, allowed two hits and no runs in her four innings.

The returning All-American Moore prevented the Utes from additional runs in the fourth inning after she inherited a runner on first base and no outs. After a fielder's choice moved the runner to second base, she got a strikeout and caught stealing to end the inning.

The Utes challenged again in the sixth after the lead-off runner reached on an error. Moore answered by forcing a 6-3 ground-out and struck out the next two batters.

Utah starter Kayce Nieto (3-5) pitched a complete game, struck out one, walked none, yielded seven hits, and three of her five runs allowed were earned.

Three Utah batters hit safely twice - Fankhauser (2-for-4, HR, RBI), Sweet (2-for-4, HR, RBI) and Kelsi Hoopiiaina (2-for-3).

Wednesday's outcome raised UO's series win streak to 10 games after it won both of Tuesday's doubleheader games in six innings by 11-3 and 11-1 counts.

For the three contests, the Pac-12 leader in batting and on-base percentage Peterson led Oregon starters in hitting (.500, 5 H, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI).

Five other Ducks also topped .400 in the series - senior centerfielder Janie Takeda (.455, 5 H, 2B, 3 RBI, SB), Howard (.455, 5 H, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI), Ceo (.444, 4 H, 2 RBI, SB), freshman catcher Janelle Lindvall (.429, 3 H, HR, 3 RBI) and Costa (.400, 2 H).

In the circle, Moore got two wins, struck out six, walked none, and allowed nine hits in her 10 innings. Hawkins picked up the other victory, and struck out nine, walked one, and gave up seven hits in six innings.

Moore added to her school records for wins (88), strikeouts (810), innings (808.2) and appearances (158).

Looking ahead, Oregon next travels to Pac-12 leader California (29-3, 5-0) for a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m., and the series finale Sunday at noon.