OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - One of the #11 seed University of Oregon softball team's (45-18) most impressive seasons came to an end Saturday as the Ducks capped their WCWS trip with a 6-3 loss to the tourney's top seed, California (58-6), at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Earlier in the day, the Ducks posted their first World Series win in 23 years with their 3-1 victory over #5 seed Tennessee.
In the evening night finale, the Bears struck for three runs in the first, two in the second and another run in the fourth, while UO scored one run in the third and two in the sixth.
"We got off to a slow start," Oregon head coach Mike White said, "but we didn't give up - that's been our forte all year. We had a chance to do some real damage in the sixth, but they got a fortunate bounce to help their catcher make a great play to help stop our rally."
Junior right fielder Samantha Pappas ignited Oregon's scoring with her career-best tying 11th homer of the season to open the third inning, and ended the season tied for 11th all-time for Oregon in a campaign.
The Mission Viejo, Calif., native also has 30 round-trippers career-wise and still stands seventh all-time for UO.
In the sixth, senior shortstop Kelsey Chambers led off with a single to the shortstop, and after a fielder's choice, senior left fielder Christie Nieto was hit by a pitch, and sophomore catcher Alexa Peterson walked to load the bases.
Freshman DP Sara Goodrum followed with a double to the left field gap to knock in two runs. Senior third baseman Lindsey Chambers nearly knocked in another run on a bloop that was barely caught on the edge of the grass by the lunging second baseman.
The Cal infielder then fired home to prevent a run, but the throw skipped wide of the catcher. Goodrum responded by trying to score, but the ball caromed back to the catcher who barely beat her back to the plate for the tag (and the inning's final out).
With their offensive output Saturday, Howard broke the school record for extra-base hits in a season (31), and tied Pappas for second-most doubles in a season (17)
Pappas and Howard also moved up to third and fourth for extra-bases in a season (124 / 120), and the All-America second-teamer Pappas improved to seventh for hits in a season (70-tied).
In the circle, All-America junior Jessica Moore (33-15) pitched the first five innings, struck out five, walked two, allowed eight hits, and five of her six runs allowed were earned.
"We weathered a lot of ups and downs this season," Moore said, "and some of the adverse conditions from the games at Texas last weekend helped prepare us for the World Series. After we lost the first game Thursday, we came back ready to fight today."
With her 73rd career win earlier in the day - a 3-1 decision over #5 seed Tennessee - Moore moved tied the all-time career school record with former great Katie Wiese.
Moore also finished her day with moves up the all-time list for appearances (133) and season chart for complete games (second, 33).
Freshman Karissa Hovinga made her second postseason appearance for the Ducks, struck out two, walked none, allowed no hits or runs in the final two innings of the game.
"Jess put everything she could out there," White said. "Cal came out ready to swing the bats, and took advantage of some mistakes to get out to an early lead. I was real happy the way Karissa Hovinga came in and picked her up at the end. She gave our team a shot to try and come back."
Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and junior Cal starter Jolene Henderson (38-3) struck out nine, walked two, allowed six hits, and all three runs allowed were earned.
At the plate for Cal, Britt Vonk (2-for-4) was the lone batter with multiple hits. Seven players hit safely once - including two that homered - Jace Williams and Victoria Jones - with their three- and one-run shots in the first and fourth innings.
Earlier in the afternoon, UO evened the all-time series with Tennessee with a 3-1 decision.
Oregon scored two runs in the first inning, the first of which came on a solo homer by Pappas on the second pitch of the game, Howard followed with a double to left center field, then scored on an RBI single by sophomore first baseman Kailee Cuico.
Cuico’s 54th RBI of 2012 still left her in third place in a season in the Duck history books, and seven shy of the second-best mark (Ann Marie Topps, 71, 2006).
Oregon’s third run came in the fourth inning after senior DP Christie Nieto led off with a hit by pitch, then came around to score on an RBI double by Alexa Peterson on a nine-pitch at-bat.
Cuico added another single in the fifth to cap a 2-for-3 game, and was one of four Ducks that hit safely with Pappas, Howard and Peterson.
The Ducks' defense played a key part in the win as UO turned a pair of double plays in the fourth and sixth innings after the lead runners reached both innings.
Tennessee also threatened in the first inning when it put put runners on second and third base via a single, walk and pair of stolen bases. Moore, however, got the Vols' #5 hitter - Melissa Davin - to ground out to shortstop to end the inning.
In the circle for UT, All-America First Team pick and sophomore Ellen Renfroe (27-5) pitched the first two innings, struck out one, walked one, allowed three hits, and both runs allowed were earned. Her junior sister Ivy Renfroe worked the last five innings, struck out three, walked none, gave up three hits and one earned run.
Four Volunteers hit safely once – Kat Dotson, Melissa Davin, Ashley Andrews and Tory Lewis.
Series-wise vs. Tennessee, UO enjoyed its first series decision since a 4-2 victory in 1998. UO had dropped prior meetings 1-0 in ’06 and 5-0 in ’08 to the four-time WCWS advancers.
The Ducks concluded one of their greatest seasons ever with their second-ever WCWS trip. During the league slate, UO made White the second Duck mentor to post back-to-back Pac-12 third-place finishes since the league expanded to eight teams in 1994.
Under White, UO is now 12-7 in the postseason since 2010, including a 7-3 mark this season after a 3-0 Regional mark in Eugene with wins vs. Portland State and BYU (twice). Last weekend, the Ducks registered their first-ever Super Regional victories en route to a 2-1 mark at #6 seed Texas.
"I'm really hoping that our team has learned a lot of things from this experience," White said. "The the city of Oklahoma City. was a wonderful host and have always done a fantastic job. I know my team loved every minute of the trip, and we can't wait to get back here."
Ranked ninth nationally in the season’s final NCAA RPI ratings, UO ranked top 20 all season long in both national polls including 12th in each edition to end the regular season - its highest positions during the campaign. UO also went 25-15 against NCAA tourney advancers, and 16-13 vs. top-25 teams this year.
Looking ahead, Cal plays #2 seed Alabama at 12:30 p.m. PT on Sunday, and if the Bears win, they will play a rematch later Sunday evening. Oklahoma plays Arizona State at 10 a.m. PT Sunday, and if ASU wins, the two teams will also meet again Sunday early evening.