EUGENE - Continuing its best-ever run of postseason success, the #11-seeded University of Oregon softball team (42-15) won its third straight NCAA Regional with a 4-1 win over Western Athletic Conference Tourney Champion BYU (45-15) Saturday afternoon at Howe Field.
After a scoreless first four innings, the Ducks scored all four of their runs in the fifth inning, after juniors Samantha Pappas and Kaylan Howard each knocked in a pair of runs with their double and homer, respectively.
In the circle for UO, NCAA Regional MVP and junior Jessica Moore (30-12) struck out seven, walked two, scattered six hits, and her run allowed was earned.
Only the second Duck to ever post 30 wins in a season, the two-time All-Pac-12 pick also moved up the team’s career list in complete games (sixth, 60), and season charts in for appearances (third, 46), complete games (fifth, 29-tie) and innings (third, 265.2),
"It feels really good to be advancing," Oregon head coach Mike White said, "and now we can sit back and watch the other games around the country. Their pitcher (Almond) kept us off stride. Fortunately Sam (Pappas) took advantage of a hittable pitch, and some aggressive ball-running got us a key second run. BYU has a great coaching staff and is tough opponent that is always pressing you."
Sophomore Alexa Peterson opened the deciding fifth inning with a walk, and junior Allie Burger narrowly beat out a bunt to the pitcher with one out. Pappas followed with her team-leading 16th double of the year to right center field, and moved into a tie for second all-time for UO for two-baggers in a season.
The All-Pac-12 First-Team pick Pappas also climbed to sixth for UO all-time in a season for extra-base hits (26) and seventh in total bases ( 109).
The next pitch, Howard drilled her team-high 12th homer of the campaign to center field - seventh-most season-wise for Oregon. The Riverside, Calif., also now has 50 RBI in 2012 - fourth-most ever in the Duck record books.
BYU answered with a run in the bottom of the fifth when J.C. Clayton lined an RBI single to right field after a pair of one-out walks.
Cougar starter Tori Almond (20-4), struck out eight, walked four, allowed five hits, and all four runs allowed were earned.
At the plate for BYU, six batters hit safely once.
At game's end, two other Ducks hit safely senior Christie Nieto (1-for-3) and freshman Janie Takeda (1-for-3).
Earlier in the tourney, UO defeated Portland State, 7-3, on Thursday, and the Cougars, 6-4, on Friday.
For the three games, Pappas led UO in hitting (.500, 6H, 2 2B, 2 RBI, SB), and three others topped .300 - Howard (.444, 4H, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Takeda (.444, 4H, 2 RBI, 1 SB) and Nieto (.333, 2H, 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB).
On the weekend, Howard also moved to fifth-best for UO in a season for doubles (14), and senior Kelsey Chambers now stands third for runs scored (49).
Moore received all three wins after she pitched all 21 innings, struck out 24, walked eight, gave up 17 hits, and six earned runs for a 2.00 ERA.
At the tourney's conclusion, media on hand tabbed four other Ducks to the all-tourney team besides Moore - Howard, Nieto, Pappas and Takeda (and a complete list follows below).
The Ducks are now 9-0 in regional play under third-year head coach Mike White, and look forward to their third-ever Super Regional bid.
This weekend's tilts also stood as Oregon's first-ever home postseason games.
"Our crowd was great," White said, "and it felt like we had an 11th player out there. It made a huge difference, and I was really impressed with their support. The fans really gave Jess a boost, especially in the two-strike situations, and she really responded to their cheering."
UO will next face the winner of the Austin Regional that concludes on Sunday. The host and #6 seed Longhorns dropped their opener to Northwestern, 2-0, on Friday, but won twice Saturday with 6-1 and 10-1 decisions over Auburn and Houston to earn a rematch Sunday at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. If UT wins again, a seventh and final regional game will be held immediately after.
"We have a veteran team that is ready to go out and play hard next week," Moore said. "We're playing well right now, and it was really fun to be able to play in front of our fans this weekend. I took it inning by inning, and tried to keep my focus and give my team the best shot to win."
The winner of the Ducks' two-day, three-game Super Regional next weekend will advance to the double-elimination Women's College World Series, held in Oklahoma City, May 31-June 6.