Ralph Weekly on needing to win 4 games in a row
OKLAHOMA CITY — Two desperate softball teams will be on the field when Tennessee and Oregon meet in an elimination game today (TV: ESPN2, 2:30 p.m.) at the Women's College World Series.
Desperate, and resilient.
The seventh-seeded Lady Vols (52-13) and the 11th-seeded Ducks both fought off elimination just to reach the WCWS.
"We're not going to get the breaks, we're not going to get the calls,'' Oregon pitcher Jessica Moore said after losing to Arizona State 3-1 on Thursday night, despite surrendering only three hits. "It seems as if ... everybody is against us, but we kind of have our backs against the wall, and that's how it's been all season.''
The Ducks (44-17) staved off elimination in the Super Regional in Austin, Texas, to earn their first trip to the WCWS since 1989. Eighth-seeded Texas won the first game, 4-2, before Oregon rallied for a 5-4, eight-inning win and 10-6 victory in the finale.
The competition was fierce, so much so that Oregon's Kailee Cuico just finished serving a mandatory two-game suspension after a vicious collision at the plate against Texas.
Cuico, a first baseman who leads the Ducks with 53 RBIs and is tied for the team lead with 12 home runs, will be reinstated for today's game against Tennessee.
Oregon is a program on the rise, reaching the super regionals each of the past three seasons before breaking into the WCWS field this season under third-year coach Mike White, a New Zealander considered one of the top pitching coaches in the world.
If the Lady Vols beat Oregon, the next challenge is against top-seeded California (57-6) in another elimination game today (TV: ESPN, 9:30 p.m.).
Preparation Complications: The Lady Vols got an hour of work in at Oklahoma City University before lightning strikes and rain at the NAIA school forced UT co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly to find another field to finish the workout.
"With all the rain, we got on the bus and started driving around, before we finally got in touch with Oklahoma and they allowed us to use their facility in Norman,'' said Ralph Weekly, referring to the Sooners' home, approximately 30 minutes south of Oklahoma City. "Our girls were excited to be able to practice at those great facilities. No one was complaining or moaning, and the mood has been very good.''
Notebook: Tennessee is 42-3 when scoring three runs or more, although the Lady Vols scored three in a 5-3 loss to Alabama on Thursday. ... Thursday marked the first time UT lost when a Lady Vol homered (15-1). ... UT is 2-1 all-time against Oregon with all games being played at neutral sites. The Lady Vols won the most recent meeting, 5-0 in 2008. ... The Ducks are 8-14 when scoring four runs or less and are 19-1 when scoring in the first inning and 18-0 when leading after the first inning. ... Oregon, which finished last in the Pac-12 in fielding percentage, is 9-1 when playing errorless.