Cheridan Hawkins and Kailee Cuico ignite Oregon’s record conference start

With senior Jessica Moore simply padding her stats during her last season as arguably the best pitcher in Oregon softball history, the Ducks may have already found their next dominant ace-in-waiting.

Freshman Cheridan Hawkins beat out five other Pac-12 pitchers — including Arizona State’s Team USA starter Dallas Escobedo — to win her second-straight conference pitcher of the week honor, it was announced Monday. Hawkins’ win is her third in five weeks, more than any other pitcher this season.

The No. 10 Ducks (28-5, 5-1 Pac-12) are off to their best start in conference history under fourth-year head coach Mike White and Hawkins’ 12-2 record has a lot to do with that. Over the course of last weekend’s series win over Washington, the Anderson, Calif., native authored a pair of wins: a 10-3 blowout against No. 15 Stanford and a 4-2 grinder against No. 16 Washington. Hawkins registered 11 combined strikeouts to just two walks. The freshman’s also won eight of her last nine games and leads the team with a 1.29 ERA. Moore clocks in at second with 1.38 over her 17 starts. Despite pitching 15 more innings than the freshman, Hawkins’ 120 Ks are 46 more than Moore has recorded this year.

Granted, she had help from Oregon’s hot bats. Junior Kailee Cuico was named the conference’s overall player of the week — her first such distinction — giving Oregon a Pac-12 sweep during the week ending April 1. Despite being officially labeled a “utility player,” Cuico might better be called a home-run machine. The Carson, Calif., native jacked three over the wall during Oregon’s four games, moving into ninth place all-time on the Ducks total home run mark with 29.

Cuico continues to set the pace for the Ducks’ strong offense this season, leading the team in two-plus RBI games (12), RBIs (34) and home runs (10).

Another Duck having a great season so far is Janie Takeda. The 5-foot-7 sophomore outfielder leads the team with 16 stolen bases on 18 attempts and has struck out only six times on a team-leading 110 at-bats. Takeda has started every game this season and also leads the team with 50 hits.

Oregon hosts a three-game series with Utah starting with a double-header April 2. After the tilts with the Utes, the Ducks travel on the road to Berkeley where No. 5 California awaits them.

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