A Senior Day Rife With Memorable Moments

By Rob Moseley


EUGENE, Ore. — A rivalry win. An emotional pregame moment for a beloved teammate. And a power surge from two players celebrating their Senior Day at Jane Sanders Stadium.

Yes, Sunday’s win for Oregon softball pretty much had it all. The Ducks beat Oregon State, 8-3, clinching a series win over the Beavers fueled by Ariel Carlson’s fourth career multi-homer game and another blast from fellow senior Alyssa Daniell. And they welcomed injured senior Hanna Delgado back to the starting lineup, if only ceremonially, a little over a week after she suffered a season-ending neck injury.

“I think that’s about as Senior Day-ish as it could possibly be, to see them step up and lead the charge,” UO coach Melyssa Lombardi said. “It was important for us to win the series, and to see our elders get it done was awesome today.”

Carlson was playing outfield next to Delgado at the time of her injury, and was the first person to reach her and try to stabilize her physically and emotionally until medical staff could take over. So it seemed particularly fitting that she would hit two home runs to help the Ducks win on a day Delgado was able to suit up one more time.

“When that injury happened, so many things went through my head,” said Carlson, who was 3-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs Sunday. “I just wanted to keep her safe and I’m so thankful that she’s OK. … It was an emotional game from the very beginning but she deserved every second and every amount of praise that she got.”

Delgado’s Moment: Seven days prior to Sunday’s ceremony, Delgado was laying in a Tucson hospital, anticipating surgery the following day to repair injuries suffered when she dove in the outfield and contacted the wall at Arizona on April 12. With the surgery looming, there was little certainty about what Delgado’s future held.

Fast forward seven days, and Delgado was in uniform with her teammates, sporting a neck brace but exchanging hugs and high fives prior to the first pitch. Dads of the seven seniors threw out ceremonial first pitches, and Delgado was able to stand behind the plate and field a throw from her father. She was announced as Oregon’s leadoff hitter and the starter in her usual center-field position, and made her way to the outfield for the first pitch.

“If somebody would have told me (a week ago that Delgado would return to uniform Sunday) I would have been, ‘thank you, thank you’ — but I just wouldn’t have expected it,” Lombardi said. “But that’s just her determination. And that’s been Hanna her whole career here. She’s so locked in and focused and when she wants something, she’ll go and get it. She’s so locked in with her schoolwork. She’s locked in with her routine, with what she does to get prepared. That’s just Hanna, so really, I shouldn’t be surprised — because that’s Hanna.”

As the game was about to get underway, UO starting pitcher Raegan Breedlove called time. Delgado was subbed out of the game and exchanged tear-filled hugs with her teammates on the field, who made their way from their positions to greet Delgado on the way to the dugout. She then walked through a phalanx of teammates in foul territory and to the dugout, where Delgado exchanged a long hug with athletic trainer Kate Pinkerton, who attended to Delgado in the immediate aftermath of the injury and stayed with her in Arizona until after the surgery was completed.

“To my teammates, you guys are my life line — I love you all so much and I wouldn’t have been able to get through what I went through without you,” Delgado said during the postgame Senior Day ceremony, before offering a special thank you to Pinkerton. “You don’t know what you did for me that day, but you saved me.

“And to Ariel,” she continued, “I’m so grateful to you for being there for me in that moment, and being the only person I saw when I was so scared.”

How It Happened: A day after being shut out by OSU’s Logan Hulon, the Ducks wasted no time making it clear Sunday would be different. After Breedlove pitched around a leadoff walk in the top of the first, Kai Luschar singled for the first of her career-high-tying four hits on the day, and Carlson hit her first home run of the game for a 2-0 lead.

The second inning was eerily similar — Breedlove pitched around a walk, Luschar singled with two outs and Carlson followed with another moon shot to center field to make it 4-0. That was Carlson’s 14th homer of the season, which leads the Pac-12 Conference; she’s now up to 50 RBIs this season, a career high, and 154 in her career, seventh-most in UO history.

Daniell led off the bottom of the third with a solo shot. The Beavers rallied for three runs in the fourth, but Oregon answered in kind. Luschar singled with one out, Carlson doubled her home and senior Emma Kauf singled to put runners at the corners. Daniell then reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Carlson, and senior Vallery Wong capped the rally with an RBI single that brought Kauf in for an 8-3 lead.

The Ducks had chances to follow up Friday’s run-rule win with another Sunday, but didn’t push another run across. Oregon’s pitching staff made sure it didn’t matter, as Elise Sokolsky (7-2) followed up her stellar start Saturday with a win in relief Sunday, handing the ball to senior Morgan Scott for a one-pitch out that ended the game in the seventh.

A day after allowing two earned runs in seven innings, Sokolsky threw three shutout innings Sunday.

“She wanted to get it done, and she wanted to get it done for her seniors today,” Lombardi said. “She was ready to get after it, get back on the mound and continue doing what she was doing.”

Up Next: The Ducks enter their bye weekend from Pac-12 play, and are scheduled to host Northern Colorado next Sunday at 11 a.m.

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