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Destined To Be A Duck, Ariel Carlson Gets Taste Of Her Dream

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(Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics)

Outside of Howe Field stood a line of young kids, patiently awaiting the Oregon Duck softball team following their Super Regional contest. One middle school-aged girl, in particular, loved every second of that moment. She dreamed of one day being in the cleats of the student-athletes she was asking for autographs and taking pictures with.

Ariel Carlson was born over 2,500 miles from Eugene, Ore. in Pittsburgh, but she was always destined to be a Duck. Her dad and mom, a former Penn State softball player, were both born and raised in Eugene. The family moved to Portland when Carlson was two years old, and later shifted to Eugene before she started eighth grade.

“My parents were always Duck fans, so I was born a Duck fan,” Carlson told Softball America during a phone interview. “With my mom playing in college, softball was always in my family. The two just combined. I was seven or so when I went to my first Oregon softball game at Howe Field. It has always been a part of me for as long as I can remember.”

Carlson won the Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year award in back-to-back years while at Marist High School in Eugene. But before that even happened, she made her commitment to play for Oregon back when she was in eighth grade.

She was able to start her freshman season as a Duck in 2020 before it was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 24 games, she posted a .294 batting average paired with three home runs and 20 RBI.

The shortened season felt like a bit of a tease to Carlson.

“Even though the season ended the way that it had to, it was a reminder of how grateful I am to be able to be here,” Carlson said. “It makes me excited for the seasons to come.”

After a slow start out of the gate, Carlson appeared to be finding her footing in the box. In the last couple weeks of the season, she even collected a six-game hitting streak.

Oregon wasn’t the only school after the talented Eugene native. Other schools showed interest in Softball America’s No. 21 recruit in the 2019 classHowever, the Ducks certainly had the advantage and made sure the hometown kid stayed home.

“I was looking at other schools during the recruiting process, I went to other schools’ campuses. At the end of the day, Oregon was the first school that offered me and was very interested in me,” Carlson said. “I sat down and asked myself, ‘If I was going to hypothetically get another scholarship from another school, would I even want that or would I choose Oregon no matter what?’ I decided that my gut was telling me to be a Duck no matter what. That decision committing here so young was one of the easiest I made.”

It appeared Carlson to Oregon had nothing stopping it. The only bump in the road was that Carlson had committed to Mike White and his staff before he later left for the same position at Texas. Carlson showed no hesitation in staying committed, and after a year under current Oregon head coach Melyssa Lombardi, Carlson knows she made the right decision for her.

“Although the other coaches are the ones I committed to, Coach Lombardi, I believe she’s the coach I was meant to play for,” she said. “I’m super grateful. I hope the whole community, all the Duck fans can see us as a team rallying around one another and got a taste of what we are capable of this season.”

Carlson has embraced every second she’s been able to put on the Oregon colors, both as a fan and as a student-athlete. She takes a lot of pride in it, and wants to help inspire other young softball players to dream big.

“I want to be a very impactful player and do everything that I can on the field,” Carlson said. “At the end of the day, I want to be the best teammate I can, fulfill my role on the team and be a great role model for other girls. I’m going to keep working to achieve that.”

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