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Hanna Delgado Ready For Larger Role With Oregon's Young Core

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(Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletic Communications)

Oregon is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2021 thanks in large part to the foundation of its underclassmen. And sophomore utility player Hanna Delgado was an important part of that group that helped the Ducks reach the postseason last spring for the first time since 2018.

Delgado began her college softball career with a successful freshman year, hitting .302 with two home runs and 18 RBI. While she enjoyed success last season, the process of finding her role on the team took most of the fall and the beginning of the spring to sort out.

"I just realized that for me to benefit the team, benefit myself and really help the team out, I was going to have to be really versatile and just play different positions, and I was definitely open to that," Delgado said. "So it was just a lot of new learning and focusing and getting better for the team."

As an incoming freshman, Delgado had to experience an adjustment period to the speed of the college game, which is something head coach Melyssa Lombardi thought she settled into nicely last year. Lombardi tells Softball America that Delgado was pivotal for her squad, playing left field and anchoring the top of the lineup.

"At the plate, (she is a) very calm, composed hitter," Lombardi said. "She did a really good job of understanding the different types of pitchers we were going to face throughout the season, especially in the Pac. I thought she prepared well for them."

Delgado began the 2021 season at second base, but eventually, Lombardi moved her to the outfield. She didn't have much experience in the outfield previously, and described the action as slower than at second, but she admitted the position has grown on her. In 2021, Delgado posted a .958 fielding percentage with 44 putouts and two assists.

While adjusting to finding her role on Oregon's team, Delgado had upperclassmen leaders to lean on, such as Haley Cruse, Allee Bunker and Terra McGowan, who helped her get acclimated to the program more quickly than she expected to.

"I would say the upperclassmen definitely helped a lot last year," she said. "Haley (Cruse) was a big help to me in the outfield. She kind of took me under her wing and showed me certain things. I would ask her questions."

Among true freshmen in the Pac-12 in 2021, Delgado finished the season ranked second in batting average and first in doubles. Her performance earned her Pac-12 All-Freshman and All-Pac-12 third-team honors and helped the Ducks get a bid to the Austin Regional.

With a young roster foundation in 2022, Lombardi believes it's now the perfect time for Oregon to ascend to the top of the Pac-12 once again.

And a change to the coaching staff that will certainly benefit the Ducks this season is the addition of Arizona great Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza to it. Delgado knew Palomino-Cardoza from her travel ball team and says that her addition to the staff after just graduating from college herself provides the perfect gap between coaching and Division I playing experience.

"The more younger leaders we have on the team, the better it's going to get," she said.

And for Delgado, she has two specific goals for the 2022 season.

"I want to become an All-American this year and help my team get to the postseason," Delgado said. "(I want) to help lead the team, and hopefully to the World Series."

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