The base coach, Nikki Ragin, could have easily passed back to Bunker a baton. Because with that base hit in Oregon’s 9-0 nonconference win over Seattle, Bunker passed Ragin – née Nikki Udria – into third in all-time hits for the Ducks, with No. 248 of Bunker’s career.
A relationship that began in 2014, when Bunker was an eighth-grade recruit and Ragin was a freshman at Oregon, has evolved over what’s now nearly a decade of UO softball history. Once a player Bunker looked up to, Ragin now helps coach her since returning to Eugene as an assistant coach to Melyssa Lombardi in 2022.
“It’s crazy, full circle,” said Bunker, whose UO softball team plays its home opener against Stanford on Friday at 6 p.m.. “When Coach Lombardi called me about Coach Ragin joining the coaching staff, I was like, this is crazy. Never in my life did I think this was going to be a possibility, for her to be a direct mentor to us as a team.”
As improbable as it might have felt to Bunker, the two have much in common. Both are middle infielders who are base-hit machines at the plate, with power they can tap into as well. They’re both heady players who think the game well, and who bring a maturity to the field that commands respect.
Ragin said current players occasionally inquire about her time as a Duck, and about returning to the program as a coach. Among the questions she’s been asked is about current players she’d have liked to have played with.
“I said, I would have loved to have played next to Bunk,” said Ragin, a shortstop for the Ducks from 2014-17. “Bunk is that stud that I would have loved to play shortstop next to.”
The two barely missed overlapping. Bunker signed with Oregon in the fall of 2017, a few months after Ragin wrapped up her UO playing career. Bunker was one of six true freshmen who took the field for the first time in the spring of 2019, Lombardi’s first season as UO head coach. Four years later, Bunker is a super senior, playing out the year of eligibility she gained due to the pandemic.
Bunker entered this season with 216 career hits, just outside the UO top 10. After passing Ragin on Monday, Bunker now trails only Janie Takeda Reed (309, 2012-15) and Courtney Ceo-Jeske (288, 2011-14). Bunker’s next double, No. 43 of her career, will move her into second in UO history…
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