Pac-12 softball in the polls: April 1
The UCLA softball team swept Utah over the weekend and nearly swept the voters in the latest USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll released on Tuesday. The Bruins (33-2, 8-1 Pac-12), collected 31 of 32 first-place votes with No. 2 Tennessee receiving the lone standout. Here's how the Pac-12 fared in the latest poll.
[Related: 2014 Pac-12 softball schedule]
No. 1 UCLA (33-2, 8-1 Pac-12)
UCLA hosted UC Santa Barbara for a doubleheader on Wednesday and made quick work of the Gauchos, winning 5-1 and 9-1 in a five-inning game. Jessica Hall pitched eight innings in both games and surrendered only two hits and one run while striking out nine. Over the weekend the Bruins had little trouble dispatching the visiting Utes (12-14, 1-6 Pac-12) in the three-game set. Pitching ace Ally Carda won her 18th and 19th games on Friday and Sunday and pitched the final frame on Saturday. Junior Stephany LaRosa was awarded Pac-12 Player of the Week honors after knocking three home runs and finished the week hitting 8-of-13 with eight RBI and four runs scored. The Bruins travel to Eugene this weekend to take on the rival Oregon Ducks.
No. 3 Oregon (32-4, 6-0 Pac-12)
The Ducks began the week with a double-dip in at BYU with an 8-0 run-rule game, but were shocked in the late game, taking a 6-5 loss to the Cougars. BYU took a big 6-0 lead, and the Ducks responded in the seventh with four runs, but ultimately fell short. A top-five showdown awaited the Ducks on their return to Eugene with the Huskies visiting Howe Field. The teams would have to wait an extra day as Mother Nature rained out Friday’s matchup. Sophomore pitcher Cheridan Hawkins was lights-out against the Huskies with back-to-back shutouts in Saturday’s doubleheader. Hawkins pitched 12 innings and recorded 11 strikeouts. Hawkins received her sixth career Pitcher of the Week award for her efforts.
No. 7 Arizona State (32-6, 6-3 Pac-12)
Arizona State hosted Arizona over the weekend in a Territorial Cup Series, winning two of three games in the rivalry series to jump four spots in the rankings to No. 7. Arizona State senior pitcher Dallas Escobedo (14-5) won a nail-biting 2-1 victory on Friday and dropped a marathon 10-inning matchup on Sunday. Escobedo fanned 30 batters over the weekend and was drafted No. 1 overall in the National Pro Fastpitch League draft on Monday. Senior right-handed pitcher Mackenzie Popescue went the distance and earned Saturday’s victory, advancing her record to 16-1.
No. 9 Washington (22-10, 2-6 Pac-12)
Washington softball has fallen on hard times since Pac-12 Conference played has started: The Huskies were 20-4 and ranked as high as No. 5 in the national polls. Though the Huskies have lost six of eight conference contests, the losses have been to top-ranked teams UCLA and Oregon. UW dropped the first two games at Oregon over weekend and hung tough on Sunday, taking a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning before surrendering runs in the final frame. The Huskies are off this weekend and travel to Stanford for a Thursday-Saturday set April 10-12.
No. 10 Arizona (29-8, 4-5 Pac-12)
Arizona traveled to Tempe over the weekend and lost two heartbreakers before breaking the Sun Devils’ hearts on Sunday. The Wildcats dropped two spots to No. 10 after playing Arizona State with only a three-run scoring deficit over the series. Freshman second baseman Mo Mercado came up big with four go-ahead RBI, including the eventual game-winning groundout in the 10th inning. Arizona hosts Stanford this weekend in Tucson.