This week in Pac-12 softball

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NCAA TOP 10: OREGON (No. 7) and WASHINGTON (No. 9) made the initial NCAA Top 10 Ranking (Apr. 26) The ranking is based on the criteria used to select and seed the 64 teams for the Division I Softball Championship and include strength of schedule, Rating Percentage Index, head-to-head competition, results versus common opponents, significant wins and losses and locations of contests. Additionally, input is provided by the regional advisory committees for consideration by the Division I Softball Committee.

COMPLETE CAMPAIGN: Pac-12 students are known for their success on the field, but they are also impressive, complete people with outside interests, diverse backgrounds, extracurricular activities, interesting families, busy schedules, and full lives. 

Utah softball worked on two big projects this year, including writing cards for soldiers and also knitting hats for those at the Road Home as well as Primary Children’s. They have learned how to knit through this process and many had no prior experience.

PREVIEWING THE WEEKEND: This week in Pac-12 softball the hunt for the Conference title heats up. OREGON controls its own destiny, needing three league wins to secure the league crown for the fourth-straight year. The Ducks are ramping up as the regular season comes to an end, on a 13-game win streak and have gone 32-straight innings without allowing a run. Their five straight shutouts ties for second most in program history, dating back to 1994. Also in the mix for the league title are UCLA and UTAH. The Bruins and Utes square off this weekend in Salt Lake City. OREGON STATE and ARIZONA meet in Tucson, while WASHINGTON heads south for a non-conference series with #13/14 LSU.

IN THE RANKINGS: Five league teams make appearances in the national top-25 polls this week. OREGON climbs to third in both the USA Today/NFCA Division I poll and ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. WASHINGTON ranks No. 11 in respective polls. UCLA comes in at No. 14/13 while ARIZONA ranks at No. 18/20. UTAH receives votes and ranks No. 25 in the USA Softball, while ARIZONA STATE earns receiving vote nods in the NFCA poll.

AROUND THE LEAGUE: OREGON ranks third in the nation in doubles per game (1.82) and first in slugging percentage (.633). UCLA leads the country in double plays per game, as the Bruins hit a mark of 0.72. WASHINGTON’s Ali Aguilar continues her impressive season at the plate, ranking second in the country with .47 home runs per game and fifth with 1.33 RBIs/game. She has homered 20 times this season to lead the Conference. Duck pitcher Cheridan Hawkins holds steady at second nationally in strikeouts per seven innings at 11.2. Hawkins became the first Pac-12 player since Arizona State’s Dallas Escobedo in 2014 and 15th overall to reach 1,000 career strikeouts. Hawkins, the two-time All-American and two-time Academic All-American is the NCAA’s active leader in strikeouts (1,012), wins (99) and shutouts (32). CALIFORNIA’s Nisa Ontiveros had a dominant week, striking out 48 with a 1.33 ERA last week, highlighted by a 16-strikeout performance.

BATTING PROWESS: Four Conference teams rank in the top-30 in batting average in the nation.  OREGON ranks second in the nation at .356 and WASHINGTON comes in at No. 9 nationally at a mark of .340.  UCLA (No. 19, .328) and ARIZONA STATE (No. 28, .321) round out the Pac-12 presence.

RPI RELEASED: Eight league teams rank in the top-40 in the latest RPI release. OREGON and WASHINGTON headline the Pac-12’s presence, as the Ducks come into the week at number six, while the Huskies hold steady at No. 8. UCLA climbs to No. 15 and ARIZONA comes in at No. 21. OREGON STATE hits No. 23, UTAH at No. 25 and ARIZONA STATE at No. 36, CALIFORNIA No. 39 and STANFORD at No. 128.

USA SOFTBALL COLLEGIATE PLAYER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS: Three Pac-12 players were named finalists for the 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, as announced by ASA/USA Softball. Amongst the 25 named included WASHINGTON’s junior Ali Aguilar, who currently ranks second nationally in RBIs per game (1.53) and fourth nationally in home runs per game (0.5). UCLA’s senior Allexis Bennett holds top-30 national marks in batting average (0.44) and runs per game (1.17, 13th). Rounding out the Pac-12 is OREGON’s senior Koral Costa, who averages top-30 national rankings in batting average (21st, 0.45) and slugging percentage (29th, 0.798).

HISTORIC MILESTONES: After taking the series sweep over Stanford, Arizona head coach Mike Candrea earned his 1,458th career victory. Candrea passes legendary Margie Wright, who won 1,457 games from 1980-2012 coaching for Illinois State and Fresno State.  Candrea now only trails Michigan’s Carol Hutchins, who hit the mark on April 2. Utah softball celebrated its 40th anniversary last week in the series sweep of Arizona State.

WEST COAST UPGRADES: 11-time NCAA National Champion UCLA Softball announced a generous donation that will be used to support improvements, including a new scoreboard, to Easton Stadium. Oregon opened Jane Sanders Stadium on March 24th, which seats 1,500. Washington unveiled its new center field videoboard in March.

NPF DRAFTEES: Five players from the Conference were drafted in the 2016 NPF Draft, representing three different schools. College seniors are eligible for the draft, which consisted of six rounds to select 40 players. OF Allexis Bennett of UCLA was selected in the second round at eighth overall to the Pennsylvania Rebellion.  A trio of Ducks were drafted, including UT Geri Ann Glasco (No. 20, Akron Racers), LHP Cheridan Hawkins (No. 29, Dallas Charge) and OF Alyssa Gillespie (No. 38, Dallas Charge). OREGON STATE’s INF Mikela Manewa was selected No. 40 overall to the Scrap Yard Dawgs.

BERG TAPPED FOR JWNT: Oregon State head softball coach Laura Berg has been selected as the head coach for the 2017 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team, the Amateur Softball Association of America and USA Softball announced on March 2. Berg, USA Softball’s only four-time Olympian and fourth-year skipper of the Beaver softball team, will lead the USA Softball JWNT at the World Baseball Softball Confederation Junior Women’s World Championship, slated to be held in Clearwater, Fla. in July of 2017.

SENIOR CLASS AWARD CANDIDATES: Seniors Allexis Bennett of UCLA and Kayla Bonstrom of STANFORD are two of the 30 candidates for the 2016 Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. 

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