Pac-12 softball in the polls: March 18
Conference play began last weekend and No. 2 UCLA put on exclamation point on Sunday’s game against No. 7 Arizona with a walk-off grand slam by junior Gracie Goulder, sweeping the Wildcats and taking sole possession of first place in the conference. Here's how the Pac-12 fared in the latest release of the USA Today/NFCA Division I softball poll:
[Related: 2014 Pac-12 softball schedule]
The Bruins (26-1, 3-0 Pac-12) jumped a spot to No. 2 and also collected nine first-place votes from the panel after sweeping then-No. 6 Arizona with two shutouts and outscoring the Wildcats 11-4. Junior pitcher Ally Carda (15-1) started Saturday afternoon and came in for relief of Jessica Hall Sunday afternoon and Monday night. Carda walked away with two wins and a save in 12.2 innings, delivering 12 strikeouts and surrendering only six hits. Sophomore infielder Mysha Sataraka was voted Pac-12 Player of the Week after her 5-of-7 performance, including her eighth home run.
Oregon (23-3) was the odd team out for opening conference play, and its consolation prize was a trip to Hawaii to participate in the Rainbow Wahine Classic. The No. 3 Ducks won the first five games of the four-game tournament but dropped the championship game to James Madison, 3-0. Sophomore outfielder Alyssa Gillespie was named MVP of the tournament while sophomore left-handed pitcher Cheridan Hawkins was name Co-Most Valuable Pitcher. The Ducks travel to Salt Lake City to begin conference play this weekend against the Utes.
Washington (20-4, 1-1 Pac-12) stayed put at No. 5 after splitting a pair against Utah. Sunday’s matchup was rained out and a makeup game has yet to be scheduled. The Huskies’ star pitcher Bryana Walker (12-3) pitched six innings on Friday, giving up two runs on four hits. Junior third baseman Kylee Lahners went 2-for-3 with her 10th home run of the season. Walker would take the loss on Saturday after relieving Kaitlin Inglesby in an extra-innings matchup.
Arizona (23-6, 0-3 Pac-12) lost three games over the weekend but only fell one spot to No. 7 as it was swept by a tough UCLA team. The ‘Cats played the Bruins close, losing a pair of pitchers’ duels 1-0 and 2-0 on Saturday and Monday. Arizona led 4-3 on Sunday going into the final three outs of the game before giving up five runs. Estela Pinon (6-3) gave up only five hits and one run on Saturday and Kenzie Fowler (3-2) surrendered two hits and two runs in her complete game on Monday.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (27-5, 1-2 Pac-12) tumbled four spots to No. 11 after losing two of three to Oregon State in Corvallis over the weekend. Beavers senior Amanda Najdek (7-8) dominated the Sun Devils in two complete games on Friday and Sunday. Sun Devil pitcher Dallas Escobedo (11-4) took both losses. Mackenzie Popescue (14-1) was once again unstoppable in the circle, pitching five runs of shutout softball and allowing only two hits in the run-rule, 11-0 victory. Alix Johnson and Bethany Kemp both homered in the fifth inning to end the game.
Stanford (23-8, 1-2 Pac-12) also had a tough weekend, dropping two of three to California at home. The Cardinal fell three spots to No. 24 and faces Arizona State this weekend in Tempe. The Bears and Cardinal put on a hitting clinic in the series opener with Stanford winning 14-13. The Bears led 9-8 heading in to the final inning and scored four more before Stanford scored six to end the game. The Cardinal was outscored 13-6 in the next two games, suffering two straight losses.