Pac-12 softball in the polls: March 25

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Not a bad time for UCLA and Oregon this past week: Not only did the Bruins (28-2, 5-1 Pac-12) and the Ducks (26-3, 3-0 Pac-12) take the top two spots in the newest USA Today/NFCA rankings, but both teams had representatives for Pac-12 Pitcher and Player of the Week. Here's how the Pac-12 fared in the latest release of the USA Today/NFCA Division I softball poll:

UCLA jumped into the top spot even with a loss to Washington on Sunday. The Bruins won the series with a 4-2 victory on Saturday and a 4-0 shutout on Monday in Seattle. Junior pitcher Ally Carda (17-1) was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week, her second of the year. In four games and 22 and 2/3 innings, Carda recorded 27 strikeouts, two wins and a save. The Bruins host a doubleheader against UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday and welcome Utah (11-12, 1-4 Pac-12) for a three-game set this weekend.

Oregon moved into the No. 2 spot vacated by UCLA via its sweep of Utah in Salt Lake City over the weekend. Senior outfielder and Pac-12 Player of the Week Alexa Peterson electrified crowds and stymied Utah pitchers, going 6-for-7 against Utah. Her 13 RBI included two doubles, a triple and a grand slam home run in the first inning on Sunday. Ducks ace pitcher Cheridan Hawkins (15-2) won on Saturday and Monday while Jasmine Smithson-Willett increased her win total to three. The Ducks travel to nearby Provo, Utah on Tuesday to play Southern Utah and BYU and will host Washington this weekend.

Despite losing two of three to the top-ranked Bruins, Washington remained at the No. 5 spot in the weekly rankings. The Huskies (21-7, 2-3 Pac-12) dominated the Bruins on the second game of the series with a 10-2 run-rule victory on Sunday. Pitcher Bryana Walker (13-3) went the distance, giving up only two hits and two runs while striking out seven. The Huskies jumped all over Bruins starter Jessica Hall (9-1) with nine runs, who was pulled before recording an out. Next up for the Huskies is a top-five matchup in Eugene to take on the Ducks.

The Arizona Wildcats decimated the visiting Oregon State Beavers (11-17, 2-4 Pac-12) with three straight run-rule victories. The pollsters, however, didn’t think much of the feat as they dropped the Wildcats (28-6, 3-3 Pac-12) a spot to No. 8. Arizona now has won 19 straight games at home, with 16 of them being of the mercy-rule variety. Arizona dominated the three-game series, outscoring the Beavers 36-2 overall. Arizona leads the NCAA with 54 home runs on the year, and junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre hit two home runs on Monday to bring her into a tie for most in the NCAA with 13. The Wildcats travel to Tempe this weekend to take on in-state rival Arizona State.

Arizona State swept the weekend series against Stanford and stayed put at No. 11 in the polls this week. A marathon nine-inning hit fest started the series on Saturday with the Sun Devils (30-5, 4-2) defeating the Cardinal 16-15. Dallas Escobedo (12-4) went 6.2 innings and advanced her record to 12-4. Second baseman Chelsea Gonzales paced the Devils on 3-of-6 hitting with three RBI, a home run and two runs scored while third baseman Haley Steele went 2-for-4, including a double and a home run to notch three RBI of her own. Sunday’s matchup was an easy 9-0 run-rule victory for Mackenzie Popescue (15-1) as three Sun Devils homered in the third inning. Monday’s game had a flair for the dramatic with senior Cheyenne Coyle’s one-out, three-run, walk-off home run to secure the 7-5 victory. Pitcher Dallas Escobedo went the distance and earned her 13th victory of the season. The Sun Devils host the Wildcats this weekend in the Territorial Cup Series.

Stanford remained at the No. 24 spot in the polls despite being swept at ASU. The Cardinal (23-11, 1-5 Pac-12) scored 20 runs over the three-game stretch, including home runs from Kylie Sorenson and Erin Ashby on Saturday. Jessica Plaza homered on Sunday and Monday, but the Cardinal could not gain the elusive W in Tempe. Stanford will be absent from conference action this weekend with only one game at University of Pacific in Stockton, Calif., on Friday.

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