This week in Pac-12 softball

UCLA Athletics

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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).

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.

PREVIEWING THE WEEKEND: This week in Pac-12 softball both the Utes and the Ducks will put their eight-game win streaks to the test with stiff competition. The fifth-ranked Ducks will host Arizona, with two games to be broadcast on Pac-12 Network. Utah, in second place in league standings and winners of 27 of their last 35 games head to Seattle to face the 10th-ranked Huskies. California and Stanford will square off on The Farm, while Arizona State heads to UCLA. 

AROUND THE LEAGUE: OREGON ranks second in the nation in doubles per game (1.93) and slugging percentage (.638). UCLA leads the country in double plays per game, as the Bruins hit a mark of 0.70. WASHINGTON’s Ali Aguilar continues her impressive season at the plate, ranking second in the country with 0.50 home runs per game and 1.43 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 11.4. Hawkins needs three strikeouts to claim 1,000 for her career, becoming the first Pac-12 player since Arizona State’s Dallas Escobedo in 2014 and 15th overall. Hawkins, the two-time All-American and two-time Academic All-American is the NCAA’s active leader in strikeouts (997), wins (97) and shutouts (30). 

BATTING PROWESS: Four Conference teams rank in the top-30 in batting average in the nation.  OREGON leads the nation at .363 and WASHINGTON comes in at No. 7 nationally at a mark of .344.  UCLA (No. 25, .324), ARIZONA STATE (No. 26, .323) and UTAH (No. 30, .320) 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 seven, while the Huskies come in at No. 8. UCLA slips to No. 16 and ARIZONA remains at No. 20. UTAH climbs No. 24, OREGON STATE at No. 27. ARIZONA STATE at No. 35, CALIFORNIA No. 39 and STANFORD at No. 120.

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.

IN THE RANKINGS: Four league teams make appearances in the national top-25 polls this week. OREGON ranks fifth in both the USA Today/NFCA Division I poll and Softball poll. WASHINGTON ranks No. 10 in respective polls. UCLA comes in at No. 15/13 while ARIZONA remains at No. 17/17. UTAH receives votes in both polls, while ARIZONA STATE and OREGON STATE earn receiving vote nods in the NFCA poll.

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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