This week in Pac-12 softball
EIGHT TO THE POSTSEASON: For the third time in five years and tying for the most in league history, eight Conference teams earned bids to the NCAA Softball Championship. Three teams earned top-16 seeds and will host regionals, paced by league champion OREGON’s No. 5 seed. Also hosting include No. 11 Washington and No. 12 UCLA. Joining the trio include ARIZONA, ARIZONA STATE, CALIFORNIA, OREGON STATE and UTAH. At each campus site, a four-team, double-elimination tournament will be conducted and the 16 winning teams advance to the Super Regionals. Super Regionals for the championship will be held May 26-29 on eight campus sites. At each site, two teams play in a best-of-three tournament format. The winners from each site advance to the NCAA® Women’s College World Series (WCWS).
QUEENS OF THE LEAGUE: With Oregon’s 5-1 win over the Utes in Eugene last week, the Ducks sealed their fourth-straight Pac-12 softball title. The feat has been achieved once before, with UCLA winning four-consecutive titles in 1988-91.
IN THE RANKINGS: Five league teams make appearances in the national top-25 polls this week. OREGON slipped slightly to fourth in both the USA Today/NFCA Division I poll and ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. WASHINGTON ranks No. 12/14 in respective polls. UCLA comes in at No. 14/13 while ARIZONA ranks at No. 18/22. UTAH ranks No. 25 in the NFCA poll and receives votes in the ESPN. com poll, while Oregon State receives a nod in the NFCA poll.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: OREGON ranks first in slugging percentage (0.633) and second in home runs per game (1.77) while WASHINGTON ranks sixth (1.43). The Huskies average 1.73 doubles per game, ranking fourth. They rank fifth nationally in slugging percentage at 0.559. WASHINGTON’s Ali Aguilar continues her impressive season at the plate, ranking second in the country with .41 home runs per game and sixth with 1.26 RBIs/game. She has homered 20 times this season to lead the Conference along with ARIZONA’s Katiyana Mauga. Duck pitcher Cheridan Hawkins holds steady at second nationally in strikeouts per seven innings at 11.1. Hawkins, the two-time All-American and two-time Academic All-American is the NCAA’s active leader in strikeouts (1,059), wins (105) and shutouts (32). Hawkins became the first Pac-12 player since Arizona State’s Dallas Escobedo in 2014 and 15th overall to reach 1,000 career strikeouts. UCLA leads the nation in double plays, turning two at a rate of 0.78. UTAH comes in at No. 3 at .69 per game.
BATTING PROWESS: Four Conference teams rank in the top-30 in batting average in the nation. OREGON ranks third in the nation at .354 and WASHINGTON comes in at No. 9 nationally at a mark of .336. UCLA (No. 16, .330) and ARIZONA STATE (No. 23, .322) 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 Huskies come into the week at number eight while the Ducks rank No. 9. UCLA hits No. 15 and ARIZONA comes in at No. 22. OREGON STATE climbs to No. 24, UTAH up to No. 27, CALIFORNIA at No. 36, ARIZONA STATE No. 40 and STANFORD at No. 139.
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.
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.
CoSIDA ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT 8: Nine Pac-12 student-athletes were named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 8 Team. Washington led the way with three honorees, including Kimberlee Souza, Ali Aguilar and Casey Stangel. Oregon’s Cheridan Hawkins and Koral Costa were honored, as well as Utah’s Katie Donovan and Hannah Flippen. Also receiving the academic accolade wre Oregon State’s Natalie Hampton and Arizona State’s Jennifer Soria.
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.