This week’s top-4 matchups to prove critical in Pac-12 softball race
• Three Pac-12 softball teams rank in the top-10 of the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll with No. 2 UCLA (43-2, 17-1), No. 3 WASHINGTON (39-7, 14-4) and No. 6 ARIZONA (40-8, 17-1). Each team boasts a top-10 overall record in the country behind stellar pitching talents as UCLA tops the nation in ERA (1.16) followed by Arizona in third (1.41) and Washington in sixth (1.59). STANFORD (31-13, 7-8) is receiving votes in the latest poll for its eighth consecutive appearance.
• The final two weeks of the Pac-12 regular-season will pit the league’s current top four teams against each other and ultimately determine the Pac-12 regular-season champions. No. 2 UCLA and No. 6 Arizona are tied for first place with one Conference loss each, followed by No. 3 Washington in third and Stanford in fourth. All 12 Pac-12 matchups this weekend will be aired on Pac-12 Networks.
• Arizona hosts Washington in this weekend’s pivotal top-10 series as the Wildcats hold a three-game advantage over the Huskies in the Pac-12 standings. Arizona’s lineup features two of the top home-run hitters in the country with Jessie Harper owning the second-most (22) and teammate Dejah Mulipola close behind in seventh (20). Harper also ranks seventh nationally in total bases (131) and eighth in RBIs (58) this season as the junior shortstop has been a key factor in the team’s success.
• Arizona’s strong bats will be tested against Washington’s Gabbie Plain, who ranks third in the country in hits allowed per seven innings (3.60), and Taran Alvelo, who has thrown the 10th-most strikeouts (226) nationally. Plain needs one win to become the second-fastest Husky to record 40 career wins and needs 22 strikeouts to reach third-most in Washington history (843). Both teams have demonstrated stout defense as Washington ranks fifth in fielding percentage (0.978), trailed by Arizona at 13th (.974). Arizona’s high-scorning offense that averages 7.21 runs per game, good for seventh in the country, will be tested this weekend against Washington’s deep rotation.
• The Cardinal welcomes the Bruins this weekend for a three-game tilt that could affect the league standings and next week’s regular-season finales. UCLA’s reigning National Player of the Year Rachel Garcia ranks second among the nation’s pitchers in ERA (0.64), third in strikeouts per seven innings (10.7) and fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (8.36). UCLA ranks second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.19) in the country and owns the sixth most shutouts (17). The Cardinals’ two-time NFCA All-Region Third Team selection, junior Teaghan Cowles is the toughest to strike out in the league and ranks second in triples (5) this season, leading Stanford to the second-most triples in the nation (0.55 per game).
• Arizona then heads to Los Angeles for the highly anticipated matchup against UCLA while Stanford caps the regular season with a three-game tilt against Washington to wrap up league play.
UPCOMING: The battle between Washington and Arizona will be the series to watch with all three games broadcast on Pac-12 Networks. UCLA is on the road taking at Stanford, with the series opening on Friday live on Pac-12 Los Angeles. Utah faces in-state rival BYU and California takes on Santa Clara to close non-conference action on Wednesday. Arizona State hosts Cal and Utah welcomes Oregon for three-game league series starting on Friday.
League teams not only have the toughest pitchers in the country, but also have some of the best scoring offenses in the country, led by third-best Arizona State (7.53 runs per game), UCLA in fourth (7.47) and Arizona in seventh (7.21). Strikeout-to-walk ratio has been impressive all season long, led by UCLA (6.19), Washington (5.37) and Arizona (4.61) ranking Nos. 2, 3, and 5 respectfully in the country.
RECAP: UCLA is going for one of its best overall and league records in program history with six games remaining until postseason play. The Bruins currently own a .956 win percentage, which is second only to their 1992 squad that won the NCAA National Championship with a 54-2 overall record (.964) and went 14-2 in Conference play. UCLA has conceded one Conference loss only twice in program history (1976, 9-1; 1993, 25-1). During head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez’s 13-year tenure, the Bruins’ best league records featured four losses, coming in the 2008 season (17-4) and last year’s 20-4 mark. The Bruins’ underclassmen shined in Sunday’s 10-0 shutout over Utah to claim its fifth Pac-12 series sweep of the season behind Aaliyah Jordan, Briana Perez, and Malia Quarles, who combined for nine of the team’s runs.
No. 6 Arizona clinched the series win over California in Sunday's 4-1 victory with a pair of runs in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth to erase a 1-0 deficit. Dating back to last season, Arizona has won nine consecutive Pac-12 series after its five sweeps to open Conference play this season, giving the Wildcats their second-best start in conference history (1994, 23-0).
However, the Golden Bears did manage to snap Arizona’s 21-game winning streak with a 1-0, nine-inning shutout on Saturday as Lauren Espalin batted in freshman Amani Bradley. Senior Kamalani Dung collected her 12th win in the two-hit pitching effort as the Bears overcame eight scoreless innings to upset their third ranked opponent of the season. Lindsay Rood’s has been a force at the plate collecting the second-most hits in the country (73) and tied for the Conference-lead with 16 doubles. The senior is hitting at an impressive clip, boasting the forth-best batting average in the league (.403).
Arizona State (28-17, 8-10 Pac-12) secured the series sweep against Stanford last week, recording a pair of five-run innings en route to a 10-5 victory on Sunday. Oregon State (21-25, 6-13) captured its first sweep over Oregon since 2006 with a back-and-fourth contest led by Shelby Weeks’ three hits, three runs and three RBIs in a 10-8 victory on Sunday night.
NATIONAL STAT LEADERS: UCLA ranks third in the nation in batting average (.352), followed by Arizona in 10th (.335) and Arizona State in 18th (3.17). Utah ranks 16th in double plays per game (.51) while Alyssa Barrera ranks seventh in triples (6) and 13th in triples per game (.13). The Utes lead the Pac-12 in assists (431) and fielding double plays (23). UCLA and Washington have been strong on defense, boasting the sixth-most shutouts in the country with 17 apiece.
Arizona State owns the fifth-most doubles per game (1.80), followed by UCLA with the 22nd-most (1.60). Arizona and Arizona State have been hitting out of the park this season, ranking second (1.88) and third (1.69) respectively in home runs per game. On base percentage has been exceptionally high this year with three teams in the top-10 including No. 5 UCLA (.429) and tied at No. 8 Arizona and Arizona State (.419).
UCLA’s Kelli Godin ranks seventh in the country in batting average (.457) followed by Arizona’s Reyna Carranco in 12th (.447). Three of the league’s top pitchers have dominated hits allowed per seven innings with Washington’s Gabbie Plain in third (3.60) then UCLA’s duo of Rachel Garcia (3.78) in ninth and Megan Faraimo (3.90) in 13th.
Arizona’s Mulipola (.852) and Harper (.851) lead the Conference in slugging percentage followed by Arizona State’s Morgan Howe (.808) and Kindra Hackbarth (.801), all over the .800 threshold. Kiana Pancino has taken control of Stanford’s mound, earning the second-most saves in the country this year with eight.
|Friday, Apr. 26|
|Oregon State at Oregon||P12O||2:30 p.m.|
|#5 Arizona at California||Pac-12 Now||3 p.m.|
|Arizona State at Stanford||Pac-12 Now||7 p.m.|
|Utah at #2 UCLA||7 p.m.|
|Saturday, Apr. 27|
|#5 Arizona at California||Pac-12 Now||1 p.m.|
|Arizona State at Stanford||Pac-12 Now||5:30 p.m.|
|Oregon State at Oregon||P12O||6 p.m.|
|Utah at #2 UCLA||6 p.m.|
|Sunday, Apr. 28|
|#5 Arizona at California||Pac-12 Now||12 p.m.|
|Utah at #2 UCLA||12 p.m.|
|Arizona State at Stanford||Pac-12 Now||1 p.m.|
|Oregon State at Oregon||P12O||5 p.m.|
CONFERENCE STANDINGS (Expanded Standings)
|Teams||Pac-12 Record||Overall Record|