Three Pac-12 softball teams advance to NCAA Super Regionals
• The Pac-12 teams in the 2019 NCAA Softball Championship outscored its opponents 104-46 in the opening round last week and combined for a 12-5 record with No. 2 seed UCLA, No. 3 WASHINGTON and No. 6 ARIZONA advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals. Each team will host an opponent in a best-of-three series to determine who advances to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series. STANFORD and ARIZONA STATE each fought in difficult series falling in the Gainesville and Tuscaloosa Regionals, respectfully.
• UCLA will face the only non-seeded team to advance in James Madison (6 p.m. PT; ESPNU), Washington battles No. 14 Kentucky (6 p.m. PT; ESPN2) and Arizona plays No. 11 Ole Miss (4 p.m. PT, ESPNU), beginning on Friday, May 24. Every game of the 2019 NCAA Super Regionals will be broadcast on ESPN across the four days with up to 11 games on ESPN, nine on ESPN2 and four on ESPNU and all games will also be available on the ESPN App.
• Only five teams have made at least 12 Super Regional appearances since the format change in 2005 and two hail from Pac-12 schools; Alabama (15), Arizona (14), Oklahoma (13), Washington (13) and Florida (12). Seven of the nine-team Pac-12 Conference rank in the top-20 for all-time NCAA Super Regional appearances- No. 2 Arizona (13), No. 3 Washington (12), tied No. 7 UCLA and Oregon (10), tied No. 10 Arizona State (9), tied No. 13 California (7) and No. 18 Stanford (5).
• At least one Pac-12 team has advanced to the WCWS every year since the inaugural tournament in 1982 and five league teams rank in the top-5 for WCWS appearances, including the top three spots with No. 1 UCLA (28), No. 2 Arizona (22), No. 3 Washington (13), and tied at No. 4 with 12 is California and Arizona State, along with Fresno State, Oklahoma and Michigan. UCLA’s upcoming opponent James Madison upset No. 15 seed Michigan in the Ann Arbor Regional last week. Five 2018 WCWS All-Tournament Team selections will be action this weekend including UCLA’s Rachel Garcia, Bubba Nickles and Taylor Pack and Washington’s duo of Gabbie Plain and Sis Bates.
• Pac-12 teams have won 23 of 35 NCAA Softball Championships for the most national titles of any conference behind an NCAA-best five different league teams. Five Pac-12 teams rank in the top seven all-time NCAA Tournament wins: No. 1 UCLA (218), No. 2 Arizona (167), No. 4 Washington (114) No. 5 California (103) and No. 7 Arizona State (95).
PAC-12 IN THE POSTSEASON: No. 2 UCLA looks to advance to its fifth-straight Women’s College World Series after winning the Los Angeles Regional. The Bruins opened their postseason run with a combined no-hitter from redshirt junior Rachel Garcia, who struck out 13 batters in six innings, and sophomore Holly Azevedo’s pair of strikeouts in the final inning to defeat Weber State, 6-0, on Friday. The Bruins continued to dominate the plate, besting Missouri, 9-1, with three home runs and a grand slam. In the winner take all match on Sunday, UCLA earned a triumphant 13-1, five-inning victory to advance to the supers. Junior Bubba Nickles made a huge impact, recording a pair of five-RBI games, which matched her single-game career high and went 7-for-15 (.467) at the plate with a pair of homers, 11 RBI, six runs and four doubles in four games.
UCLA ranks in the top-10 of nine different statistical categories, including six in the top-5 featuring the No. 2 ERA (1.39) and batting average (.345) in the nation. The Bruins also rank fifth in scoring (7.02) behind Nickles’ fifth-most RBIs (69). The Bruins will look to rely on Garcia to get past offensive-minded James Madison. Garcia ranks second in the nation in ERA (1.02), third in strikeouts per seven innings (10.6), fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.68) and eighth in hits allowed per seven innings (3.87).
No. 3 Washington breezed through regional action, collecting two shutouts and wins over Fordham (2-0) and Mississippi State (6-1, 8-0) while conceding only one run over three games. The Huskies are now 33-1 when hosting NCAA Regional games with head coach Heather Tarr’s at the helm, including 28 consecutive wins in the Seattle Regional opening series. The Huskies advanced to the Super Regionals in historic fashion, as star pitcher Gabbie Plain threw the sixth postseason no-hitter in program history over Mississippi State (8-0) on Sunday. She joins teammate Taran Alvelo, who threw UW’s last postseason no-hitter in the 2017 NCAA Regionals against Montana (8-0).
Plain notched her third no-no this season and fourth of her career after tallying 10 strikeouts and allowing only one walk in the victory. Plain also became the first Husky with double-digit strikeouts in a postseason game since 2013 (Bryana Walker) after scorching 14 batters in the series opener against Fordham. The sophomore from Harrington Park, Australia tied the school record for postseason strikeouts in a game of seven or fewer innings and now owns a 0.66 ERA in postseason play.
Morganne Flores jump-started the Husky offense, recording three home runs over the weekend and tallying her seventh career postseason homer to become the eighth Husky ever to hit 40 homers in their career. Flores, a redshirt junior, knocked two out of the park in game two against Mississippi State and is now the only Husky in school history with multiple two-homer postseason games. Alvelo recorded a compete-game victory over Mississippi State (6-1) on Saturday with eight strikeouts to collect her 25th win this season.
Washington is one of the most dangerous pitching teams in the country, ranking second nationally in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.79) behind pitching duo Plain and Alvelo that rank Nos. 8 (6.63) and 12 (6.23), respectively. UW owns the third-best fielding percentage (.980) and fifth-best ERA (1.38) in the country and will match up against Kentucky’s No. 9 ranked scoring offensive (6.57). The Huskies defeated Kentucky, 4-2, earlier this season in the Mary Nutter Classic on Feb. 22.
Arizona defended home turf and swept the Tucson Region for the third-straight season, marking its third time accomplishing the feat since 2005 (2010-2012; 2005-2007). The powerhouse hitters took down Harvard (5-1) and topped No. 24 Auburn (2-1, 12-3) to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals for the 14th time in the last 15 years. The Wildcats have more championship experience than most of the NCAA field, winning eight national titles, the second most in NCAA history and making an additional five Women’s College World Series Championship Series appearances. Arizona is looking to advance to its 23rd WCWS and first since 2010.
Jessie Harper led Arizona’s explosive offense in its regional-clinching match, blasting three home runs and collecting 14 total bases for the most in Arizona history and the most in a single game in NCAA Tournament history. Harper went 5-for-5, with three runs scored and five RBIs while 2018 All-American Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza hit another homer and drove in four runs. Taylor McQuillin pitched all 14 innings of the first two wins, tallying 13 strikeouts, seven hits and allowing only two earned runs in the complete games. McQuillin ranks fourth among league pitchers in ERA (1.54) and hits allowed per seven innings (4.56) and ranks 14th nationally with 10 shutouts.
Arizona ranks seventh in scoring (6.72), eighth in ERA (1.61), ninth in batting average (.324) and ninth in fielding percentage (.946). The Wildcats have been hitting it out of the park this season as Harper leads the country in home runs (28) and Dejah Mulipola ranks ninth (21) while Palomino trails with 16.
The Wildcats continue to have home field advantage and welcomes Ole Miss, who defeated Southeast Missouri and Louisiana to earn the Rebels second Super Regional berth in program history.
Arizona extended its postseason streak to 33 consecutive appearances, the longest active streak in the country and longest all-time streak in the NCAA history, dating back to 1987 when head coach Mike Candrea was in his second year. On April 19, head coach Candrea joined Michigan’s Carol Hutchins as the only two coaches in NCAA softball history to reach 1,600 career wins and he became the fastest coach of any sport in any division in NCAA history to reach the milestone. Candrea is an 11-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year honoree, was inducted to the NFCA Hall of Fame in 1996 and coached the U.S. team that won gold at the 2004 Athens Games.
ARIZONA STATE and STANFORD received at-large bids in the 64-team field, marking the 24th-straight season that five or more Conference teams have participated in the NCAA Championship.
Arizona State made its 31st NCAA Tournament appearance and started its postseason run with a 4-3 victory over Lipscomb behind Jade Gortarez game-winning homer at the bottom of the sixth. ASU dropped its next match to host Alabama, 4-7, and stayed alive with a dominant 10-1 win over Lipscomb in the consolation bracket. The Sun Devils were eliminated in the Tuscaloosa Regional Final on Sunday afternoon in a back-and-fourth battle that was tied 5-5 in the fifth inning and knotted again at 8-8 in the sixth before the Crimson Tide slid away with a 9-8 victory.
Stanford made its 17th all-time NCAA appearance and first since 2013 under Pac-12 Coach of the Year, Jessica Allister. Stanford struggled in the first match against Boise State (9-1) and responded to defeat Boston University (13-2) behind Montana Dixon’s three RBIs. The Cardinal couldn’t fight off another elimination game and dropped a 2-0 decision to Boise State to close out the 2019 NCAA postseason. The Cardinal has reached the Super Regionals five times in program history and twice made the Women’s College World series with the last time coming in 2004.
PAC-12 CO-CHAMPIONS: The final week of the regular season highlighted the Conference’s talent and proved critical for the 2019 season as it ultimately determined the Pac-12 Champions the day before the NCAA Selection Show. UCLA competed in a hard-fought series against Arizona (3-5, 5-4, 1-3) and clinched the program’s 10th Conference crown after winning game two on Friday. The Bruins finished the regular season at 46-5 overall and 20-4 in league play.
Washington thrived under pressure, as the Huskies needed all three wins to remain in contention for the title and took care of business, sweeping Stanford (5-2, 8-0, 3-0) to win its fourth all-time Pac-12 title and first since 2010. The Huskies went 45-7 overall and reached the magic 20-4 league threshold, marking the second-most Conference wins in program history. This marks the second co-champions in Conference history, joining the 2005 season that saw Arizona, California, Oregon State and Stanford all finish with a 13-8 league record.
The 2019 Pac-12 postseason awards were announced as voted on by the league’s coaches. UCLA’s Rachel Garcia collects her second-straight Player of the Year honor and becomes the first player in Conference history to win both Player and Pitcher of the Year in the same season. Bruins teammate Megan Faraimo was tabbed Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, marking their third consecutive rookie honor. Washington’s Sis Bates garnered Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. Stanford head coach Jessica Allister was voted Pac-12 Coach of the Year after leading the Cardinal to eight Conference wins, which are more than the previous four years combined (7). Arizona’s Reyna Carranco, who remains out with a broken left hand and broken right thumb, was crowned the Pac-12 Batting Champion with a .433 average during the regular season.
NCAA TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
Washington* vs. Kentucky - Super Regional
Game 1: Washington vs. Kentucky, Fri., 6 p.m. - ESPN2
Game 2: Washington vs. Kentucky, Sat., 7 p.m. - ESPN2
Game 3: Washington vs. Kentucky, Sun. 7 p.m. - ESPN2
Arizona* vs. Ole Miss - Super Regional
Game 1: Ole Miss vs. Arizona, Fri., 4 p.m. - ESPNU
Game 2: Ole Miss vs. Arizona, Sat., 5 p.m. - ESPN2
Game 3: Ole Miss vs. Arizona, Sun., 5 p.m. - ESPN2
UCLA* vs. James Madison - Super Regional
Game 1: James Madison vs. UCLA, Fri., 6 p.m. - ESPNU
Game 2: James Madison vs. UCLA, Sat., 5 p.m. - ESPN
Game 3: James Madison vs. UCLA, Sun., 1 p.m. - ESPNU
*Indicates Host Institution
All times PT