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The best moments from the first week of Pac-12 softball season

Feb 14, 2022
Photo of Olivia Johnson courtesy of Washington Athletics

The Pac-12 is off to a strong start to the 2022 softball season, with its nine programs posting a combined 31-11 record through the first week of action.

Washington and Oregon both went 5-0 in their respective multi-team tournaments, while California (4-1), Stanford (4-1), UCLA (4-1), Arizona (3-1), Arizona State (3-2), Oregon (3-2) and Oregon State (3-2) each emerged with winning records.

Here's a roundup of some of the biggest moments of the week.

Olivia Johnson made a strong first impression

The Huskies are counting on Johnson to help replace All-American catcher Morganne Flores, and so far the freshman looks up to the task.

Johnson was named MVP of the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, where the Huskies beat Lamar, Long Beach State, Rutgers and No. 8 Arkansas (twice).

Johnson reached base in her first 13 at-bats and led UW in batting average (.700), home runs (3) and total bases (18). She was so dangerous that Rutgers intentionally walked her four times.

Arkansas probably wishes it would have done the same after seeing Johnson belt a three-run walk-off homer in a run-rule victory on Friday.

Hammoude's homers

Frankie Hammoude crushed a Pac-12-best five homers as Oregon State beat Southern Utah, Texas State and New Mexico State. The junior from Oakland now has 33 career homers to her name, 19 shy of Tarrah Beyster's program record (52).

At this rate, Hammoude will have no trouble catching up.

Makenna put the K in Klithermes

Junior right-hander Makenna Klithermes was nearly unhittable in Oregon's season-opening win over Ole Miss, racking up 15 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout.

Klithermes carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before it was broken up by an infield single.

She responded by fanning the next three batters, securing a quality win over an Ole Miss team that reached the NCAA Tournament last season.

One of the most lopsided wins you'll ever see

Holly Azevedo was able to complete a no-hit bid, blanking Cal State Northridge in UCLA's season opener.

Azevedo only needed to pitch five innings because the Bruin bats were scorching from the start, plating 13 first-inning runs in an eventual 22-0 run-rule victory.

Those 22 runs were tied for the most ever scored by the Bruins in a season opener. It was also UCLA's first 20+ margin of victory since 2003.

Two clutch homers and a web gem in two ranked wins

There were plenty of nail-biting moments during the first week, too. 

No. 21 Arizona State was trailing No. 20 Duke by a run in the bottom of the seventh when Kristiana Watson came off the bench to club a two-run, pinch-hit walk-off homer for the Sun Devils.

It was a long-awaited moment for Watson, a highly-regarded recruit who redshirted during her freshman season.

Down in Mexico, Washington's Baylee Klingler helped the Huskies secure their second win over Arkansas by blasting a grand slam that gave them a 6-4 lead in the sixth.

The Huskies were able to hang on for the win, thanks in big part to Sarah Willis, who lunged over the center field fence to take back what would have been a two-run homer.

There were plenty of other gems...

  • Washington's Gabbie Plain pitched 13 scoreless frames across three outings.
  • Arizona's Hanah Bowen tossed a one-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over New Mexico.
  • Stanford's Alana Vawter scattered six hits in 1-0 road shutout over San Diego State.
  • Utah's Sydney Sandez threw a four-hit shutout against Missouri State.
  • Cal's Annabel Teperson allowed one run (unearned) in eight innings in an extra-inning win over Colorado State.

Arizona honored a legend and began a new era

Arizona began the Caitlin Lowe era by going 3-1 in the Candrea Classic. That included a 22-1 win over Southern Utah to open the season, as the Wildcats reminded us that their new-look lineup, although young, can still put up gaudy numbers.

On Saturday, Arizona paid tribute to recently-retired Mike Candrea, the winningest coach in NCAA softball history, by inviting him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a marquee matchup against No. 2 Alabama.

The Wildcats fell short against the Crimson Tide, but it certainly wasn't due to a lack of support.

Arizona announced an attendance of 2,959, the seventh-largest ever at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, where the field is now named after Candrea himself.