What to watch for in the final week of the Pac-12 softball regular season
The final weekend of Pac-12 softball season is here and there is still plenty to determined, including a conference champion.
So, here are six storylines to keep an eye on before the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday at 4 p.m. PT / 5 p.m. MT on ESPN2.
Arizona State clinching the conference title
Holding a two-game lead over UCLA, the Sun Devils only need one win at Washington this weekend to clinch at least a share of the Pac-12 title and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If they win the series — and/or UCLA drops its series to Cal — they win the conference title outright. It won't come easy as ASU has not won a series in Seattle since 2012 and the Bruins have not lost to the Golden Bears since 2013.
Should the Sun Devils prevail, it would be their first conference title since 2011 and 2008, the same years they won the Women's College World Series.
4-9 is up for grabs
No matter what happens in the final weekend, ASU, UCLA and Washington will finish in the top three spots of the Pac-12. The rest of the conference is still up for grabs, with the other six squads all sitting within three games of each other.
That means teams like Arizona and Oregon State, who currently sit tied below a stacked conference standings at 7-14, could jump all the way up to fourth with a series sweep.
And it's not just their place in the conference standings that these teams are vying for. NCAA Tournament bids are at stake too.
And while teams like Arizona State, UCLA and Washington are a virtual lock to reach the postseason, they can lock down one of those coveted top-8 national seeds with a strong finish.
The Conference of Winners
The parity in the Pac-12 is a reflection of the league's strength. It is the only Division I conference in which every team has a winning record. That will hold true if Utah (26-25) can win its series at Oregon State this weekend.
Washington's Baylee Klingler holding off Arizona's Allie Skaggs for the Triple Crown
Klingler leads the Pac-12 in batting average (.453), RBI (65) and home runs (22). The senior shortstop has a comfortable lead in those first two categories, but Arizona's Allie Skaggs (21) is right behind her for the conference lead in homers. Can Klingler hold her off? It will be tough.
Skaggs has homered 10 times in her last 11 games, meaning Klingler may need to go yard at least once or twice against ASU to become the Pac-12's first Triple Crown winner since UCLA legend Stacey Nuveman in 1999.
Either way, it has been a tremendous season for Klingler, who Wednesday was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and is one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball National Player of the Year award.
Stanford potentially finishing in the top 4 by ending a long drought at Arizona
The Cardinal has already had several signature wins this season, including snapping UCLA's 25-game winning streak and ASU's 20-game winning streak. This weekend, Stanford has a chance to beat Arizona in Tucson for the first time in a decade and secure its first-ever series win in the Old Pueblo.
If that happens, Stanford could finish as high as fourth in the Pac-12, which would be its best finish since 2013. That would be a big feat for Jessica Allister, who has had the Stanford program on a steady rise since becoming the head coach in 2018.
Cal's Tatum Anzaldo winning the hit title
The sophomore infielder has 72 hits, five more than Klingler and seven more than Oregon State's Kiki Escobar for the conference lead. Anzaldo has had at least one hit in 16 of her last 18 games. If she continues that hot hitting, she will become the second Golden Bear ever to lead the Pac-12 in hits and first since Jazmyn Jackson in 2016.
For more Pac-12 softball coverage, head to Pac-12.com/sport/softball.