Posted on February 13, 2020
he opening week of college softball nationwide had a little bit of everything. There were big upsets, top teams showing their muscle, blow-outs and nail biters. The Pac-12 was no different.
On the Diamond
The league’s top teams—Washington, UCLA and Arizona—all did what was expected of them. They might have given up a few more runs than they would have liked, but they ended the weekend undefeated. One other Conference team did, too, and it wasn’t expected.
The Utah Utes were tied with California as the presumptive last-place teams in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll. After finishing 29-35 overall and 7-17 in the league last season, including 15 run-rule losses, it wasn’t a surprise. It did turn out to be a challenge, though. And that challenge was accepted.
The Utes opened against then-No. 14 Northwestern at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. Last season, Northwestern had beaten Utah 10-0 in a five-inning run-rule game. The Utes were out to prove themselves and get a bit of revenge.
They were able to get off to a hot start by defeating the Big Ten’s Wildcats by a score of 3-2. Between pitchers Mary Beth Feldman and Sydney Sanchez, the Utes allowed five hits and one earned run.
Their solid beginning carried over through the rest of the weekend, and Utah ended the Kajikawa Classic at 5-0. The Utes head down to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, next to face five opponents, including No. 6 Texas and No. 12 Tennessee.
In the Rankings
The upsets across the country shook up the rankings this week. The biggest of them struck Alabama, which was ranked first or second in most polls. The Crimson Tide were not ready for the season at all, it appears. They went 1-3 to open the campaign, including getting run-ruled by Florida State, and splitting two games with unranked North Carolina.
The USA Today/NFCA poll kept Washington at No. 1, but the Alabama losses allowed both UCLA and Arizona to move up a spot to No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. A 5-0 weekend vaulted Oregon from unranked to a tie with Northwestern at No. 21. Oregon’s success meant a 4-2 Arizona State dropped from No. 22 to No. 23. Stanford also received votes.
The preseason ESPN/USA Softball poll started with Alabama at No. 1, but the struggles of the Crimson Tide on the field were enough to let Washington move up to the top spot in that poll as well.
Just behind the Huskies were the UCLA Bruins, who jumped from fourth to second after a 6-0 opening weekend. Arizona, which beat No. 12 Tennessee in a 5-0 weekend at the Kajikawa Classic, moved up one spot to No. 4.
Oregon and Arizona State were once again back-to-back at No. 21 and No. 22, while Stanford and Oregon State both picked up votes, remaining outside the Top 25 nonetheless.
Players of the Week
The UCLA Bruins made a clean sweep of the weekly awards. Despite the loss of all-everything Rachel Garcia to the Olympics, the defending national champs didn’t skip a beat.
Bruin freshman Maya Brady stepped in ready to go. Her efforts earned her the nod for both Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors. That’s what happens when you record hits in all six games your team plays.
Over the weekend, Brady logged nine hits, including four home runs. Nine RBI came off her bat en route to a .550 on-base percentage.
The unanimous No. 1 Washington Huskies are jumping right in the middle of things. The Florida State Seminoles knocked off Alabama twice last week to allow the Huskies to take over the top ranking in the few polls they weren’t already leading. One of those wins was an 8-0 victory in five innings.
The Huskies should be up to the task, even in Florida. Four of their hitters batted over .400 in their opening weekend. As a team, they had 69 hits, including five home runs.
In the circle, there are a few more concerns. Junior Gabbie Plain was solid in the Huskies’ opening tournament with a WHIP of .99 over 21.2 innings. Plain started three games and appeared in relief in a fourth, giving up a total of 7 earned and 10 total runs.
Even if freshman pitcher Kelley Lynch hadn’t dealt with a few issues in her opening weekend, this would undoubtedly be Plain’s start. This is her season.
No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners at No. 4 Arizona Wildcats
When: Saturday, Feb. 15 at 3:30 p.m. PT/4:30 p.m. MT in Tucson, Ariz.
Stream: Arizona Live Stream
The biggest game, as far as storylines go, might be in Tucson where the Wildcats host the Hillenbrand Invitational. The tournament festivities kick off on Friday, but the main attraction comes Saturday, when Arizona hosts Oklahoma.
This would be a big game if it was just about the two programs on the field. Both have multiple national titles. Both were at last year’s Women’s College World Series. Both have players in NCAA record books. Both have great coaches.
There’s added intrigue, though.
After pitching for Oklahoma for three years, Arizona’s Mariah Lopez opted to transfer right after her team lost to UCLA in last year’s WCWS Championship Series. She is spending her senior season in cardinal and navy as the opening day starter of the Wildcats.
The Wildcats needed pitching after losing four-year starter Taylor McQuillin to graduation after last year. Lopez has stepped in to help fill that need.
Against their toughest opponent last week, Arizona head coach Mike Candrea opted to throw in fellow senior Alyssa Denham. Will he do so this week or will Lopez take the circle against her former teammates?
—Kim Doss Stories—
- Doss: Softball Olympians Return to the Pac-12
- Doss: Pac-12 WBB Past, Present, and Future
- Doss: Spring Softball, Women’s Basketball Wrap-Up & Repercussions
- Doss: WBB Fighting for Seeds and for History
- Doss: Stand Beside Her Tour has Pac-12 Flavor
- Doss: Pac-12, Coaches, Riled by OSU’s Rueck
- Doss: Top Half of Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Faces Off
- Doss: Tradition-Rich Softball Takes Mound
- Doss: Time to Break Some Streaks in Women’s Basketball
- Doss: Rivalry Week Heats Up Pac-12 WBB
- Doss: Upsets Transform Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Race
- Doss: Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Play Finally in Full Swing
- Doss: Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Race About to Get Real
- Doss: Pac-12 Women’s Basketball begins Conference Play
- Doss: Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Getting Ready for Grind
- Doss: It’s Steady as She Goes for Pac-12 Women’s Basketball
- Doss: Surprising Shakeup at Top of Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Standings
- Doss: Don’t Count the Unranked Teams Out
- Doss: The Push Never Stops for Pac-12 Women’s Basketball
- Doss: Could Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Still be Underrated?
- Doss: Pac-12 WBB Steps into National Spotlight
Doss: Softball Olympians Return to the Pac-12Already-strong UCLA and Arizona will benefit from the return of three Team USA players - May 8, 2020
Doss: Pac-12 WBB Past, Present, and FutureSigning Day; WNBA Draft; Off the Court and into Court - April 23, 2020
Doss: Spring Softball, Women’s Basketball Wrap-Up & RepercussionsSome pivotal decisions have been made, and more are coming - April 6, 2020