Oregon flies to No. 1 spot in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A series win against then-No. 1 UCLA helped launch the Oregon Ducks (34-4, 8-1 Pac-12) to the top spot in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 for the first time in program history the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced on Tuesday. The Ducks received 18 first-place votes, while Alabama (35-5, 14-1 SEC) and Florida State (38-4, 15-2 ACC) each received one vote.
Prior to taking on Pac-12 rival UCLA, Oregon hosted UC Santa Barbara for a double header with the Ducks collecting two wins against the Gauchos (2-1, eight inning and 10-4). Heading into the weekend series with an undefeated Pac-12 record, Oregon kept their conference record flawless as they took game one of the series 9-7. Oregon continued their offense streak in game two as Kailee Cuico hit a three-run home run and a grand slam to propel the Ducks to a 12-4 (five inning) win, clinching the series. UCLA bounced back in the series finale, besting the Ducks 6-1. Despite claiming the final matchup, UCLA (34-4, 9-3 Pac-12) fell two spots to No. 3 this week.
A 3-0 shutout over then-No. 11 South Alabama (30-6, 8-2 Sun Belt) and a sweep of Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas was enough to launch Alabama up two spots to a No. 2 ranking this week. The Crimson Tide shutout Arkansas 8-0 (six inning) in game one, allowed just one run in a 12-1 (five inning) run-rule in game two before narrowly edging the Razorbacks 4-3 in the final matchup of the series. This marks Alabama's fourth sweep in SEC play as the offense collected 24 RBI off 31 hits while the pitching staff allowed just four runs off 12 hits.
Michigan (39-6, 9-0 Big 10) climbed one spot to No. 4 this week after a dominant offensive performance at home in which they outscored opponents 30-1. Michigan started the week with a 10-0 (five inning) shutout against Detroit before their Big 10 matchup against rivals Ohio State. Michigan bested the Buckeyes in game one behind Haylie Wagner, who continued her dominant performance in the circle as she pitched a complete, 1-0 shutout. In Saturday's doubleheader, the pitching staff continued to stifle the Buckeyes, giving up just one run on five hits in a 10-0 (five inning) and 9-1 (six inning) sweep.
Falling three spots to No. 5 this week is Tennessee (32-5, 9-3 SEC), who went 1-2 against an unranked LSU squad. A three-run walk off home run by Bianka Bell handed the Lady Vols a 7-4 loss in game one while costly errors by Tennessee's defense resulted in an 8-4 Tigers victory in game two. Tennessee took the final matchup 9-0 (six inning) behind ace Ellen Renfroe, who shutout the Tiger offense and allowed just three hits. Tennessee's bats also came alive in the series finale as they scored nine runs off nine hits, including a two-run home run in the first inning by Madison Shipman and three-run shot in the sixth by Annie Aldrete.
Rounding out the top 10: Arizona State (35-6, 9-3 Pac-12) remained No. 6 this week following a sweep of California; Florida State moved one spot to No. 7 after a perfect 5-0 week, including a 3-2 (eight inning) win against then-No. 7 and in-state rival Florida; dropping one spot this week is No. 8 Florida (34-8, 8-7 SEC) who dropped their matchup against Florida State and swept then-No. 19 Auburn; up one spot is No. 9 Arizona (32-8, 7-5 Pac-12), who produced a 3-0 performance on the week against then-No. 24 Stanford; No. 10 Washington (22-10, 2-6 Pac-12) fell one spot despite picking up an 11-0 (five inning) run-rule in their sole matchup of the week against Seattle.
Falling out of the top 25 is last week's No. 24 Stanford (24-14, 1-8 Pac-12) and No. 25 South Florida (29-11, 3-3 AAC), who were both 0-3 in conference play last week. Joining the top 25 this week is No. 24 South Carolina-Upstate (36-4, 15-2 Atlantic Sun) and No. 25 Northwestern (22-9, 5-4 Big 10). USC Upstate rejoins the top 25 for the first time since Week 4 of this season while this marks the first appearance in the top 25 for Northwestern since the preseason poll in 2012.
Leading the top 10 this week is the Pac-12 Conference, which boasts five teams, while the SEC is represented by three teams and the Big 10 and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) are represented by one school apiece. In all, eight conferences are represented in the top 25 with the SEC leading with eight, the Pac-12 with five, the Big 10 with four, the ACC, Big 12 and Sun Belt with two each and one school from both Conference USA and the Atlantic Sun.
The ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate top 25 Poll is voted on by coaching representatives from 10 Division I Conferences in the 15 ASA/USA Softball Regions as well as members of national and local media who consistently cover Division I Softball across the country.