The 2019 softball season isn’t even a month old and yet the number of undefeated programs in Division I has been whittled to 10.
Some of those survivors have started on a tear thanks to explosive offensive play. Others are still unbeaten because of lights-out pitching. A handful have shown a knack for both. But no team since the first championship season in 1982 has ever won each and every game they’ve played.
RANKINGS: Florida State leads polls at No. 1
UCLA came close in 1992 when it went 54-2, set an NCAA record for winning percentage that still stands and won the national title. Arizona has, too. The Wildcats got close to the Bruins’ mark and hold the second, third and fourth-place spots in the NCAA record books thanks to a 1994 season when they went 64-3, 1998 season they went 67-4 and 2001 season they went 65-4.
It’s with these historical precedents in mind that we’re not going to try to predict who will be the first team ever to never lose. Instead, we’ll look at which five have a shot at extending their winning streaks the longest. Some are renowned powers in the sport. Others have never won a national title.
No. 1 Florida State (12-0)
This is as obvious a pick as there’ll be. The Seminoles won the 2018 national championship, finishing the season with a 58-12 record, and are off to a 12-0 start. The 2019 run began with a five-game sweep at the Joanne Graf Classic in Tallahassee, Florida. It continued with a six-game sweep at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational. And Wednesday the Seminoles picked up that 12th win at home against South Alabama.
Dating back to last season, Florida State hasn’t lost in 18 games.
The Seminoles don’t play a ranked opponent till March 8 when they travel to play a three-game series against No. 14 Arizona. Florida State has 12 games against unranked foes before then and already in its belt wins against No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 7 Tennessee, No. 9 LSU and No. 24 Minnesota. Even when FSU gets to Arizona and later conference play, no team will likely be better than any team it has beaten. It also helps to have eight batters with at least two home runs, four with batting averages of .417 or better and a pitching staff — led by redshirt senior Meghan King — that has a combined ERA of 1.59. Try scoring against that and outpacing a team that averages more than seven runs each game.
No. 3 Florida (12-0)
The Gators aren’t far off the Seminoles and are chasing their first title since winning back-to-back crowns in 2014 and 2015. Florida started the season with five wins at the USF Opening Weekend Invitational and sandwiched a win against North Florida with five more wins at the Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Arizona, and a win at Jacksonville.
Florida is just a week away from the start of the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, California, where among others it’ll play No. 2 UCLA, No. 5 Washington and No. 17 Oregon. But the Gators do own wins against Arizona, Michigan and No. 13 Arizona State. Senior outfielder Amanda Lorenz, who’s hitting .459 with 10 RBIs and three home runs, leads a potent offense that averages nearly seven runs each game and is hitting .344 overall. Sophomore Natalie Lugo and senior Kelly Barnhill each have ERAs under 1.00 and as a staff the Gators have a 1.11 ERA.
Only once has an opponent managed more than two runs.
No. 6 Alabama (10-0)
The Crimson Tide are off to a 10-0 start in games away from home and now get to play 15 of their next 16 in Tuscaloosa, where last season they went 17-6. The best opponent they’ll face in that stretch is No. 24 Minnesota, twice, but during competition at the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson, Arizona, the Crimson Tide did beat a higher-ranked Arizona team. And apart from a 16-10 scoring frenzy of a win against Murray State the Crimson Tide have shut out opponents five times and run-ruled them four times.
Sophomore outfielder Kaylee Tow is hitting .480 with five doubles and 10 RBIs for an offense that’s hitting .335 and has three different batters with RBI totals of at least 10. Freshman pitcher Montana Fouts has only one earned run in 27 innings and leads a pitching staff that as a whole owns a 1.89 ERA — individually three have sub-1.00 ERAs.
Think the Crimson Tide aren’t going to threaten the win total of the program’s 2012 championship team that went 60-8? Think again.
No. 10 Louisiana (11-0)
The Ragin’ Cajuns put up the NCAA’s 14th best winning percentage ever in 1994 when they won 57 and lost just five, and since they’ve won at least 50 games four times with the 2004 squad going 60-8. The 1994 team went 12-0 before its first loss, and this Louisiana team has the potential to surpass that with ease. The Baylor Invitational that starts Friday may look daunting because it includes a game against No. 21 Baylor, but the Bears have already lost four times this season and twice at home against UT Arlington.
Louisiana has only had to play a full game five times this season. Six times it has shut out opponents.
The real challenge for Louisiana will come in March when it faces No. 4 Oklahoma twice at Oklahoma, and Oregon State twice as well. But when the Ragin’ Cajuns travel to Norman they’ll have four batters starting right now hitting at least .429 with 10 RBIs. Not to mention an ace in junior Summer Ellyson, whose ERA of 0.67 and 7-0 record lead the team, and freshman star in Kandra Lamb. Lamb has two no-hitters so far this season.
No. 19 Indiana (9-0)
Sliding into another weekend full of games like... pic.twitter.com/4HV2PYH33K— Indiana Softball (@IndianaSB) February 21, 2019
Two years ago the Hoosiers went 23-31 with a 9-14 record in the Big Ten. Last season IU went 26-30 but 17-6 in conference play. This year Indiana is off to a 9-0 start that includes an upset of a top-10 Georgia team and 5-0 mark against teams in the ACC.
The Hoosiers are back on track under coach Shonda Stanton and, although they face another undefeated team in 9-0 Loyola-Chicago twice this weekend, have a chance to enter conference play without any blemishes on its record as long as it can turn out another upset March 1 when it faces No. 9 LSU in Baton Rouge.
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Ace senior Tara Trainer is 5-0 with three complete games and a 1.27 ERA for a team that has a team ERA of 1.31. Offensively the Hoosiers don’t blow anyone away, except for their run-rule victories against Virginia and St. John’s, but any time IU has gone down in a game the next inning it’s tied the score back up or taken the lead again.