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Jordan Guskey | | March 11, 2019

How staying undefeated in softball the longest can, but doesn’t always, lead to a NCAA title

Danielle Gibson's historic home run cycle headlines softball's top plays

Alabama is the lone remaining undefeated team in Division I softball.

The No. 5 Crimson Tide (25-0) made it through non-conference competition sometimes by hitting their way to wins, other times pitching their way past opponents and more than a few times doing both at the same time. They then swept Missouri this past weekend to open SEC play. So what’s next?

No team has ever finished a season undefeated, and it’s tough to look at Alabama’s schedule and say it’ll be the first. But recent history shows teams like the Crimson Tide who are the last remaining unbeaten team during a season don’t fall out of the championship picture. They make deep postseason runs.

RELATED: Florida State is No. 1 in the latest rankings

Washington Huskies, 2018

Washington started 28-0 last year before it suffered its first loss March 17 against Arizona State. It was an impressive run full of shutouts, run-rule wins and victories against ranked opponents. And even though the Huskies would experience a six-game losing streak later that season, they would go on to sweep their NCAA Regional, Super Regional and first three games of the 2018 Women’s College World Series to advance to the championship series against Florida State.

Washington would lose back-to-back games and finish as the runner-up, but it showed that nearly 30-game winning streak to open the year was not a fluke.

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UCLA Bruins, 2018

UCLA shadowed Washington’s run last year and also lasted until March 17, when a loss against Oregon ended the Bruins’ 25-game, season-opening winning streak. Unlike Washington, though, UCLA only lost three more games the rest of the regular season. The Bruins entered postseason play as one of the hottest teams in softball and, although they lost a game during NCAA Regional competition, still won it and swept their Super Regional opponent on their way to the College World Series, too. UCLA even won its first two games there, against Florida State and Florida, but lost its next two games against the Seminoles and found itself out of the tournament. 

It was the first time the Bruins lost back-to-back games that season since their first two losses of the year against the Ducks.

Oregon Ducks, 2017

Oregon lasted until April and won 35 games before it lost back-to-back games against UCLA. The Ducks showcased an ability to blow out opponents and, when necessary, win pitching duels against ranked and unranked opponents alike. So it’s no surprise they went on to host and sweep not just their NCAA Regional but also their Super Regional on the way to the 2017 Women’s College World Series.

Oregon rebounded from an opening-game loss to Washington to beat Baylor and then LSU, but lost against eventual national champion Oklahoma and saw its impressive run end short of a national title.

UPSET: How Florida State's unbeaten run in 2019 ended

Florida Gators, 2016

Florida won its first 26 games before it suffered its first loss March 14 against Auburn, the eventual national runner-up. Opponents appeared unable to figure out how to hit consistently against the Gators’ pitching staff, one of the best in the nation that season from start to finish. And it’s because of that staff Florida finished play before the NCAA tournament with just five losses. 

But after a NCAA Regional in Gainesville that saw the Gators sweep three games by a combined score of 24-0, their offense sputtered in the NCAA Super Regional. Florida lost twice against Georgia and finished its season far earlier than anyone expected. 

Florida Gators, 2015

This Florida team won 28 games before back-to-back losses March 14 and 15 against LSU ended its winning streak. Never again would it lose two games in a row. Not the rest of the regular season, and certainly not in the NCAA tournament. The Gators hosted and swept their NCAA Regional without allowing a run. They hosted and swept their Super Regional by doing the same thing. And they won their first three games in the 2015 Women’s College World Series to set up a championship series against the Michigan Wolverines. 

Florida won its first game, 3-2. It lost its second, 1-0. And it won the national championship with a 4-1 victory to end the year as the nation’s top program. 

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