The Oklahoma Sooners are the new No. 1 in Division I college softball.
After UCLA lost to Oregon this past weekend, the Bruins were kicked off the throne and the Sooners were promoted. The Sooners haven’t lost since Feb. 22 — just one of two losses they’ve suffered this season — and could enter the post-season with the No. 1 ranking in hand.
Oklahoma has one of the 10 best batters in the country and two of the top 10 pitchers in the country. Sydney Romero is hitting for a .462 average this season, good enough for eighth in the nation. In earned-run average, Sooner pitchers Mariah Lopez and Shannon Saile are tied for fifth in the nation, each with 1.03 ERA’s.
Oklahoma has the best team batting average in the nation with a .374 mark and the best team ERA at 1.20. In short, the Sooners have been dominant on the softball diamond this season.
Still, should Oklahoma slip, there are a handful of other teams that could grab that top spot too. The top five this week was rounded out by UCLA, Washington, Florida State and Alabama. And like Oklahoma, each of those teams has aspirations of winning a College World Series in Oklahoma City this year.
With the regular season winding down, here’s a quick look at where each team stands and the toughest games left for each one.
No. 1 Oklahoma
Toughest game left: April 20 at No. 11 Texas
Outlook: The Sooners have just one series remaining against a ranked opponent, and that comes this weekend. They’ll travel to Austin, Texas for a three-game bout with the 11th ranked Longhorns. Sweeping a series against Texas could go a long way for the Sooners’ confidence, but the Longhorns shouldn’t be overlooked. Getting quality hits against the pitching staff of Texas could be difficult, as the Longhorns are third in the country in ERA, with a 1.44 mark.
No. 2 UCLA
Toughest game left: May 11 vs. No. 7 Arizona
Outlook: After going unbeaten for more than a month, the Bruins fell at home to Oregon on April 12, losing by a score of 4-3. The tough games in the Pac-12 don’t end for the Bruins, as they’ll close the season against Arizona, ranked seventh in the latest NFCA poll. The Wildcats have a well-rounded team, ranked seventh in batting average and fifth in ERA among all Division I teams. Arizona also has a knack for hitting the long ball, knocking 81 balls out of the park for a home runs per-game mark of 1.93, which leads the nation.
No. 3 Washington
Toughest game left: May 5 at No. 7 Arizona
Outlook: The Pac-12 seems to be a three-team race between UCLA, Washington and Arizona. The Wildcats could move up in the rankings with strong showings against UCLA and Washington, who will be doing their best to hold Arizona off. The Huskies have been led this season by their defense. They have the ninth best ERA in the country with a 1.58 mark, and their pitching staff is led by Gabbie Plain, who has a 1.10 ERA, which is 10th best in the country. Washington also has the nation’s seventh best fielding percentage with a 97.8 mark.
No. 4 Florida State
Toughest game left: May 5 at Syracuse
Outlook: Syracuse isn’t particularly strong in softball this year, but the Seminoles end their regular season with a three-game series in upstate New York, and they’ll want to build some good momentum heading into the ACC tournament. Florida State has shown it can beat the powerful teams this season, notching wins over Oklahoma and Arizona. Florida State has been powered by its offense this season, posting a team batting average of .343, which is sixth best in the nation.
No. 5 Alabama
Toughest game left: April 20 at No. 6 Florida
Outlook: This three game series in Gainesville, Florida could have some impact on the SEC tournament picture. Alabama has had a strong season so far, but beating Florida will be no easy task. The Crimson Tide have a well-rounded team this season, with the 22nd best ERA in the country and the 39th best batting average. Junior catcher Bailey Hemphill is second in the nation in RBIs, driving in 61 runs this season, and Montana Fouts has led the pitching staff with a an ERA of 1.00.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.