Since taking over the DI NFCA rankings last week, Oklahoma has only further solidified its place as the No. 1 team in the country by continuing to take down ranked opponents. UCLA remained in the No. 2 spot in this week's poll, despite sweeping its series with Oregon State, while previously-No. 3 Washington dropped just one spot following a loss to unranked Utah. Alabama moved into the No. 3 spot after sweeping then-No. 6 Florida as the Gators dropped down to No. 7. Arizona also moved from No. 7 to No. 5. Other than a little movement within the middle 10 teams, little changed from last week's rankings. Here's everything you need to know about the latest rankings and what they could mean for the reminder of the softball season:
FULL RANKINGS: Top 25 softball teams
Oklahoma stays on top in a competitive Big 12 conference
The Sooners continued their dominance this week, sweeping No. 11 Texas with a combined 16-6 score. The Longhorns battled with Oklahoma in the second game and pushed the Sooners to eight innings but couldn't finish. The losses move Texas to 36-12, but the non-stop Longhorn schedule continues into this week, giving the team a chance to prove themselves.
Oklahoma's remaining schedule includes Wichita State, Iowa State and No. 13 Oklahoma State, but if the Sooners have shown anything this season it's that they are ready to compete with the best. The remaining spring schedule will just be another chance for them to shine. Oklahoma State could pose a challenge to the Sooners, but Oklahoma has proven that highly-ranked opponents don't faze the No. 1 ranked team. The Cowboys, however, do have a 33-11 record with ranked wins over Kentucky, Arizona State, Ole Miss and Texas.
Texas Tech rounds out the Big 12 representation in the Top 15, coming in at No. 12 despite losing to Kansas 4-6 on Thursday. The Red Raiders hold a 35-9 record but edged out Texas on April 5 2-0, showing that they are ready to compete with the Longhorns. The two Texas teams will likely have a chance to battle again in the Big 12 championship, but for now, they'll both aim to finish out the regular season strong with as many wins as possible. Texas Tech will face Oklahoma State, New Mexico State and a fiery Kentucky team that just swept Auburn. The Red Raiders regular season road has some big speed bumps, but if they can take down Kentucky, they might have the momentum they need to surprise some softball fans in May.
Will UCLA ever get that top spot?
UCLA followed last week’s loss to Oregon with five consecutive wins, two of those wins coming against the Ducks and three coming from a series sweep against Oregon State. The Bruins will play Utah next in a three-game series before traveling north to take on Stanford on May 3. UCLA continues to sit just behind Oklahoma in team statistics including battling average, earned run average, scoring, and win-loss percentage.
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The Bruins do top the Sooners in strikeout-to-walk ratio, a statistic that highlights the excellence of UCLA star pitcher Rachel Garcia. The junior has not recorded a single loss in any game she's pitched this season, and she's currently fourth nationally for strikeouts per seven innings. UCLA is going to need Garcia to stay consistent through the remainder of the season before NCAA regionals later in May. The No. 1 ranking may be tough to reclaim if Oklahoma continues to shutout opponents, but don't count the Bruins out.
Auburn suffers the largest drop but stays within the Top 20
The Tigers moved from 14 to 19 after the sweep, barely holding on to their Top 20 spot. Kentucky's sweep against Auburn, the first time the Wildcats accomplished such a feat since 2009, lifted the team just one spot in the latest rankings, but had a much bigger consequence on its opponent.
Kentucky moves up one spot in this week's NFCA/USA Today top-25 coaches' poll to No. 23.— Kentucky Softball (@UKsoftball) April 23, 2019
Full rankings: https://t.co/KKoIqSSf8V
Kentucky faces Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday before entering a difficult series with now-No. 3 Alabama. The two teams will meet after each sweeping their respective ranked opponents, Kentucky with its wins over Auburn and Alabama with the 3-0 result over Florida. Holding a 45-4 record, Alabama has more wins than any team in the Top 25 at the moment, and the Crimson Tide will aim to grow their wins in this next ranked series.
Auburn, on the other hand, will take on the team Alabama just beat, as the Tigers welcome Florida for a three-game series. A win against the Gators could lift Auburn back to where it started last week, and while a loss won't hurt the Tigers as much as the losses against Kentucky did, wins are more important now than ever for Auburn. The team is the fifth-ranked SEC school in the latest Top 25 with Kentucky still behind it. The SEC tournament will be wild, but there is still a lot of softball left to play before the seeds are released for that championship.