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1. Oregon Finally Loses (Twice)
Oregon fell one game short of history on Friday. The Ducks were looking to set the all-time NCAA softball record for an undefeated streak to start the regular season, but instead they suffered their first loss of the season at UCLA.
And then Oregon lost again on Saturday, scoring a grand total of zero runs in both games. Suddenly, 35-0 turned into 35-2 in the blink of an eye. However, the Ducks rebounded on Sunday to beat the Bruins and avoid a shocking sweep.
So, what happened to Oregon in the first two games?
The Ducks ran into UCLA freshman pitcher Rachel Garcia, who shut down their bats on Friday and Saturday. In those games, UCLA won 2-0 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday in nine innings.
Saturday's game was bizarre, with Oregon losing in the ninth on a passed ball. UCLA's linescore was one run scored on the passed ball, only two hits in the game, and three errors committed. Oregon simply could not capitalize on UCLA's three errors to push across a run.
But then the Ducks came alive on Sunday in an 11-4 win. Looking to complete the sweep, the Bruins sent Garcia back to the circle, but OU finally got to her in the third inning.
Nikki Udria had a monster game going 3 for 5 with four RBIs and two runs scored. She got the scoring started in the third; then Madi Bishop hit a three-run home run in the same inning. Suddenly, Oregon looked like Oregon again.
Oregon will likely fall out of the No. 1 ranking this week. And the Ducks are no longer the best team in their conference.
2. Is Arizona Now The Best Team In The Country?
The Arizona Wildcats have been in Oregon's undefeated shadow for most of the season. Now, Arizona can take center stage in the Pac-12 Conference after improving to 40-1 overall and 12-0 in the conference over the weekend.
There will be some argument from teams in Florida and the SEC about this, but Arizona may be the best team in the country right now.
Just look at what the Wildcats did to Stanford at home over the weekend:
Arizona won 20-1 on Friday, 12-0 on Saturday, and 9-1 on Sunday. Let's add it up: 41 runs scored to two runs allowed. That's astounding. And it almost matches the Wildcats' overall record!
Arizona's hitting and pitching is absolutely dominant right now.
In their past three Pac-12 series, the Wildcats allowed two total runs against Washington, one run against California, and two runs against Stanford. That's five total runs allowed in nine conference games.
Up next, Arizona travels to Utah to play the Utes before facing Oregon at home the weekend of April 21. That will be the Pac-12 showdown of the season.
3. Florida vs. Florida State: Battle For No. 1?
With Oregon losing twice over the weekend, Florida and Florida State will be in contention for the top spot in the latest rankings. (But Arizona might have something to say about that.)
The likely battle for No. 1 will add even more juice to a highly anticipated mid-week matchup between the Gators and Seminoles. The game on Wednesday night will be in Gainesville and air on SEC Network.
Florida has rebounded from its lone conference loss against Auburn and returned to its dominant style of pitching and defense.
Meanwhile, Florida State is hammering Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. The Seminoles traveled to New York over the weekend to beat Syracuse 18-9, 13-4, and 6-5. The one-run game on Sunday was a little too close for comfort, as FSU needed a two-run home run from Cali Harrod in the sixth inning to take the lead for good.
Over the weekend, FSU hit 11 home runs, racked up 16 extra base hits, and scored 37 runs. Can the Seminoles bring that kind of offense to Gainesville against the Gators on Wednesday night? We can't wait to find out.
4. Watch Out For Tennessee Softball
Which team is the hottest in the country right now? After Arizona, it has to be the Tennessee Volunteers.
The Vols are currently running through SEC opponents and have won 15 games in a row overall.
Tennessee traveled to Kentucky over the weekend to sweep the Wildcats 9-0, 5-2, and 9-4.
But most impressive was what happened in the third inning of Saturday's game in Lexington, KY. You will not see three more impressive outfield plays in the same inning this season.
Vols center fielder C.J. McClain made two straight amazing diving catches to record the first two outs of the inning. Then, left fielder Scarlet McSwain made an amazing diving catch of her own to end the inning and keep UK off the board.
Tennessee is rolling right now, but check its upcoming schedule. The Vols finish the SEC schedule with a home series against Alabama, road series at LSU, home series against Florida, and road series at Texas A&M. Those 12 games will really test to see how good this Tennessee team is this season.
5. Alabama vs. LSU: A Good Old-Fashioned SEC Battle
LSU traveled to Alabama in an important SEC series over the weekend. The host Crimson Tide came out of the battle with a 2-1 series win.
Alabama shut out LSU 3-0 on Friday. LSU returned the favor with a 1-0 shutout on Saturday, and Bama won 4-2 on Sunday.
The Crimson Tide had to come from behind on Sunday to defend home field and take the series. The Tigers jumped out to a 2-1 lead, but Alabama tied the game in the bottom of the fourth.
Senior infielder Marisa Runyon then delivered a clutch double in the bottom of the fifth to give the Tide the decisive 4-2 lead.
Both teams are jockeying for position in the top half of the SEC standings. Florida, Texas A&M, and Tennessee currently hold the top three spots. Alabama is fourth, followed by Auburn and LSU.
With four more big weekends to go, it will be interesting to see how the SEC race shakes out.
6. Big Ten Update: Minnesota Returns Home, Dominates
There's no place like home. After playing their first 33 games on the road this season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers returned home to dominate two opponents.
First, the Gophers took care of South Dakota in a mid-week non-conference set of games. Then, Minnesota wiped out Indiana over the weekend.
The Gophers are leading the Big Ten Conference with a combination of power hitting and pitching. They have a 35-3 overall record and are 8-1 in the conference, tied with Michigan for first place.
Unfortunately, Minnesota and Michigan do not play each other during the regular season. Will they met in the Big Ten tournament taking place in Ann Arbor, MI this year? We want to see that matchup in May.
7. Big 12 Update: Is Oklahoma Ready For A Comeback?
Oklahoma appears to be back to its preseason No. 1 form. The Sooners have won 12 in a row and are 6-0 in the Big 12 conference.
That streak includes Oklahoma's three-game road sweep over Texas this past weekend. The Sooners won two nail-biters on Friday and Saturday and then won handily on Sunday.
Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said Sunday that her team found itself during the Texas series and finally executed with consistency. That could be dangerous for the rest of the Big 12 Conference and the country in postseason play.
The Sooners still have to battle Oklahoma State and Baylor during conference play, though. OSU had a rough weekend after traveling out of conference to College Station, Texas, where the Cowboys were swept by Texas A&M.
However, Baylor is on an eight-game winning streak and is 8-1 in the conference. The Sooners and Bears have a big showdown in Oklahoma the weekend of April 21. That will go a long way toward determining the eventual Big 12 champion.
***Correction Utah is No. 18 in RPI***
Chez's Picks for 2017 WCWS
- Florida State
- Texas A&M
- Florida State
- Texas A&M