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Softball Roundup 4/7/17: Undefeated Ducks put 35-0 record on the line at #9 UCLA

Oregon’s 35-0 record is tied for the longest streak to start a season in NCAA history, yet they might not even be the best team in the conference this year.

Washington Softball’s Kirstyn Thomas (25 in purple) stands at first base after recording an RBI single, while Arizona State 1B Margaret Stahm (27 in white) gets into position for the next hitter.
Ed Strong

Pac-12 softball has been really good this year, but particularly for the teams located in Eugene, Oregon and Tucson, Arizona. The Ducks, ranked 2nd in the country, have matched the NCAA record for consecutive wins to open the season with a record of 35-0 (tying - surprise! - a different Pac-12 team, the 1999 UCLA Bruins). Oregon has a chance to break out of a tie with 1999 UCLA on Friday, but to do so, they’ll have to win on the road against...2017 UCLA, who, although not 35-0, is still ranked 9th in the country and just took 2 out of 3 at 8th-ranked Washington. The Ducks-Bruins series has drawn national interest, including an ESPN2 broadcast on Sunday (TV/streaming info for all #Pac12SB games this weekend is listed at the bottom of this post).

Meanwhile, the Wildcats are #4 in the country with a record of 37-1. The only loss for Arizona came against the current #1, Florida State. Although the Cats have lost once, they’ve arguably been more dominant in most of their wins than the Ducks have, putting up well over 7 runs per game against one of the tougher schedules in the country.

As far as projecting towards the NCAA tournament, the Pac-12 should get at least 7 of the 9 member teams in: Oregon, Arizona, UCLA, and Washington will all be hosting regionals (barring something catastrophic), and Utah has a good shot at hosting as well. Arizona State and California are unlikely to make it into the top 16, but should easily cruise into the 64-team field. Stanford is most likely out, which leaves the Beavers as the only team anywhere near the bubble. At this point, I believe they’re out, but there are so many opportunities for big wins in this conference that a hot week or two can really boost your resume.

Star Power

Oregon Fr. RHP Maggie Balint:
I mean, Oregon’s pitching as a team is just ridiculous: 1.04 Team ERA, opponents with a meager slash line of .189/.249/.245, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of over 5. But Balint, a freshman from non-traditional Pac-12 recruiting territory (West Grove, PA), takes it to another level: 16-0, 0.86 ERA, .169 BAA, for starters. She has recorded 112 strikeouts while issuing just 51 hits. That’s silly.

Oregon Sr. IF Nikki Udria:
Oregon’s offense isn’t quite as unfair as their pitching staff, but that’s not saying much. Multiple stars here, but Udria’s power stands out on a team that primarily relies on contact and speed. Team highs in HR (7), RBI (34), and SLG (.689), and like many Ducks players, she gets on base a ton - twice as many walks (16) as strikeouts (8)

Arizona R-Sr. RHP Danielle O’Toole:
O’Toole has been one of the best pitchers in the Pac-12 for the last few years. The then 6th-ranked Huskies got a look at O’Toole a couple of weeks ago in Tucson, and the Arizona ace dominated. No-hitters are more common in softball than in baseball because of two things, primarily: shorter games (7 innings, not 9), as well as the fact that the underhand motion of throwing a softball is much less taxing on your arm, so complete games are very frequent. But no-hitting an elite offense such as UW is remarkable. On the season for O’Toole: 19-1, 0.74 ERA, .160 BAA, and only 4 HR given up in over 130 innings.

Arizona freshman mashers (R-Fr. OF Alyssa Palomino & Fr. IF Jessie Harper):
Unlike the Ducks dominance, driven by pitching, OBP, and speed, the Wildcats prefer to just jog around the bases. The batting averages are good, but not ridiculous (Palomino .333, Harper .359). But the slugging is off the charts. Each of them has over half of their hits going for extra bases, with double digit long balls. Harper holds the edge, slightly, in SLG (.761 to .739), but Palomino adds to her power threat with a great eye at the plate as well (21 walks).

Utah 2B Hannah Flippen:
All-around star. You want contact? Flippen hits .427 and has a .505 OBP. Need pop? Her .750 SLG is tops on the team - by a lot. She’s also 7 for 8 in steal attempts, tied for the team-high with 33 RBI, and walks more than she strikes out (13 to 11). Oh, did I mention she’s one of the best defensive infielders in the conference, too?

Current Standings (Rankings and Records current as of Thursday, April 6th):

  1. #4 Arizona (37-1, 9-0 Pac-12)
  2. #2 Oregon (35-0, 8-0)
  3. #15 Utah (24-7, 6-2)
  4. #10 Washington (27-8, 4-5)
  5. #9 UCLA (26-9, 2-4)
  6. (RV) California (22-11, 3-6)
  7. #23 Arizona State (23-12, 2-7)
  8. Oregon State (18-15, 1-5)
  9. Stanford (16-16, 0-6)

This weekend’s series; times are PDT:

Friday:
11 AM: California at Utah (FREE at pac-12.com/live/university-utah)
5 PM: Oregon State at Washington (P12 Net/WA/OR)
6 PM: Stanford at Arizona (FREE at pac-12.com/live/university-arizona-2)
7 PM: Oregon at UCLA (P12 Net/OR)

Saturday:
11 AM: California at Utah (FREE at pac-12.com/live/university-utah)
3 PM: Oregon State at Washington (P12 WA/OR)
3 PM: Stanford at Arizona (P12 Net/AZ/Bay)
7 PM: Oregon at UCLA (P12 Net/LA/OR)

Sunday:
11 AM: California at Utah (FREE at pac-12.com/live/university-utah)
Noon: Stanford at Arizona (P12 Net/AZ/Bay)
2 PM: Oregon at UCLA (ESPN2)
5 PM: Oregon State at Washington (P12 Net/WA/OR)