Pac-12 Softball: UCLA Continues to Dominate in Conference Play

UCLA SlamConference play began last weekend and No. 2 UCLA put on exclamation point on Sunday’s game against No. 7 Arizona with a walk-off grand slam by junior Gracie Goulder. The Bruins swept the Wildcats and took sole possession of first place in the Conference.

The latest USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll was released on Tuesday and here is how the teams fared over the week.

The Bruins (26-1, 3-0 Pac-12) jumped a spot to No. 2 and also collected nine first-place votes from the panel. UCLA swept then No. 6 Arizona, with two shutouts and outscoring the Wildcats 11-4. Junior pitcher Ally Carda (15-1) started on Saturday afternoon and came in for relief of Jessica Hall on Sunday afternoon and Monday night.

Carda walked away with two wins and a save in 12.2 innings, delivering 12 strikeouts and surrendering only six hits. Sophomore infielder Mysha Sataraka was voted Pac-12 Player of the Week after her 5-of-7 performance including her eighth home run.

Oregon (23-3) was the odd team out for opening conference play and their consolation prize was a trip to Hawaii to participate in the Rainbow Wahine Classic. The No. 3 Ducks won the first five games of the four-game tournament but dropped the championship game to James Madison, 3-0.

Alyssa Gillespie Photo: Geoff Thurmer

Alyssa Gillespie
Photo: Geoff Thurmer

The loss allowed the Bruins to leap-frog the Ducks and take over the No. 2 spot. Sophomore outfielder Alyssa Gillespie was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament while sophomore left-handed pitcher Cheridan Hawkins was name Co-Most Valuable Pitcher. The Ducks travel to Salt Lake City to begin conference play this weekend against the Utes.

Washington (20-4, 1-1 Pac-12) stayed put at No. 5 in the rankings after splitting a pair against Utah. Sunday’s matchup was rained out and no makeup game has yet to be scheduled. The Huskies’ star pitcher Bryana Walker (12-3) pitched six innings on Friday giving up two runs on four hits.

Junior third baseman Kylee Lahners went 2-for-3 with her 10th home run of the season. Walker would take the loss on Saturday after relieving Kaitlin Inglesby in an extra-inning matchup.

Arizona (23-6, 0-3 Pac-12) lost three games over the weekend but only fell one spot to No. 7 as they were swept by a tough UCLA team. The ‘Cats played the Bruins close losing a pair of pitchers’ duels, 1-0 and 2-0 on Saturday and Monday.

Arizona led on Sunday 4-3 going into the final three outs of the game before giving up five runs. Estela Pinon (6-3) gave up only five hits and one run on Saturday and Kenzie Fowler (3-2) surrendered two hits and two runs in her complete game on Monday.

The Arizona State Sun Devils (27-5, 1-2 Pac-12) tumbled four spots to No. 11 after losing two of three to Oregon State in Corvallis over the weekend. Beavers’ senior pitcher Amanda Najdek (7-8) dominated the Sun Devils in two complete games on Friday and Sunday. Sun Devil pitcher Dallas Escobedo (11-4) took both losses.

Mackenzie Popescue Photo: ASU Athletics

Mackenzie Popescue
Photo: ASU Athletics

Mackenzie Popescue (14-1) was once again unstoppable in the circle pitching five runs of shutout baseball allowing only two hits in the run-rule, 11-0 victory. Alix Johnson and Bethany Kemp both homered in the fifth inning to end the game.

Stanford (23-8, 1-2 Pac-12) also had a tough weekend dropping two of three to California at home. The Cardinal fell three spots to No. 24 and will face Arizona State this weekend in Tempe, hoping to climb back up the polls.

The Bears and Cardinal put on a hitting clinic in the opener with Stanford winning 14-13. The Bears led 9-8 heading in to the final inning and scored four more before Stanford scored six to end the game. The Cardinal were outscored 13-6 in the next two games suffering two straight losses.

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