The Pac-12 has dominated college softball as 23 of a possible 33 national titles have been claimed by Pac-12 teams. However No Pac 12 team has won a National title since 2011 when Arizona State led by Dallas Escobedo defeated Florida in Oklahoma City. No Pac 12 team has even played in the championship series since then. The Conference that once ran the sport of Softball now finds themselves chasing the SEC power teams like Florida, Alabama, LSU and others. The Team thats been the closest to the National title has been Oregon who is the favorites once again this season to win the Pac 12 title which the Ducks have done 3 straight years.
Pac-12 Preseason Coaches Poll. #Bold is from NFCA National Rankings Except for Utah which is from ESPN/USA Softball Poll.
|1. # 4||Oregon (8)||64|
|2. #7||UCLA (1)||51|
|7. #22||Arizona State||27|
On the In The Circle Podcast, Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson talked to Justin McLeod of Justin’s World about the outlook of the Pac 12.
Among the Pac 12 topics discussed include :
- Who are the biggest threats to Oregon in the Pac 12?
- Can a young Arizona team be a legit Pac 12 title contender?
- How many teams will Pac 12 get to NCAA Tournament
- How will Arizona State do with the sudden unexpected departure of Head Coach Craig Nicholson?
Some Key players to watch in the Pac 12 :
- Cheridan Hawkins, Oregon – Hawkins is the Ducks pitching ace who was a College Softball player of the Year top 3 finalist last year after winning Pac 12 pitcher of the year. Hawkins was a College Softball Player of the Year Top 10 finalist in her sophomore season of 2014 and looks to lead Oregon back to Oklahoma City to chase the elusive National Championship. Hawkins figures to be among favorites for Player of the Year.
- Allexis Bennett, UCLA – With a near-.500 batting average; first-team all-American Bennett looks to be a Player of the Year contender not only in the Pac 12 but National player of the Year award. Bennett will look to carry a Bruins team that will look to get back to the Women College World Series despite losing last year’s Pac 12 player of the Year Ally Carda.
- Danielle O’Toole, Arizona – O’Toole could be the difference maker for the Wildcats this season who were in need of some pitching especially with the surprising departure of Parks. Following a redshirt season after a transfer from San Diego State, O’Toole was the Mountain West’s top hurler before she ended as the newest member of Mike Candrea’s historically-great stable of hurlers. O’Toole makes up for, and then some, the absence of Parks and I expect great numbers from her this year – along the lines of a sub-2.00 ERA and a strikeout/walk ratio similar to her 2014 mark of 4/1.
- Annie Aldrete, Cal – The Tennessee transfer will be eligible to suit up immediately for Cal and should be not only a valuable bat in the lineup, but her veteran experience and skill behind the plate will be an important piece of Cal’s 2016 game plan, as well. Together with Taylor Koenig, who came to Berkley from Knoxville with her this offseason, the duo combined for producing 173 runs in Lady Vol orange last year. The Bears hope she can replicate that production against PAC-12 pitching, and I think she can do not only that, but more.
- Kayla Bonstrom, Stanford – McCleod ranks Bonstrom as the top first baseman in this year’s senior class. A first-team all-American selection a year ago after a stellar campaign as the Cardinal first baseman, I expect another stellar season, albeit not completely to those heights. She recorded a .439/13/54 slash line in 2015, and I expect another .400+ campaign with similar power numbers in ’16. The Cardinal can flounder, but Bonstrom is the undoubted bright spot in Rachel Hanson’s lineup. She is excellent defensively and I predict a mid-round selection when NPF Draft time comes around.
Eric Lopez Pac 12 Projections for NCAA Tournament ( 6 Teams)
You can check out the SEC Preview right here.