Softball power rankings

Josh Worden Senior Beat Reporter

No. 7 Oregon (29-6, 7-2 Pac-12). Last series: 1-2 vs UCLA. Next: at OSU.

Oregon looked nearly impenetrable in nonconference play and opened Pac-12 play by sweeping then-No. 8 Washington in Seattle as well as Stanford in Eugene. Then, the Ducks faltered at home to UCLA, dropping two of three games. Still, Oregon leads the nation with a .373 batting average and has a talent-laden pitching staff to boot. Oregon remains the team to beat in the Pac-12, while the Civil War series this weekend could strengthen that reputation or cripple it.

No. 12 Washington (23-8, 4-5). Last series: 2-1 vs Arizona. Next: at Arizona State.

Washington has done a respectable job of bouncing back from a conference-opening sweep at the hands of Oregon. Since then, the Huskies won the series at UCLA and then versus Arizona. Luckily for Washington, some of the best Pac-12 teams are already behind them, not that the schedule gets too easy down the road. In the Huskies’ favor at the moment is some consistent hitting; Washington has totaled 60 runs in its last 10 games.

No. 15 UCLA (22-11-1, 4-3-1). Last series: 2-1 at Oregon. Next: vs Stanford.

There’s a lot of parity in the Pac-12 this year, and UCLA is maybe the prime instance of this. The Bruins won the series against conference-leading Oregon this weekend, just a week after losing two of three games to Washington. The winless Stanford Cardinal come into town this weekend, meaning UCLA should pick up three easy wins — or, as the Pac-12 seems to go sometimes, Stanford will pull out the series win against all rational expectations.

No. 17 Arizona (25-12, 5-4). Last series: 1-2 at Washington. Next: vs Houston.

Arizona has been hovering around the No. 17 ranking for an entire month, now, and its time for the Wildcats to make a move. After losing the series to Washington in Seattle this weekend, Arizona could use a nice boost by beating the 18-18 Huston Cougars at home this weekend. If not, no worries — conference cellar dweller Stanford is next up.

No. 21 Arizona State (27-10, 3-3). Last series: 2-1 at Cal. Next: vs Washington.

For a perennial conference power, ASU has been remarkably mediocre in Pac-12 games so far. The Sun Devils only win in three games versus Arizona was by a 3-2 score, and the two wins against Cal were helpful but not as much as a sweep would have been. To be fair, six games is a small sample size, so the upcoming trio of matchups at home versus Washington will either solidify ASU’s pedestrian record or bounce the Sun Devils back into the upper echelon of the conference.

Utah (22-11, 4-2). Last series: bye. Next: at California.

Utah may technically have the best winning percentage in Pac-12 games besides Oregon, but the Utes don’t deserve to be in the top half of the conference. OSU could even make a case for being above Utah — the Beavers beat No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 15 Kentucky earlier this year, while the Utes lost to both — but head-to-head matchups are hard to argue against. Utah swept OSU two weekends ago, though the Beavers could still leapfrog the Utes with a strong performance in the middle of the Pac-12 schedule.

Oregon State (24-9, 4-5). Last series: 3-0 at Stanford. Next: vs Oregon.

The Beavers were the only Pac-12 team to earn a sweep this weekend. Granted, it was over Stanford, but still. The main thing keeping the Beavers low in the power rankings is their opening six games against Utah and Cal, going 1-5 in those series. The sight of the Oregon Ducks traveling into town is rarely favorable for Pac-12 teams, but OSU has to compete against teams like the Ducks to make the NCAA Tournament. At the same time, OSU could go 3-13 in their remaining regular season games and potentially still go postseason, but no team wants to stumble into the tournament like that. Beating the Ducks once or twice would really ignite the Beavers’ efforts to making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons.

California (16-14-1, 3-4-1). Last series: 1-2 vs Arizona State. Next: vs Utah.

Call it “The Battle for Pac-12 Mediocrity,” because that’s what this Cal-Utah matchup will be. That’s not an insult to either team; even the worst Pac-12 teams — except maybe Stanford — are still very good. But both Cal and Utah are likely to finish behind Arizona, ASU, Oregon, UCLA and Washington, so this series just might decide who is crowned the conference’s most relatively decent squad. Then again, either of these teams could legitimately make a run to the top of the Pac-12. Cal, for example, has beaten or tied five different ranked teams this year.

Stanford (13-17, 0-6). Last series: 0-3 vs Oregon State. Next: at UCLA.

In a conference with plenty of teams beating teams they weren’t supposed to and then losing to team’s they shouldn’t have, it’s nice to have a team that follows expectations. For Stanford, those expectations are pretty low, but its still something. The Cardinal have lost all six Pac-12 games by a combined 42 runs, and the upcoming UCLA series is likely to push that margin much larger. Will it reach 60?

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