Power Rankings: Lady Vols climbing
Here are this week's college softball power rankings:
1. Oklahoma (34-2, 3-0 Big 12)
Four more games against ranked teams and four wins for Oklahoma, which swept Baylor at home in a three-game series and picked up a tough road win at Tulsa. Keilani Ricketts became Oklahoma's all-time wins leader in the finale against the Lady Bears. Barring something bizarre happening between now and the end of the regular season, Oklahoma isn't going to have to play any games outside of the Norman-Oklahoma City corridor in the postseason. But the Sooners are going to log some miles before the NCAA tournament. They have just four remaining home games and travel to Texas Tech this week.
2. Arizona State (36-4, 7-2 Pac-12)
For the second time in as many tries, Arizona State lost a game on the road in Pac-12 play but won the series, this time winning two of three games at Stanford. As strong as Arizona State is in these rankings and the polls, there are interesting RPI numbers. The Sun Devils slipped to ninth this week (still eighth in adjusted RPI), a position that theoretically could put their chance to host a potential super regional in jeopardy. Now, with games remaining against Washington this week and Cal, Arizona and Oregon in coming weeks, Arizona State's RPI has growth potential. But it can't afford to coast.
3. Tennessee (34-6, 9-3 SEC)
Tennessee survived a tough early conference schedule, and suddenly things are opening up for the team from Knoxville. The Lady Vols swept three games at Georgia this past week, with pitcher Ellen Renfroe earning SEC pitcher of the week honors in the process, and now have just a series at Missouri remaining against teams currently ranked. In the process of sweeping the Bulldogs and extending their winning streak to 11 games, the Lady Vols picked up career win No. 1,100 for co-coach Ralph Weekly.
4. Florida (38-4, 12-3 SEC)
Florida scored 18 runs on just 13 hits in taking two of three games at home against Mississippi State this past weekend. The Gators remain a deceptively good offensive team -- they're seventh in the SEC in batting average in conference play but second in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging and third in runs per game -- but things are slowing down after such a hot start to the season in run production. A tough but manageable eight days are ahead, with home games against South Florida and Florida State sandwiched around a three-game series at Kentucky.
5. Oregon (33-6, 10-2 Pac-12)
The Ducks are lapping the pitching field in the Pac-12 this season. Behind the work of Jessica Moore and Cheridan Hawkins, they have a 1.66 ERA in conference play. Only one other team, California, is within even a run of that mark, and the Ducks won two of three games against the Golden Bears in Berkeley this past weekend. This week's series against Arizona is one of four remaining for Oregon in the conference.
6. Texas (35-4, 4-0 Big 12)
The Longhorns have hit a schedule lull about the size of Texas A&M and Missouri, the schools that left the Big 12 and left teams like Texas with games to fill. While waiting to resume conference play this weekend against Iowa State, Texas made quick work of Western Kentucky and Texas Southern, with McNeese State coming in Tuesday. Blaire Luna came within a walk of a perfect game against Western Kentucky, striking out 16 in a 4-0 win to maintain her comfortable national lead in strikeouts per seven innings.
7. Alabama (35-6, 10-5 SEC)
The Crimson Tide have just one sweep in conference play this season, but they aren't likely to consider winning two of three games against Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas this past weekend anything but a success. They get a weekend off from SEC play this weekend, and while the lone remaining road series is a big one -- at LSU in a few weeks -- it and the SEC tournament could conceivably be the only days the team spends out of state between now and what it hopes is a return to Oklahoma City. And if folks in Hoover, Ala., have anything to say about it, the World Series may not be an out-of-state trip in the future.
8. Michigan (31-7, 9-0 Big Ten)
Michigan swept three games from rival Ohio State by a combined score of 33-6. Sierra Romero, a familiar name in this space, drove in nine runs in the sweep. Another rivalry awaits this week, one that somewhat surprisingly puts first place on the line. Michigan hosts Michigan State on Friday, then plays two games in East Lansing against the team currently in second place in the Big Ten.
9. Louisville (32-6, 4-0 Big East)
Want an impressive statistic? Katie Keller and Alicja Wolny, Louisville's top two hitters by OPS, have just 14 strikeouts between them in 230 at-bats (compared to 39 extra-base hits and 63 RBIs). But it was sophomore Kayla Soles who came up with the big hit this past week, a three-run home run in a 5-1 win against Kentucky. That game and Louisville's next contest against the Wildcats (the return game in Lexington is April 24) will be Louisville's most important RPI games this month.
10. California (30-6, 6-3 Pac-12)
Even playing at home, Cal was always going to have a tough time dealing with Oregon in a series that set up perfectly for the visitors with three games in two days. The Ducks made the most of their two pitchers, while the Golden Bears had to ask a lot of Jolene Henderson in starting her all three games. Road series remain at UCLA, Arizona State and Washington, putting Cal in as precarious a position as any elite team.