We are through five weeks of the 2017 college softball season and that is enough time to get a good look at the top teams with conference play scheduled to begin. Below we will rank the top sixteen teams along with the next four teams.
These rankings will not necessarily follow the latest polls as those are just one bit of information to utilize. Without further ado, below is our first power ranking for the 2017 season.
#1 – Florida Gators (22-1 Overall, 2-0 SEC)
There seem to be quite a few teams that could claim the top spot, but we give the nod to the Gators. Through Monday, March 13, the Gators lead the NCAA in ERA at 0.64 and fielding percentage at .992. The pitching duo of Kelly Barnhill (9-0) and Delanie Gourley (9-1) are enough to scare nearly all their opponents. Those two have combined to allow just 20 walks and 44 hits combined in 25 appearances. The offense averages 6.48 runs per game, which is good enough for 19th in the nation and six different Gators have 13+ runs batted in this season.
They have defeated Michigan, UCLA, California, South Florida, and Missouri (twice) this year. Their lone loss was no doubt a clunker. They lost 4-2 to Maryland, a team that, as of this writing, is 4-18-1 on the season. The longer the season goes on, the more of an anomaly this game looks like. However, when the Gators are on, they are very good and that is likely to continue throughout the season.
#2 – Auburn Tigers (22-3 Overall, 2-1 SEC)
It is kind of surprising to see this team outside the top three in both polls. Their losses have been to Washington (2-1), James Madison (1-0), and LSU (8-0 in six innings), who are all currently ranked in the top 15. The Tigers rank in the top ten for ERA at 1.15 with Kaylee Carlson (13-0) and Makayla Martin (9-3) in the circle.
The Tigers rank 15th in scoring at 6.88 runs per game, 25th in home runs per game (1.04), and 27th in slugging percentage (.495). The core players of Haley Fagan, Carlee Wallace, Kendall Veach, Kasey Cooper, and Courtney Shea will need to continue to produce runs at the same pace. Those five have combined to produce 22 home runs and 102 RBIs compared to 4 home runs and 54 RBIs from the rest of the team.
#3 – Florida State Seminoles (23-1-1 Overall, 6-0 ACC)
The Seminoles have been very consistent this season. They defeated most of their opponents handily with the exception of some big-name teams: Texas A&M, Arizona, UCLA, Michigan. They lost to Texas A&M 2-0 and tied with Michigan at 5, but defeated both the Wildcats (1-0) and UCLA (2-1). They easily won their six conference games with none decided by less than three runs.
FSU is consistent with their stats too. They rank in the top 30 for every major category with the exception of home runs per game (tied for 96th at 0.67 per game). The offense is evenly spread out with 7 different hitters with 10+ RBIs and six hitters at .320 or better for batting average. The Noles are likely to cruise through the ACC portion of their schedule especially if Jessica Burroughs (12-1) and Meghan King (10-0) continue to pitch well.
#4 – Arizona Wildcats (26-1 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12)
Arizona’s one loss came to Florida State in a 1-0 pitching duel. They have defeated Baylor, BYU, and Oklahoma this season. The Wildcats are really good at everything. They are ranked in the top 15 in all the major categories: batting average (7th), ERA (2nd), fielding percentage (12th), home runs per game (2nd), runs per game (1st), and slugging percentage (2nd). Sure, some of that is the opponents they have faced, but that is true for a lot of teams.
It is probably not surprising that the seven batters with the most at-bats have at least a .322 batting average. Four hitters have 6 or more home runs and five hitters have at least 21 runs batted in. Danielle O’Toole (13-1) and Taylor McQuillin (7-0) both have an ERA of 0.65. O’Toole has allowed only 12 walks and struck out 93 hitters. How good are ‘Cats? We will find out soon in Pac-12 play.
#5 – Oregon Ducks (24-0 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12)
The lone remaining unbeaten team has been impressive. They rank inside the top 10 in batting average (.384), ERA (1.12), scoring (8.13 runs per game), and slugging percentage (.057). Alexis Mack, Danica Mercado, Nikki Udria, Mia Camuso, and Gwen Svekis are all batting .380 or better.
The one caveat to this team is their schedule. Their best wins have been versus Fresno State, Kentucky, and Missouri (twice). The Ducks can only beat who they play and they have been perfect in that regard. They will be tested in Pac-12 play and have room to grow on the field and in the polls, but they certainly have done well through five weeks.
#6 – Texas A&M Aggies (22-2 Overall, 2-1 SEC)
The last week of February really vaulted the Aggies up the polls. They defeated then #1 Florida State, #14 Michigan, #21 Arizona State, and #23 BYU in the span of three days. It was very impressive, but the Aggies have come back down a bit with losses to Houston (1-0) and Mississippi State (5-2).
The Aggies are not as good on offense as some other teams on this list. They rank 65th in batting average (.300), 47th in runs per game (5.70), and 33rd in slugging percentage (.484). Where the Aggies excel are ERA (1.20 – 10th in the NCAA) and fielding percentage (.987 – 2nd in the NCAA). Samantha Show has been great this season going 9-1 with an ERA of 0.86. Trinity Harrington and Lexi Smith have also been wonderful making this trio very fearsome for opposing hitters.
#7 – Washington Huskies (21-3 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12)
The Huskies started the season in the pressure cooker with games versus Auburn, BYU, Nebraska, and Oklahoma on opening weekend. They only lost to BYU and later lost to Missouri and Baylor, all top 25 teams. They also sport two recent wins over previously undefeated Minnesota 3-2 and 9-0.
The Huskies are top 10 in batting average (.368), fielding percentage (.981), scoring (7.29 runs per game), and slugging percentage (.587). The ERA is at 1.85 per game, which ranks at 32nd best in the nation. Morganne Flores has been a machine on offense at a .389 batting average with 8 home runs and 28 RBIs.
#8 – Oklahoma Sooners (21-5 Overall, 0-0 Big 12)
The Sooners began the season as the unanimous top-ranked team. The lost early-season games to Auburn (3-2) and Washington (1-0) along with games to Tennessee (2-1) and Notre Dame (5-4). Their latest loss was, as you probably guessed, a one-run affair to Arizona (5-4). Their best win was against UCLA (10-1) and also beat BYU and Ole Miss.
The defense is excellent at a .983 fielding percentage, which is fourth in the nation. The offense is good, but there is room for improvement. They are currently tied for 156th in home runs per game (0.50) and 72nd in slugging percentage (.442). Still, the offense is driving in runs and getting hits as noted by the top 30 spots in batting average (29th) and runs per game (23rd). The Sooners surely will see those one-run losses turn in their favor, right?
#9 – Alabama Crimson Tide (24-2 Overall, 3-0 SEC)
The Tide has had a nice start to the season going 24-2, but are a bit light on signature wins. The recently swept Arkansas, a top 25 team, but their other big series was not so kind. They were routed twice versus Louisiana-Lafayette and only took one of the three road games against the Ragin’ Cajuns. Of course, with the SEC slate coming up there will be plenty of wins for the Tide to pick up.
Overall, the Tide are a really good team. They are top 15 in both ERA (12th and 1.23) and fielding percentage (13th at .978). The batting average is .330, which ranks 23rd in the country. Alabama could afford some more runs (5.77 per game – 47th) and homers (0.85 per game – 56th). However, the pitching duo of Sydney Littlejohn (8-0 with an ERA of 0.53) and Alexis Osorio (13-1 with an ERA of 0.72) really help the Tide’s chances in close games. Osorio has been lights out this year allowing just 19 hits and 21 walks in 78 innings pitched with 161 strikeouts.
#10 – UCLA Bruins (21-5 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12)
The Bruins five losses have come against five quality opponents: Kentucky (2-1), Oklahoma (10-1), Florida State (2-1), Florida (9-4), and Baylor (11-6). They sport some solid wins over Kentucky, Georgia, LSU, and Michigan.
The Bruins have used the power game to propel them. They are 5th in the nation in home runs per game (1.35) and 9th in slugging percentage (.549). Batting average (20th), ERA (23rd), and fielding percentage (35th) are good as well. Seven different hitters have driven in at least 11 runs and six hitters have at least 3 home runs. The best chance to beat UCLA is when the bats are not on fire (see their three losses above when they tallied just one run).
#11 – Minnesota Golden Gophers (22-2 Overall, 0-0 Big 10)
The Gophers started off the season on fire setting a program record for wins in a row at 19. They were stymied by Washington twice in the span of three days including a 3-2 loss to the Huskies. Outside of a road win at LSU, the best wins for Minnesota are Texas (twice), Notre Dame (twice), Fresno State, and Cal Poly.
The Gophers are not overwhelming with their stats, but are still very good. They are 16th in batting average (.340), 27th in ERA (1.81), 16th in slugging percentage (.511), and 24th in scoring (6.29 runs per game). The fielding percentage is respectable at .970, which ranks 46th in the nation. Minnesota relies heavily on their ace Sara Groenewegen, who has gone 10-1 with an ERA of 0.71. She has allowed just 10 walks and struck out 90 over 69.1 innings. Opponents will try to get past Groenewegen, but that is easier said than done.
#12 – James Madison Dukes (21-3 Overall, 0-0 Colonial)
The Dukes split an opening weekend series versus Missouri and then did the same two weeks later against Auburn. They have also defeated South Florida, Wisconsin, South Alabama, and Pittsburgh (twice).
James Madison ranks 18th in both batting average (.336) and fielding percentage (.975). Their ERA is stellar at 0.94, which is third-best in the country. Megan Good has been great, going 14-0 with 10 complete games, 126 strikeouts, and only 15 walks given up over 90 innings. Her opponent batting average is .100. Good is also an excellent hitter with a batting average of .347 and 20 RBIs. The Dukes probably will not face much competition in the CAA, but they have some ACC opponents left on the schedule to impress against.
#13 – Tennessee Volunteers (21-3 Overall, 2-1 SEC)
Tennessee’s signature win was a 2-1 victory over Oklahoma near the end of February. Most recently, they defeated South Carolina two games to one in a three-game series. Their other two losses have been to Utah and Texas.
The Vols are 7th in scoring at 7.5 runs per game and Meghan Gregg has been one person show hitting .486. She has 7 home runs (five more than the next best) and 41 RBIs (23 more than the next best). The Vols average just 0.67 home runs per game (tied 96th) and can certainly improve their fielding percentage (64th). Matty Moss (11-0, 1.22 ERA) and Caylan Arnold (9-3, 1.68 ERA) have been good this year and will need to continue to be good going into their SEC schedule.
#14 – Georgia Bulldogs (24-3 Overall, 0-0 SEC)
The Bulldogs had a bad stretch in late February in which they lost to BYU (4-0), UCLA (10-5), and Notre Dame (10-7). They are lacking stand out wins with their best looking like Syracuse (twice) and Ohio State.
Georgia’s offense is one of the best in the nation at 2nd in batting average (.398), 6th in scoring (7.63 runs per game), and 8th slugging percentage (.561). They also know how to play small ball averaging 3 stolen bases per game, which is 5th in the nation. One major area of concern is fielding percentage where they rank 204th in the nation with 36 errors this season. Last year, Georgia committed 59 errors in 66 games. The Bulldogs simply cannot give extra chances to SEC opponents.
#15 Baylor Bears (23-4 Overall, 0-0 Big 12)
The losses for Baylor have been outweighed by their wins. They lost to Fordham, Arizona, North Texas, and Cal State Fullerton. Three of those losses are worrisome, but in a three-day span, they defeated Arizona State, Michigan, Washington, and UCLA. They also beat Louisiana-Lafayette on the road so we can see the dichotomy of this Baylor team.
The pitching is solid at an ERA of 1.80 behind three solid pitchers in Kelsee Selman (11-2), Gia Rodoni (7-0), and Shelby McGlaun (5-2). The Bears have a very good batting average at .331 (21st), but only average 0.64 home runs per game (107th) and 4.80 runs per game (98th). The defense can also use some work at .968 (63rd). The Bears have potential against the top opponents, but will it show up when it is needed most?
#16 – Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (17-5 Overall, 0-0 Sun Belt)
The Ragin’ Cajuns sneak into the top 16, but there are some concerns. They were swept at home by Southern Miss on their first weekend of games but came back to win 2 out of 3 versus Alabama. They threw in another clunker at home to Bradley and most recently lost a close one to Baylor (5-4).
ULL has an offense you do not want to face (just ask Alabama). They lead the nation in home runs per game (1.64) and are second in runs scored per game (8.45). DJ Sanders is tied for third in the nation with 11 home runs. They are 7th in slugging percentage (.569) and 24th in batting average (.329). Pitching is solid at 1.90 for ERA while the defense is okay at a .968 fielding percentage (61st).
These four teams are likely to jump into the top sixteen if one of the teams above falters or if they impress in a big series.
#17 – LSU Tigers (19-6 Overall, 1-2 SEC)
LSU started the season with a 7-3 home loss to Penn State in their second game. Their other losses have been to UCLA (6-5), Utah (3-0), Minnesota (3-0), and Auburn (5-4 twice). Beyond their 8-0 win over Auburn this past weekend, LSU does not have another big win. The Tigers will have lots of chances to climb up these rankings with a top offense (8th in batting average) and good pitching/defense (25th in ERA and 19th in fielding percentage).
#18 – Kentucky Wildcats (18-4 Overall, 0-0 SEC)
Kentucky has split a two-game series with UCLA and defeated Michigan 5-1 this past Sunday. They also played Oregon close, but lost 5-4 and lost twice to Pittsburgh. Both pitching and defense are top 15, but the offense is underwhelming with all major rankings at 50 or worse. Their next series at Georgia should provide some insight into how far this team can go.
#19 – Ole Miss Rebels (20-3 Overall, 0-0 SEC)
The Rebels are short on big wins with their biggest coming against Houston and South Florida (twice). Not exactly the impression you want to make, but the potential (yes, that dreaded word again) is there. They face Texas A&M this weekend and what a showdown that will be: A&M’s pitching versus Ole Miss’ offense. The Rebels are 4th in batting average and runs per game along with their 9th place ranking in stolen bases and 10th in slugging percentage. The ERA could use some improvement at 2.24 (46th). We will see what the Rebels are made of this weekend.
#20 – Michigan Wolverines (14-7-1 Overall, 0-0 Big 10)
Michigan has faced one of the toughest schedules this season but has little to show for it. They faced Florida, South Florida, Texas A&M, Florida State, Arizona State (twice), UCLA, Baylor, and Kentucky. However, they only have a pair of wins over Arizona State and a tie versus Florida State. It seems a bit harsh given the Wolverines’ willingness to play all these good teams.
The defense for Michigan is top-notch at 5th in the nation (.982), but the offense and pitching seem below par. The Wolverines are 40th or worse in all major hitting categories and are tied for 44th in ERA. That is partially due to who they have played, but Michigan is capable of better. We asked before the season if someone could dethrone Michigan in the Big 10. So far it looks very, very possible.
Knocking on the Door
These teams have some work to do to be one of the top twenty, but could make a jump over the new few weeks (in alphabetical order):
Arizona State, Arkansas, BYU, Fresno State, Missouri, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Below is a table for the top 20 teams: