The third edition of our power rankings for the 2017 season has some movement at all levels. Week seven had some upsets and some incredible performances over the weekend. Below we list the top 16 teams along with the next four teams.
We will start by providing last week’s rankings below and please note the table below is based on records as of March 21.
Below is the third edition of our 2017 power rankings and please note the records listed are through games as of Tuesday, March 28.
#1 – Florida Gators (29-2 Overall, 7-1 SEC)
Florida (#1 last week) holds onto the top spot, but the two teams below definitely closed the gap. The Gators defeated Auburn two games to one, but it could have easily been the other way. The Gators walked off in the first game while game two was dominated by Kelly Barnhill who struck out 16 batters allowing only one walk and two hits. Barnhill has the NCAA’s best ERA at 0.20.
The third game was a 1-0 loss for Florida and they had their chances to get the sweep. They had only three hits but drew five walks. Delanie Gourley struck out 10 in the loss (now 11-2 on the season), but the solo shot by Kendall Veach was enough for Auburn. The Gators can win in just about any fashion and are extremely tough when the pitching, even if the bats are not hot. Florida faces Arkansas on the road over the weekend with a midweek game at home to Bethune-Cookman.
#2 – Florida State Seminoles (32-1-1 Overall, 12-0 ACC)
The Seminoles are up one spot from last week after an easy 4-0 week. They allowed just one run in the four games and their sweep of Virginia saw them win all games in run-rule fashion. Sunday’s 10-0 win was highlighted by Jessica Burroughs’ 4th career no-hitter.
How good has FSU been this year? They have posted shutouts in 8 of the 12 ACC games and have allowed just three runs over their last 10 games. The Seminoles boast two of the top six ERA leaders in the NCAA with Meghan King (4th) and Burroughs (6th). FSU plays Pittsburgh at home this weekend.
#3 – Arizona Wildcats (32-1 Overall, 6-0 Pac-12)
Arizona also moved up a spot in the rankings and they could be placed higher. The Wildcats swept Washington and the three games were not as close as the scores might indicate. They won 3-0 on Friday with Danielle O’Toole throwing a no-hitter. Game two was an easy 12-0 win in five innings and the third game was a 5-2 final, but Washington did not score until the seventh inning.
Arizona held the #9 offense in terms of batting average and slugging percentage scoreless until the final inning of the series. The Huskies are ranked 12th in scoring in the NCAA to provide more evidence of how excellent the sweep was by Arizona. The Wildcats face Grand Canyon in a midweek doubleheader and then hit the road to play California.
#4 – Oregon Ducks (29-0 Overall, 5-0 Pac-12)
Oregon (#5 last week) defeated Utah in a doubleheader that was played on Sunday to remain as the only unbeaten team. The weather wreaked havoc with the schedule and eventually forced the cancellation of the final game on Monday. The Ducks offense tore through Utah’s pitching with a 12-3 win in the first game though errors were common from both teams (3 by Oregon and 4 by Utah). Game two was more defensive and Maggie Balint had herself a strong outing allowing just five hits in the 3-0 win.
Oregon has one of the best offenses in softball. They are ranked #1 in batting average, #3 in scoring, #4 slugging percentage, and are also #5 in ERA. We griped about their schedule in the first edition of the power rankings and they have since defeated two ranked teams in California and Utah. So why have they barely moved? The teams above them are just as good, but there remains a strong case for Oregon to be higher. The funny thing about this season though, the Ducks will play the two teams directly ahead of them over the next six weeks.
Oregon has a Thursday game at home against BYU and then welcomes Arizona State to Eugene for a three-game set.
#5 – Auburn Tigers (28-5 Overall, 3-3 SEC)
The Tigers (ranked #2 last week) played the Florida Gators on the road and lost two of three. They lost the opening game in heartbreaking fashion after the final out of the game was dropped. That allowed two runs to score and gave the win to Florida. Saturday was not close as Auburn had no answer for Kelly Barnhill. The Tigers won 1-0 in the series finale despite a strong pitching game from Delanie Gourley.
There are some issues with the offense such as their 100+ ranking in batting average. Slugging percentage and home runs have also slipped in SEC play. Auburn is still very good and can play with any team on any given weekend, however, they need to take advantage of opportunities like game one against Florida. The Tigers face Georgia on the road this weekend.
#6 – Texas A&M Aggies (28-3 Overall, 7-2 SEC)
The Aggies (6th last week) had a pretty good week going 3-1. They won two of three against Missouri though the loss was a bit of a surprise. They won 8-0 on Friday and then lost 5-1 on Saturday. Samantha Show was in the circle for the loss, but she just did not have her stuff. She only lasted two innings and gave up four runs on six hits in the loss (10-2 on the season). The Aggies bounced back to win game three 7-3 with Lexi Smith improving to 9-0.
The Aggies continue to be a top pitching (#8 ERA) and defensive team (#2 in fielding percentage). The offense is in the top 25 for most offensive categories. This is a team to watch out for in the tournament and they will play Texas State Wednesday followed by a road trip to South Carolina.
#7 – Minnesota Golden Gophers (28-2 Overall, 3-0 Big 10)
Minnesota moves up two spots after sweeping Nebraska in their opening Big 10 series. The Gophers won the first game 16-0 in five innings while they needed a seventh-inning rally in the second game. Minnesota scored three in the seventh and then completed the sweep with an 8-1 win on Sunday.
Minnesota has been quietly good on offense with the #6 batting average and #6 scoring team. The slugging percentage is 12th in the nation while the ERA is ranked at #15. The fielding percentage is okay at #61, but there is room for improvement. The Gophers will be on the road for the second straight week as they play at Illinois for three games.
#8 – Alabama Crimson Tide (31-4 Overall, 7-2 SEC)
Alabama stays at the same spot from last week. They opened with a 7-3 over South Carolina but were then completely dominated in game two. They lost 14-0 while Nickie Blue threw a complete game shutout allowing just two hits. The Tide came back to win game three 5-2 but needed some late-inning run support get the victory. On Tuesday, the Tide won 5-3 over Kent State but needed another late rally to give Patrick Murphy his 1,000th career win.
For the second weekend in a row, Alabama lost the middle game of a three-game series and the offense was shut down in the process. Alexis Osorio (16-2) also did not pitch particularly well and those two happening at the same time spells disaster. The offense is struggling a little bit at 83rd in home runs and 54th in scoring, but there is a lot of talent on this squad. Alabama has a potentially tricky road series at Missouri this weekend.
#9 – Oklahoma Sooners (28-7 Overall, 0-0 Big 12)
The Sooners move up three spots after going 4-0 and seeing some other teams falter. They defeated potential top 25 team Mississippi State 5-3 on Friday at home after a four-run third inning. They finished with wins over Louisiana Tech and UAB (twice).
OU has good pitching (23rd in ERA), defense (3rd in fielding percentage, and batting (17th in scoring), however, they are a bit light on home runs (134th in the country). The Sooners start Big 12 play versus Iowa State at home.
#10 – Washington Huskies (26-6 Overall, 3-3 Pac-12)
The Huskies take a three-spot drop after being swept by Arizona in stunning fashion. They did take a midweek doubleheader against Grand Canyon by a combined score of 21-4.
It is still difficult to fathom how the Huskies were stymied. They are one of the top offenses (top 25 in batting average, home runs, scoring, and slugging) as well as boasting a solid pitching staff (37th with a 2.17 ERA). Maybe Arizona is just that good? The Huskies have another tough Pac-12 test against UCLA, but they will be at home for this series.
#11 – Utah Utes (21-7 Overall, 3-2 Pac-12)
Utah (#10 last week) had a rough week going 0-3, but they lost to some good teams. As previously mentioned, they lost both games of a doubleheader to Oregon but also lost to BYU on Wednesday. The Utes are still a good team and when their pitching is on they can compete with nearly any team (see UCLA).
Utah is similar to Oklahoma in they are good at everything, but extra-base hits do not come easily. Utah is ranked 115th or lower in doubles, triples, and home runs. Utah travels to Stanford for a three-game series this weekend as they look to bounce back from a tough week of games.
#12 – UCLA Bruins (24-8 Overall, 0-3 Pac-12)
UCLA is up one spot this week after a final regular-season non-conference slate. The Bruins defeated a good BYU team twice on Saturday (1-0 and 4-2) while also defeating Dartmouth 4-2 on Sunday. The Bruins 1-0 win over BYU was highlighted by Rachel Garcia’s one hit and four walk performance. She struck out 9 as well.
UCLA finally won some games where the offense was not as powerful. They hit just one home run over the three games and have only hit two home runs over their last six contests. The Bruins have not scored more than four runs since March 11. The Bruins travel to take on Washington this weekend in a clash of teams that were both swept in their previous Pac-12 series.
#13 – Baylor Bears (28-6 Overall, 2-1 Big 12)
Baylor (#15 last week) continues to throw in that head-scratcher every week. The Bears defeated Kansas twice over the weekend and the loss was a 10 inning thriller. The Bears bookended the series with victories by the score lines of 6-1 and 5-1. Baylor allowed a total of 7 hits over those two wins while pounding out 27 of their own.
Baylor does a great job of getting on base (#12 batting average) but has trouble turning that into runs. They are 76th in scoring (5.09 runs per game) and are 100th or worse in doubles, triples, and home runs. Perhaps that explains why they have an interesting loss here and there. The Bears face Abilene Christian on Wednesday and then welcome Texas Tech to Waco over the weekend.
#14 – James Madison Dukes (26-4 Overall, 2-1 Colonial)
James Madison was ranked 11th last week and takes a small drop after going 2-1 versus Hofstra in their opening CAA series. The Dukes handled Hofstra 10-4 and 10-1 in a doubleheader on Saturday but fell on Sunday. It was an uncharacteristic game for James Madison as they had three errors and five passed balls with Megan Good losing her first game of the season (now 18-1).
The Dukes rank in the top 10 for both batting average (7th) and ERA (3rd). Their fielding percentage is 22nd best so they are very good in all facets of the game. They should tower over most of their competition the rest of the regular season, which makes losses like Sunday’s hard to explain other than it was not their day. James Madison faces Virginia Tech midweek and then has a home series against the College of Charleston.
#15– Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (23-5 Overall, 6-0 Sun Belt)
Louisiana (15th last week) continues to chug along in the Sun Belt. They swept South Alabama on the road with DJ Sanders hitting three home runs in the series. Sanders leads the NCAA in home runs with 16. Speaking of home runs, the Ragin’ Cajuns are #1 in that category as a team as well as #1 in scoring. Louisiana will be on the road again this weekend at Georgia Southern.
#16 – Kentucky Wildcats (22-6 Overall, 4-2 SEC)
The Wildcats breakthrough into the top 16 after sitting at #18 the last two weeks. They swept Arkansas over the weekend and did so with three close victories. They won 2-1, 7-5, and 2-0, which is not a surprise given the pitching is their strength.
Kentucky ranks as #17 in the nation for ERA (1.60) while the offense is not higher than 40th in any of the major categories. Kentucky faces Northern Kentucky midweek and then will be at Ole Miss over the weekend.
#17 – Tennessee Volunteers (28-5 Overall, 6-3 SEC)
Tennessee (17th last week) had a busy week playing in six games and they won them all by 3+ runs. They started with a 9-2 win over North Carolina and then swept Ole Miss in 8-0, 6-1, and 4-1 contests. Tuesday saw them sweep a doubleheader versus Liberty 6-1 and 6-0.
The Vols ability to score runs is 7th best in the nation at 6.97 and their defense has improved over the last two weeks. They were 64th a fortnight ago but now sit at 46th. Tennessee faces North Carolina State over the weekend followed by an early week tussle against Eastern Kentucky with all four games at home.
#18 – LSU Tigers (28-7 Overall, 4-2 SEC)
LSU was part of the “knocking on the door” teams, but a clutch sweep at home of Georgia sees them closer to rejoining the top 16. LSU won the three close games over the Bulldogs 4-3, 2-0, and 1-0. The Tigers defeated Louisiana-Monroe 9-1 in five innings on Tuesday to complete a 4-0 week.
LSU ranks in the top 20 in batting average (11th), ERA (18th), and fielding percentage (8th), which will make them a tough out in every game. The Tigers face Mississippi State at home this weekend.
#19 – Michigan Wolverines (23-7-1 Overall, 3-0 Big 10)
The Wolverines (19th last week) went 5-0 over the past week with a sweep of Penn State and two MAC opponents. It started with an 8-2 win over Eastern Michigan, but the Wolverines did better against Penn State. They shutout the Nittany Lions in all three games and won the latter two 25-0 including a Megan Betsa no-hitter in the finale. They kept the shut outs going with a 2-0 win over Central Michigan for their 9th straight victory.
Michigan seems to be finding its groove after a rough non-conference schedule to start the season. The fact they have not faced top competition certainly helps them, but they rank as a top 25 team in ERA (25th) and defense (5th in fielding percentage). Michigan faces Northwestern at home over the weekend as they look for 12 straight wins.
#20 – Georgia Bulldogs (26-7 Overall, 2-4 SEC)
The Bulldogs (14th last week) had a chance to solidify their top 16 spot but were swept at the hands of LSU. Georgia could not come out on top in three close games including a walk-off loss in the opening contest. Georgia only committed three errors, which is an improvement for them (had 4 against Kentucky).
The Bulldogs are #2 in the nation in batting average and 21st in ERA, but their defense is very poor at 199th. That is actually an improvement of five spots in the last two weeks. Still, that will not suffice as they welcome Auburn this weekend.
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):
Arkansas, Arizona State, BYU, Cal Poly, Fresno State, Missouri, North Carolina, Ole Miss, and Wisconsin.
Below is a table listing the teams in our third power rankings.
Photo Courtesy of the Pac-12 Network