We are already more than half way through the 2018 College softball season and teams are well into conference play. This upcoming weekend will be filled with conference rivalry games, Top 25 match ups, and all of the teams are fighting for the top spots in their conference. Below are five teams to watch for this upcoming weekend.
No. 5 Arizona State (34-7)
The Sun Devils will continue their home-stand with a three-game Pac-12 series against the 16th-ranked Arizona Wildcats, marking the second-straight top-15 matchup at Farrington Stadium in the last two weekends. Arizona State enters the weekend in fourth place in the Pac-12 standings. The Sun Devils dropped two-of-three in last weekend’s series against the third-ranked Oregon, but did claim their third win against a top-5 team with a 4-0 shutout victory in game three to close the weekend. After earning the shutout victory this past Sunday, G Juarez now has 10 shutouts on the season, a mark that ranks first nationally. As a staff, the Sun Devil pitchers have combined to post a 1.35 ERA, the tenth- lowest ERA in the country. ASU has outhit opponents, 318-180, leading to a 228-80 ASU advantage in runs scored. Entering the weekend series, ASU’s 5.56 runs per game average ranks No. 36 in the country, and fifth in the Pac-12. This weekend’s series will be important not only for the Sun Devils quest to compete for a Pac-12 Championship, but also in terms of the Territorial Cup Series standings. Entering the week, Arizona leads the series 7-6.
No. 6 Florida (38-7)
The fifth-ranked Florida softball team travels to Starkville, Miss. to take on No. 19 Mississippi State for a critical Southeastern Conference series, which starts Friday, April 20. Florida picked up a 19-3 victory over Florida A&M this past Wednesday. The Gators scored 12 runs in the second inning to blow past the Rattlers and Natalie Lugo performed admirably in her second career start. Lugo tallied seven strikeouts and only allowed one walk through 4.1 innings worth of work in the circle. Earlier this week, Kelly Barnhill earned SEC Pitcher of the Week for the fourth time this season, ninth of her career, after she limited the Gamecocks to just two hits through 14 innings pitched this past weekend. Florida continues to lead the nation in walks with 236 on the year. Amanda Lorenz is leading the offense with a .390 batting average. The junior has reached base safely in all 45 games this season and she has reached base safely in all but seven games over her career. Mississippi state enters the weekend series 33-12 on the season.
No. 13 Auburn (36-10)
Auburn is set to host their final regular season home series this weekend against No. 12 Arkansas at Jane B. Moore Field. Auburn is looking to bounce back after dropping two games at Missouri last weekend. Auburn is 6-4 in their last 10 games played, including a 4-1 mark at home. Casey McCrackin has led the way at the plate over the stretch with a .385 batting average with six RBI. Alyssa Rivera hit five of her team lead-tying seven homeruns over the stretch. The Tiger offense is hitting .291 as a team with five hitters batting over .300. Kaylee Carlson and Makayla Martin account for the majority of the innings in the circle on the season. Carlson is 17-3 with a 0.87 ERA in 144.1 innings pitched. Martin is 14-4 with a 1.25 ERA in 106 innings pitched. Auburn and Arkansas have met 60 times with the Tigers holding a 36-24 advantage including a 19-9 mark at games played at Jane B. Moore Field. The teams last met in 2016 in Fayetteville as Auburn swept a very a lopsided series. The Tigers shutout the Razorbacks 54-0 over the three games. It is the last time Auburn has shutout a team for an entire series. Arkansas enters the weekend at 33-9 overall with an 8-7 mark in SEC play. The Razorbacks are coming off a 2-1 series win over Alabama. It was their first series win over the Tide in program history.
No. 23 South Florida (31-16)
The USF softball team remains at the top of The American standings for the fifth straight week and will head to ECU in search of its fifth series win this weekend. This will be the Bulls’ second consecutive week on the road after a series at Tulsa last weekend. USF took two of three from the Golden Hurricane with wins on Friday and Saturday. The Bulls remain the only team in the conference to win every series they have played in The American this season. The Bulls rank second in The American in batting average .295 and home runs per game .85. USF is in the top 50 in batting average, slugging percentage .454, strikeout-to-walk ratio 2.64 and win/loss percentage .660. Junior Cheyenne Eggens ranks sixth nationally and first in the conference in walks allowed per seven innings .77, and first in the conference in strikeout-to-walk ratio 7.71. USF leads the series against the Pirates, 20-9. The Bulls are on a seven-game win streak against ECU, and the teams last met in Tampa for a three-game series, April 7-9, 2017.
No. 25 Hofstra (31-8)
The Hofstra Softball team will play its final home conference series of the season this weekend, hosting Drexel for three games at Bill Edwards Stadium. The Pride will look to extend its 13-game win streak after sweeping a midweek doubleheader with Wagner on Tuesday and topping LIU Brooklyn on Wednesday. Brielle Pietrafesa is leading the Hofstra offense with a .354 batting average, 45 hits, 12 home runs, 44 RBI, and a .764 slugging percentage. The Pride have five starters in their lineup that are batting .300 or above. On the mound, the innings have been divided between Sophie Dandola and Sarah Cornell. Dandola is 12-3 and holds a 1.33 ERA in 99.2 innings pitched. Cornell has thrown 160.2 innings and is 19-5 on the season with a 1.74 ERA. Drexel enters the weekend coming off a double header sweep against Saint Peter’s and La Salle. Hofstra took two of three from the Dragons last season, to increase its lead in the all-time series to 66-11.