Codi Warren – USA Softball (Photo Courtesy of Florida Athletics)
OKLAHOMA CITY – Behind a perfect 6-0 performance at the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, Fla., the Florida Gators (6-0) have taken over the coveted No. 1 spot in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced today. Florida earned just one more point than pre-season No. 1, the Tennessee Lady Vols (4-0), and occupy the top spot for the first time since March 8, 2011. The Gators, who were ranked third in the pre-season poll released in January, received six No. 1 votes this week while Tennessee garnered 11, No. 3 Washington (5-0) received two and No. 5 Arizona State (6-0) claimed the final first-place vote.
At the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament, Florida started their season with a 10-3 win over then-No. 23 South Florida (1-2) before grabbing two additional wins over Illinois State and Wisconsin. Florida then faced No. 4 Michigan (3-1), where the Gators trailed the Wolverines until the final two frames when they scored four runs in the seventh to tie the game. The Gators sealed the victory with an additional five in the eighth to come out on top with the 9-4 (eight-inning) win. Florida closed out their opening weekend with a 5-1 win over Wisconsin and an 8-0 (five-inning) shutout over Bethune-Cookman.
At the Eagle Round Robin in Statesboro, Ga., Tennessee started the weekend with back -to-back wins over Northern Colorado (8-0, five-inning and 8-3) before shutting out Georgia Southern in a 1-0 victory. The Lady Vols finished out the weekend with a 14-3 win over Oakland. No. 3 Washington, who jumped two spots in the poll this week, went 5-0 at the UNLV/Sportco Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. where they outscored opponents 39-8.
Michigan keeps their hold on the No. 4 spot this week following a 3-1 performance in Tampa, Fla. The Wolverines opened the tournament with a 9-4 (eight-inning) loss to Florida in which Sierra Romero (Murrieta, Calif.), a member of the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List, supplied all of Michigan’s runs with a third-inning grand slam. Michigan closed out the weekend with wins over then-No. 23 South Florida, Illinois State and Bethune-Cookman. Arizona State jumped two spots this week after clinching six wins as the host of the Kajikawa Classic. The Sun Devils claimed four run-rule victories and produced three shutouts en route to a new No. 5 spot in the poll.
Rounding out the Top 10 this week: No. 6 Alabama (5-0) outscored opponents 48-3 at the Troy Subway Invitational; No. 7 Oklahoma (3-2) fell five spots following a 3-2 performance at the Easton Tournament in Fullerton, Calif.; No. 8 Nebraska (3-1) collected a 7-0 win over UTEP, a 4-3 victory over No. 12 Florida State (4-1) and an 11-0 (five-inning) shutout over New Mexico State before falling 5-1 to Florida State; No. 9 Kentucky (5-0) cracked the Top 10 for the first time this week after a perfect weekend in Long Beach, Calif.; No. 10 Oregon (4-1) fell two spots after posting a 4-1 record at the Kajikawa Classic.
Making the biggest jump this week in the poll is Stanford (6-0), who jumped six spots to No. T14. The Cardinal offense came alive at the Kajikawa Classic, exploding for 60 runs while only giving up three runs on defense. Five of Stanford’s six wins came by way of a run-rule, while the Cardinal pitching staff collected two shutout victories. On the flip side, Texas suffered the biggest fall this week, slipping six spots to No. 16 after a 4-2 opening weekend. The Longhorns picked up a 6-1 win over then-No. 19 LSU (4-2) before heading to the Louisiana Classic in Lafayette, La. There, Texas notched three additional victories before suffering back-to-back losses to Northern Iowa and Purdue.
Dropping out of the Top 25 are preseason No. 23 South Florida, who suffered losses to Florida and Michigan and preseason No. 25 UAB (1-3) who earned losses to then-No. 22 South Alabama (5-0), McNeese State and Syracuse. Entering the poll this week are No. 22 Arizona (3-0), who swept Southern Mississippi at home and No. 24 Minnesota (5-0) who went undefeated at the Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, La.
The ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll is currently in its 12th year. Beginning today, regular season polls will be released for 14 consecutive Tuesdays with the final poll of the season to be released on June 10 following the NCAA Women’s College World Series (WCWS). The first of 14 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week accolades will also be announced later today with a new player chosen each Tuesday of the regular season.
In addition to conducting the ESPN.com/USA Softball collegiate Top 25 Poll and the USA Softball Player of the Week, ASA/USA Softball is also in the 13th season of the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. The Top 50 Watch List for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year was announced Jan. 29, and the Top 25 will be announced April 9, the Top 10 announced May 7 and the Top 3 announced May 21. The 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be revealed May 27.