Texas outfielder Kaitlyn Washington (25) high-fives teammate Mary Iakopo (33) during an NCAA regional game against Houston on May 19, 2019 in Austin. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Softball

Can Texas stake a claim as the No. 1 team of the 2020 softball season?

Posted March 27th, 2020

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There won’t be a national champion crowned in college softball this June in Oklahoma City. Texas, though, can still argue that it had one of the country’s best teams in 2020.

The Longhorns were 24-3 when the NCAA announced on March 12 that it was canceling all of its spring championships due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The season, just like for baseball and the other spring sports, is over.

When it comes to national polls, Texas traditionally defers to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s. But the NFCA has not released its weekly poll since March 10, and a spokesperson told the American-Statesman this week that the organization is still deciding how it will determine its final rankings. The NFCA will not release All-American or all-region honors this spring.

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Texas did grab the No. 1 ranking in the season-ending poll that Softball America released on Tuesday. The other two major polls are D1Softball and USA Softball; neither of those rankings have been updated since the season abruptly ended.

In some order, UCLA, Washington Texas were the top three teams in each of those four polls. Do the Bruins, Huskies or Longhorns have the best case for a paper championship?

UCLA’s Briana Perez is greeted by her teammates after hitting a homer against Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., on April 7, 2019. (USA Today)

UCLA (25-1)

RPI: 2nd

Current rankings: 1st in NFCA, D1Softball, USA Softball; 2nd in Softball America

Against NFCA-ranked teams: 7-1 (wins over No. 5 Florida State, No. 7 Florida, No. 9 Alabama, No. 15 Georgia, No. 16 Michigan, No. 22 Central Florida and No. 18 Minnesota; a loss to No. 3 Texas)

By the numbers: 7.69 runs per game (No. 4 nationally), .368 team average (2nd), 1.20 ERA (2nd)

The case for No. 1: UCLA — the defending national champion — outscored ranked teams 33-11 in their seven wins; the Bruins’ only loss was to Texas, in extra innings. They won their other 25 games by an average of 6.8 runs and beat three ranked teams over its final weekend.

The case against No. 1:  The Bruins were beaten at home by the highest-ranked team on their schedule.

Washington’s Jadelyn Allchin bats against Florida State on Feb. 14, 2020 in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Vera Nieuwenhuis)

Washington (23-2)

RPI: 4th

Current Rankings: 2nd in NFCA; 3rd in D1Softball, USA Softball, Softball America

Against NFCA-ranked teams:  7-2 (wins over No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Florida State, No. 13 Michigan, No. 17 Texas Tech, No. 18 South Carolina and No. 25 Northwetern; losses to No. 3 Texas and No. 9 Alabama)

By the numbers: 7.68 runs per game (5th nationally), .365 average (3rd), 2.68 ERA (69th)

The case for No. 1: The Huskies took out seven ranked teams with one of the nation’s best offenses. Three of those wins were against top-five programs. And while Washington did lose two twice, both losses were recorded at invitational tournaments against highly-ranked foes.

The case against No. 1:  You can argue if Washington suffered the worst loss among the No. 1 contenders, but its 8-0 stumble against Alabama was definitely the most lopsided (UCLA and Texas lost their four games by a combined five runs). A high ERA also hurts Washington’s case of being the most-balanced team in the poll.

Texas senior Tuesday DerMargosian (24) scores during a 10-2 win over Wichita State at McCombs Field on Feb. 6, 2020. [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Texas (24-3)

RPI: 3rd

Current Rankings: 1st in  Softball America; 2nd in D1Softball and USA Softball; 3rd in NFCA

Against NFCA-ranked teams: 5-1 (wins over No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 Washington, No. 10 Louisiana, No. 12 Tennessee and No. 13 Michigan; a loss to No. 10 Louisiana)

By the numbers: 7.37 runs per game (8th nationally), .376 average (1st), 1.78 ERA (18th)

The case for No. 1: If you scan the country, it may be tough to find two more impressive wins than Texas’ takeouts of UCLA and Washington in the opening month of the season. And Texas earned those victories in back-to-back days. A much-improved offense also complemented a pitching staff that ended its year with a perfect game.

The case against No. 1: Of these three teams, Texas had the most losses. All three of those were by one run, but two of them also were to unranked Duke and Fresno State. That 4-3 loss to Fresno State came the day after the Washington win and possibly cost Texas a spot atop the NFCA poll.

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