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ASU Softball: Sun Devils sneak into top-five after convincing series-win over UCLA

The regular season finale will be a three-game series against No. 12 Washington in Seattle.

Zach BonDurant, House of Sparky

ASU softball turned a corner this weekend, at least publicly.

Nothing looks too much different than it has all season, but in the national eye, the Sun Devils (37-8, 18-3 Pac-12) are now title-contenders. For the first time since 2015, ASU softball took the series-win over No. 8 UCLA (40-8, 16-5), winning two-of-three at Farrington.

The victories catapulted ASU to a number-five ranking in the polls, while holding first place in the Pac-12. In its wake, Trisha Ford was also named Pac-12 Coach of the Year, Cydney Sanders won Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and eight Sun Devils earned All-Conference honors.

By gaining the upper-hand over UCLA, ASU has put itself in a good position to lock up a share of the conference title with just one win in the upcoming series against No. 12 Washington (34-13, 13-8) in Seattle. If Washington were to take all three from the Sun Devils, UCLA could hop ASU with a sweep of Cal (28-24, 8-13).

Barring a disastrous weekend, ASU is likely set to host an NCAA Regional at Farrington Stadium. The No. 5 ranking in the polls signals promise for the Sun Devils, as the top-eight seeds in the NCAA Tournament to win their regionals will play hosts in the Super Regional round.

After dropping two-of-three at Stanford, Ford’s team has rallied for five wins in six games, in large part because of the hitting that has hammered away all season. The Sun Devils lead the conference in OPS (1.047), and are second in batting average (.328). Sanders and Yannira Acuña are near the top of most offensive rankings, such as batting average and slugging percentage. They also rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the conference in on-base percentage.

The pitching staff has held its ground in the back half of the season as well. Lindsay Lopez is the reigning Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week after she struck out eight and allowed just four earned runs in two complete-game victories over UCLA. Lopez’s 1.63 ERA is tied for fifth in the conference.

The Sun Devils by no means received an easy draw playing UCLA and Washington back-to-back to end the season, but the late-season conference-heavyweight matchups likely bode well for ASU from a bracketology standpoint. Two wins on the road against a top-15 team should be enough for ASU to hold its ground in the rankings, and to be in a position to possibly earn a top-eight seed in the NCAA Tournament.