We didn’t see a lot of upsets during opening week of the Division 1 season. Duke beat LSU, South Alabama toppled Georgia, and Florida Gulf Coast and Nicholls bested UCF and North Texas, respectively. Outside of those four games, though, the bigger storyline of the weekend were some near-misses experienced by top teams. Perhaps no team fell more squarely into that category than Washington, who twice had to play comeback kids against Dixie State, in the Trailblazers’ first-ever game at the Division 1 level.
As Week 2 of the D1 season is now upon us, here are five teams who should consider themselves on Upset Alert this weekend.
>>> The Gators had a rough go of things in a midweek game against Jacksonville, as Alyssa Bilodeau stymied them throughout the affair until a 7th-inning walk-off gave the Gators the 1-0 victory. We knew there were some holes in the Gators’ lineup and roster that would need to be filled, but a one-run victory over an in-state foe like Jacksonville, and a victory that necessitated a walk-off hit, wasn’t something that we anticipated being in the cards. This weekend, the Gators bring Charlotte and Georgia Southern to town for the Bubly Invitational. Keep an eye especially on the Charlotte 49ers in their pair of matchups vs. the Gators. Florida and Charlotte have never met on the softball field, but Charlotte head coach Ashley Chastain is familiar with Tim Walton’s club from her time in the SEC as Ole Miss’ pitching coach. The Niners brought in some experienced players via transfer this summer, and are already showing promise as a team on the rise; don’t be surprised if they give the Gators a few challenges of their own.
Ole Miss Rebels
>>> Is it really an “upset” if the team picked to pull off the upset is undefeated, and the team picked to BE upset is at .500? Maybe not, but for today’s purposes, we’re going to give that scenario the green light. Ole Miss struggled on opening weekend; they really struggled. They hobbled to the finish line with a .500 record on the weekend, which included a run-rule loss to UAB in the Blazers’ first win of the year. At the same time, Iowa State went an undefeated 5-0 during their tournament at the UNI Dome, off to their best start with Jamie Pinkerton as head coach. The teams, at one point scheduled to play three times this weekend, are now set to face off twice; it should not come as much of a surprise if the teams split or if the Big 12 squad shows out in their own right.
>>> The Knights are still the best team in the American Athletic Conference, and they remain a serious factor on the national scene. That said, the team isn’t invincible. It’s tough to beat a team in three or four-straight games, something that the Knights found out last week against FGCU. That loss didn’t irreparably harm UCF in our pollsters’ minds, nor should it have. This week, the Knights bring New Mexico State to town for a 3-game set. The Aggies are well-known for swinging big bats, and UCF’s pitching will be tested. The Knights should win the series handily, but don’t be surprised if they drop a game within it; Cindy Ball-Malone’s squad does still need to find some sturdy footing on which to build the remainder of their year.
>>> This seems like easy pickings, but the Elish-less Longhorns are still sitting on “go” for their season opener after the cancellation of what would have been a rock-solid opening slate last weekend. Now, the Longhorns are set to play just two games this week, a doubleheader against Wichita State and North Texas at the hastily-and-impressively-organized Scrap Yard tournament in Conroe. The Longhorns will not have it easy out of the gate, with a pair of formidable opponents in back-to-back games. Both teams have real pitching aces, and both tote some heavy bats. Texas will have to be on the ball quickly, and need their pitching to step up fast, to avoid splitting the pair of games.
>>> OK, this is easy pickings, but the Huskies really brought it on themselves with easily the most dismal showing of any undefeated squad on opening week. As previously noted, Washington was pushed to the brink against Dixie State; the Trailblazers held a 1-0 lead for much of the game, then followed a Washington comeback with a comeback of their own that required the Huskies to weather another comeback effort and ultimately walk-off with the win. Again, that was in Dixie State’s first-ever game as a Division 1 program. Later in the weekend, Washington won 19-13 over Southern Utah – a team that had five wins during the 2020 season. Without insult to Dixie State or Southern Utah, Washington’s pitching staff seems almost non-existent behind Gabbie Plain, who started her own season with a perfect game against the same Southern Utah club that later scored double-digit runs against her bullpen mates. This week, Washington actually travels to Dixie State for a four-game set that includes Nevada, Dixie State, Utah State, and Utah Valley.