Arkansas set for SEC Tourney clash with Alabama
on 2023-05-10 23:50 PM
BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Wednesday’s action at the SEC Softball Tournament in Fayetteville featured three games, a four-hour weather delay and a finish close to midnight, but Thursday’s will feature the host.
Fourth-seeded Arkansas (38-16, 14-10) is slated to face fifth-seeded Alabama (40-17, 14-10) Thursday night at 7 p.m. in quarterfinal action at Bogle Park.
“Our fans will show up for us just as they have all year,” Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel said Wednesday. “It will be a lot of fun. It is such a great atmosphere and I expect them to absolutely show up.”
The Crimson Tide eliminated 13th-seeded Missouri 7-2 in Wednesday’s finale to advance to play Razorbacks on their home field.
Alabama pitcher Montana Fouts (23-9) fanned 10 and allowed eight hits while going the distance and Ashley Prange hit a pair of homers to open and cap the scoring.
Defending tournament champion Arkansas joined top-seed and SEC regular season champion Tennessee (41-8, 19-5), second-seeded Georgia (39-12, 16-7) and third-seeded Auburn (39-16, 15-9) in getting byes into quarterfinal action.
“No matter who you get in this conference or this time of year, it’s going to tough, they are going to be motivated,” Deifel said. “…But I do like not playing today and getting to just watch. That is for sure.”
Florida and Kentucky will meet Thursday at 10 a.m., Auburn and Ole Miss at 1 p.m., Georgia and South Carolina at 4 p.m..
Wednesday’s weather delay means Tennessee will play its first game Friday at 10 a.m. against the Florida-Kentucky victor and could play twice on Friday.
“This time of year every one takes the field looking to prove something and wanting to secure what they’ve worked so hard for over the course of the year,” Deifel said. “No matter who it is, we are all playing for something right now.”
Arkansas took two of three Alabama in Tuscaloosa on March 18-20, winning the final two contests.
“Alabama was awhile ago and we were playing differently and they were playing differently,” Deifel said.
Deifel said the key for a tournament run is her team not getting ahead of itself.
“For us, it is honestly staying in the moment,” Deifel said. “If you have watched us closely…when we are firing, we can beat anybody. When we get too worried about anything outside of where our feet are, we start to get out of ourselves.
“The constant conversation as we move through the postseason is that we have learned those lessons of how to get back in the moment.”
Arkansas has used five pitchers this season with ace Chenise Delce (20-8) backed up by Hannah Camenzind, Robyn Herron, Callie Turner and Nikki McGaffin.
“I think we are in a good spot, a really good spot,” Deifel said. “We’ve seen Ha (Camenzind) step up as of late, Robyn step up, Nikki has gotten some big outs for us and Callie is ready to go.”
Delce gave up two walk off home runs in relief in losses at Missouri last week, after throwing a two-hit shoutout at Tigers in the first game.
“Chenise is feeling better after about a five-day stint with a nasty flu bug,” Deifel said. “We are getting her back on the mend and getting her strength back. I thong they are all ready to go and feeling really good. We will just take it one game at a time and try to win the game that we are in.”
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In the two other games played on Wednesday, 11th-seeded Ole Miss beat sixth-seeded LSU 5-3 and 10th-seeded South Carolina edged seventh-seeded Texas A&M in 8 innings.
The four-hour weather delay came in the top of the eighth inning in the second game.
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Hosting the tournament means changes to the Razorbacks normal routine at Bogle Park.
“It’s obviously different because you can’t just come and go as you please,” Deifel said. “That’s one thing.
“And we can’t just practice on our field. Like yesterday, we had just 35 minutes on our field. Which we understand because we are putting on a tournament where a lot of teams need to practice.”
Arkansas players have also been taking finals.
“The one thing quite honestly I didn’t account for – because we have never had to experience it – is that our players are still in finals,” Deifel said.
“When you are in town, your are still dealing with finals today and trying to schedule practice around finals. Whereas if we are on the road, they would have already been done and coordinated to do it before you went on the road.
“…They are still getting pulled in a lot of directions, their minds are on finishing the semester academically.”
(Last updated: 2023-05-10 23:50 PM)