Arkansas softball opens 17-game homestand on Thursday afternoon

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2024-02-22 11:41 AM

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After a couple of weekends playing in Florida and Arizona on somebody else’s field, the Arkansas softball team finally gets a chance to spend nearly a month playing on its own.

Arkansas (8-2) will start a 17-game homestand with the Razorback Invitational when it battles Illinois State (0-10) Thursday at 4 p.m. at Bogle Park.

The Razorbacks will also play Friday contests with Texas-Arlington (3 p.m.) and Wichita State (5:30 p.m.), Saturday matches with Illinois State (3 p.m.) and Wichita State (5:30 p.m.) and finish up with a Sunday 12:15 game against Texas-Arlington.

“We love playing at home,” Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel said Wednesday. “We have one of the best stadiums with one of the best fields. (Athletic facility supervisor) Austin (Freeman) does such a great job, with some of the best fans in the country.

“I am really excited to play at home this weekend,” Deifel continued. “I am excited we are home for three weeks in a row and I am even more excited that I feel like we are closer to who we are going to be playing more toward our level for our fans.”

Arkansas has finished 4-1 each of the last two weekends in Boca Raton, Fla., and Tucson, Ariz.

The Razorbacks had a happy plane ride back from the West after winning its last three games, including avenging an earlier loss to Arizona in between wins over Omaha.

“I think when you are working so hard at something and you are grinding, you just want to feel the progress,” Deifel said. “For us (as coaches), we have a really good grasp of the big picture. Our student-athletes, sometimes they don’t have that as much, so you just want to see them feel that success and that progress and where it is all paying off.”

“That’s what we felt on Saturday, we felt the response from Friday, how we played, how we responded, how we answered on Saturday, how we competed, how we finished,” he added.

Arkansas is hitting .302 as a team with nine starters hitting over .300, led by Reagan Johnson (.462, 18 hits, 9 runs), Nia Carter (.361), Kennedy Miler (.357) and Bri Ellis (.345), who leads the team with 3 homers and 12 RBIs.

Ellis’ run production is just ahead of Rylin Hedgecock’s 10 driven in and Cylie Halvorson’s nine while Hedgecock and Hannah Gammill both have two homers.

The Arkansas pitching staff of Morgan Linstock (3-0, 1.07 ERA, 22 K), Robyn Herron (3-2, 1.30, 30 K), Nikki McGaffin (1-0, 0.00), Hannah Camenzind (1-0, 3.00) and Reis Beuerlein (0-0, 4.47) have combined to cover  67 2/3 innings with a 1.86 ERA.

“I just feel like we have done a really great job defensively and in the circle of giving us a chance, and I think we have so many tools offensively, but I don’t think we have fired from 1 through 9,” Deifel said. “We have the ability to just make the other team really feel us, and I don’t think we have done that consistently.”

“So I think that Saturday and Sunday we really took a huge step in the right direction of just being really gusty and just being really intentional with how we are approaching each pitch,” the coach added. “So we are not there yet, but I like the steps we have taken and I definitely feel we are on the right path.”

Deifel asserts this weekend’s foes are better than their records might indicate with winless Illinois State having four one-run losses, UTA (3-7) and Wichita State (3-2) having split a pair of ranked SEC foes in South Carolina and also having a loss to Clemson in a trio of games in Puerto Vallarta Mexico and UTA (3-7).

“They are really strong for a reason,” Deifel said. “I think more than anything, we are not getting caught up in their record because of competition they have been playing and the closeness of their games, especially when it comes to like an Illinois State.”

“They are just always really solid,” he noted. “They have played a really tough schedule and have been in a lot of one-run games with really big teams.”

“UTA has a lot of balance and Wichita State, we always have great battles with Wichita State,” Deifel said about the team’s Lone Star opponents. “They swing it really well, they pitch it well. So it is another non-con weekend where we are going to be challenged and when you are getting ready for that much, it is just making sure you do what you do really well.”

Arkansas will also host the Wooo Pig Classic Feb. 29-March 2 and the Razorback Rumble March 7-10 before opening SEC play at Auburn on March 15-17. 

(Last updated: 2024-02-22 11:41 AM)