Arkansas softball season ends Saturday with two tough NCAA Regional losses

By Jason Pattyson and Dudley E
on 2024-05-19 00:26 AM


FAYETTEVILLE – And just like that the season was over.

No. 12 and top seed Arkansas fell to Villanova 7-2 in the final NCAA Softball Tournament Fayetteville Regional elimination game of Saturday night at Bogle Park.

That loss – combined with a 2-1 loss to Arizona earlier in the day – ended the season for the Razorbacks (37-18).

The tale of Arkansas’ late season were offensive woes that saw it suffer five losses in its last seven games and it showed up again in both games on Saturday.

The Razorbacks scored just five runs in 21 innings of tournament action, which included a late rally to down Southeastern Missouri 2-1 in their opening game.

“Yeah, we just really couldn’t get firing,” Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel said. “It’s tiring and it’s tough when that happens all in one day. You kind of lose the heartbreaker,”

“It felt like we were in it the first game, and you don’t pull it out, and then you have to sit and wait, and the other team is coming off a win, and we needed to respond better than we did, and so I don’t know what it was a result of.

“It was a tough day on our side and we didn’t have enough fight to get through the day.”

Villanova (33-23) and Arizona (36-16-1) will meet Sunday at 3 p.m.

Arizona will win the regional with a win in that game or in the if necessary game Villanova must win both to advance.

Arkansas had just two hits through three innings in its second game of the day and it looked a little bleak at times. 

Villanova out-hit Arkansas 11-6 while the Razorbacks and Arizona both had just three hits in the earlier game.

“It was a tough day for us on our side,” Deifel said. “It’s a disappointing ending. When you run into a Villanova team, that’s nothing to lose, and they’re fighting for their lives, and we just didn’t have enough fight.

“But I’m really proud of the growth this team has had through the year. It has not been easy.”

Arkansas was down 2-0 before finally flipping a switch on in the top of the fourth inning with Cylie Halvorson and Ryling Hedgecock both hitting solo homes to tie it 2-2 and providing a surge for the Bogle faithful.  

Halvorson sent a shot over the left field wall to put the Hogs on the scoreboard.

Hannah Gammill struck out, but Rylin Hedgecock also hit one out of the park to deadlock the game.

Hedgecock hit a blast earlier in the day against Arizona and also was involved in a double play defensively in the first game.

The Razorbacks’ momentum left as fast as it appeared and Villanova, who eliminated Southeastern Missouri 4-1 earlier in the day, jumped right back in front.

Arkansas starting pitcher Morgan Leinstock gave up three runs in the bottom of the frame and her night was over.

Leinstock would end up tossing 3 2/3 innings while allowing five runs off of six hits, and walking two batters. 

Reis Beuerlein replaced Leinstock on the mound for Arkansas and gave up a run, but did limit the damage on the scoreboard and kept the Wildcats’ lead to 5-2 after four innings.

“Once we started hitting some balls hard, I think they were just kind of riding that momentum, kind of passing the bat,” Villanova head coach Bridget Orchard said. “Each person was hitting it, and the next person was hitting it.”

A couple of Arkansas misplays allowed a couple of runs in the sixth as Villanova expanded its lead to 7-2.

Arkansa freshman catcher Kennedy Miller was disappointed her team couldn’t reward the Razorback fans that showed up this weekend to Bogle Park.

“You know, it is like a home, and again, you know, the university is the only thing that this state kind of has, and just being able to see them show out again and again,” Miller said. “You know, after delays and after you know whatever it is, it is just showing up for us no matter what; it means a lot.”

Photo by John D. James

(Last updated: 2024-05-19 00:26 AM)