7 SEC wins enough for Arkansas to make NCAA Tournament

By: Matt Jones
Published: Monday, May 15, 2017
Arkansas softball players prepare for a game against Nebraska on Friday, March 3, 2017, at Bogle Park in Fayetteville.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Arkansas softball players prepare for a game against Nebraska on Friday, March 3, 2017, at Bogle Park in Fayetteville.

— The NCAA thought so much of Southeastern Conference softball that it invited the entire league to the NCAA Tournament.

The SEC received a record 12 of 32 at-large bids Sunday, while all other 31 conferences combined for 20 at-large selections. Vanderbilt does not sponsor softball, so there are only 13 teams in the SEC.

Eight of the 16 regionals this weekend will be played on SEC campuses and the league has three national seeds: No. 1 Florida, No. 7 Auburn and No. 8 Tennessee.

Friday's Ticket

WHO: Arkansas vs. Tulsa

WHAT: NCAA Softball Regional

WHERE: Norman, Okla.

WHEN: 11:30 a.m.

TV: SEC Network

RECORDS: Arkansas 31-22; Tulsa 39-15

NOTABLE: Tulsa def. Arkansas 8-0 on March 5 in Tulsa; Arkansas def. Tulsa on April 11 in Fayetteville

"Our conference is so strong and the body of work for each team speaks for itself," Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said. "We play the toughest schedules in the country and we all have good wins, good bodies of work. To me, I thought we all worked our way in and (the NCAA) acknowledged that."

Arkansas (31-22) is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years and seventh time since the program started in 1997.

The Razorbacks are scheduled to play Tulsa at 11:30 a.m. Friday in Norman, Okla., in a regional that includes defending national champion Oklahoma and North Dakota State. Tulsa and Arkansas split a pair of games earlier this season, while the Razorbacks lost 4-2 at Oklahoma in April.

Arkansas is one of six SEC teams to make the NCAA field with a losing record in conference play. Georgia made the NCAA Tournament despite missing the SEC Tournament.

The Razorbacks were 7-17 in SEC games and were the No. 12 seed last week in the SEC Tournament, where they lost 4-1 to Alabama.

The seven wins equal the total number of SEC wins for Arkansas between 2014-16. The Razorbacks were 1-23 in SEC play the previous two seasons.

"We have seven wins, but it was against Texas A&M, who was (No.) 5 in the country and Tennessee, who got (a national) seed," said Deifel, who is in her second season. "When we show that we're competitive with the conference, it shows that this team is strong enough to be in the postseason."

Deifel pointed to Ole Miss' unlikely win at the SEC Tournament as a testament to the strength of the conference. The Rebels were the No. 8 seed, but won four games in four days, including over Florida.

"I’m pretty biased, but the SEC is definitely one of the best conferences to be in and it definitely has the best teams," said A.J. Belans, a junior infielder who was second-team all-SEC. "I think that’s one of the reasons why all 13 teams made it. We’re the best conference in the U.S.A."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Ole Miss defeated Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. That error has been corrected.

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