NCAA SOFTBALL REGIONAL REPORT:

Haff says she's ready to go again

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2018
Arkansas starter Mary Haff (4) celebrates the final out Saturday, May 19, 2018, during the seventh inning against Wichita State at Bogle Park during the NCAA Fayetteville Softball Regional on the university campus in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas starter Mary Haff (4) celebrates the final out Saturday, May 19, 2018, during the seventh inning against Wichita State at Bogle Park during the NCAA Fayetteville Softball Regional on the university campus in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Razorbacks freshman Mary Haff has thrown 193 pitches in back-to-back shutouts while beating DePaul 2-0 on Friday and Wichita State 5-0 on Saturday in NCAA regional games, but she said her right arm isn't wearing down.

Haff said she's good to go again today if University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Coach Courtney Deifel wants to start her in the regional championship game.

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"Oh, yeah," Haff said. "If she calls on me, I'm going to be ready. I'll do whatever it takes for this team to win and for us to go as far as we can."

Haff held DePaul to two hits and Wichita State to one while throwing 102 and 91 pitches, respectively. She had 8 strikeouts without a walk against DePaul and 5 strikeouts with 3 walks against Wichita State.

"Honestly, I thought my ball was moving more [Friday]," Haff said. "I had more strikeouts [Friday] and felt I had more command [Saturday], but I did what worked for us to win and we won. So I was happy with it."

Deifel said she's not sure whether Haff (28-6) or sophomore right-hander Autumn Storms (12-9) will start today.

"Autumn is fresh and chomping at the bit," Deifel said. "I just know Mary's going to feel really fresh, too, knowing what's at stake. I honestly don't know who we'll go with. But they will both be ready and willing to go."

Third time a charm?

Arkansas is playing in a regional championship game for the third time and looking for its first title.

Both times the Razorbacks were in championship games previously, they lost to teams playing at home.

California beat Arkansas 10-2 and 7-1 in 2012 after the Razorbacks opened the regional with 3-2 victories over Boston University and California. Oklahoma beat Arkansas 14-1 in 2013 after the Razorbacks went 2-1 in their first three regional games.

Another shutout

Arkansas got its 14th shutout of the season Saturday. It was the fifth time Mary Haff has thrown shutouts in back-to-back games. She also did it against Marist and Villanova; Missouri State and Northern Colorado; Nebraska-Omaha and Texas-Arlington; and Saint Louis and Alabama.

Right at home

Arkansas improved to 26-2 at Bogle Park this season with its victory over Wichita State.

The Razorbacks technically were the visiting team and batted first because NCAA rules specify every entrant in a regional gets to be the home team at least once. Arkansas was the home team in its opener against DePaul, and Wichita State was the visiting team against Oklahoma State.

While Wichita State got to bat first, there was no doubt which team most of the announced crowd of 2,011 was behind.

"The atmosphere for Arkansas here is fantastic," Shockers Coach Kristi Bredbenner said. "I think any time you can host a regional, and you can pack the stands and get a crowd behind you like that, it has to take at least a little bit of the energy out of the other team."

Arkansas senior shortstop A.J. Belans said the Razorbacks feed off their crowd.

"Playing at home is a great feeling," Belans said. "The crowd here is unmatched. It's crazy.

"Our fans go ballistic any time we do something right, and they're with us any time something goes wrong. Having them behind us gives us all the confidence and momentum in the world."

Nice defense

Arkansas outfielders recorded just one out against DePaul when center fielder Loren Krzysko caught a fly ball in the seventh inning.

"They usually catch a lot out there," Razorbacks pitcher Mary Haff said. "So I gave them a little rest today."

The outfielders were more involved Saturday when left fielder Tori Cooper made five catchers and Krzysko made two.

Two of Cooper's catches were of the highlight variety when she leaped at the wall to make a catch for Wichita State's first out of the game, then ran down a ball in foul territory for the second out in the seventh.

"That catch in the first inning was one of the best I've ever seen," Haff said. "That ball was going over the fence if she didn't catch it. The outfield has been behind me the whole season, saving me on some plays."

40-victory club

Arkansas (41-15) has won 40 or more games for the third time since adding softball for the 1997 season. The Razorbacks were 46-29 in 1999 and 44-31 in 2000.

Sports on 05/20/2018

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