NCAA softball regional report:

UA's Haff shows her resiliency

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, May 21, 2018
Arkansas' Mary Haff reacts after beating Wichita State Sunday May 20, 2018 during the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. Arkansas won 6-4.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas' Mary Haff reacts after beating Wichita State Sunday May 20, 2018 during the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. Arkansas won 6-4.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The numbers for Arkansas Razorbacks freshman pitcher Mary Haff at the NCAA's Fayetteville softball regional read like this:

• 3-0 record

• 269 pitches

• 18 2/3 innings

• 0 runs

• 20 strikeouts

• 5 walks

• 5 hits

• 1 championship

It was a collective effort by the Razorbacks to win their first NCAA regional, of course, but no University of Arkansas, Fayetteville player was more valuable than Haff.

The right-hander from Winter Haven, Fla. ,went the final 4 2/3 innings of the Razorbacks' 6-4 victory over Wichita State on Sunday at Bogle Park and threw 76 pitches after throwing a combined 193 in shutouts against DePaul on Friday and Wichita State on Saturday.

With the Shockers needing to beat Arkansas on Sunday afternoon to force another regional championship game that night, Razorbacks Coach Courtney Deifel didn't hesitant to go to Haff when Wichita State loaded the bases trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the third inning.

"Mary has a lot of guts and she's a consistent fighter for us," Deifel said. "It's at that point of the season where you don't count pitches anymore. 'Tired' isn't in your vocabulary. You just do whatever you need to for your team to win.

"That's exactly what Mary did this weekend. She just was huge for us in the circle. She's so under control. She's got ice in her veins."

Haff gave up a two-run double to Asea Webber -- the runs were credited to Arkansas starter Autumn Storms -- but shut out the Shockers the rest of the game.

"I'm going to give Autumn Storms credit, too," Deifel said. "Because we needed every pitch that she gave us."

Haff allowed just one more hit after the double, but walked two and hit two batters. She stranded six runners.

"I definitely wasn't feeling amazing after pitching two games the past two days," Haff said. "But I knew I had to go out there and grind for my team and do whatever I had to do to make outs."

Haff (29-6) has set a school-record for victories this season.

"Mary's just resilient all the time," Arkansas senior third baseman Autumn Buczek said. "We can see that, and we can feel that on defense and that makes us want to play that much harder behind her. It gives us confidence going into hit.

"So her resiliency on the rubber is everything to us. It carries us in a lot of ways."

Emotional scene

Immediately after Arkansas beat Wichita State, the Razorbacks ran to Todd Barbour and embraced the team's strength and conditioning coach.

Barbour was hospitalized on Thursday night because of an undisclosed medical reason, but he was well enough to attend Sunday's game.

"This is one big family, and Todd's part of our family," Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel said, fighting back tears. "If one of us needs the other, we're there for him.

"For Todd to come and support our girls, he has such a big hand in what this program is doing and what it's done. The girls have a tremendous amount of respect and love for him.

"I think it speaks to their character the first thing they wanted to go do is embrace Todd and show support for him because he shows support for them."

The Razorbacks also got emotional talking about Barbour.

"You can't even put into words how much he means to us," freshman outfielder Hannah McEwen said. "You can see how important it is to him as well."

Senior third baseman Autumn Buczek said the Razorbacks wouldn't be where they are without Barbour.

"He makes us better people and better athletes every single day," Buczek said. "He pushes us way way beyond what we can imagine we can do in our weight room and preseason workouts. Having that person believing in you is a huge reason we've been successful, so a big shout-out for Todd for being here."

Oklahoma up next

Arkansas will play at Oklahoma in a super regional next weekend, but Razorbacks Coach Courtney Deifel didn't want to worry about that on Sunday.

"I first just want them to enjoy this," Deifel said of winning Arkansas' first regional championship. "This is such a big moment for them and for our program. So I just want the players to enjoy it. Then I want them to rest. Then we'll go to work."

Big crowds

Arkansas' three regional games drew 6,138 fans. The announced crowds are 1,985 on Friday, 2,011 on Saturday and 2,142 on Sunday.

Busy weekend

Junior left-hander Bailey Lange started all four games for Wichita State at the regional. She gave up three runs in the first inning against Arkansas and was replaced by Caitlin Bingham for the final five innings.

Lang threw 27 pitches on Sunday after throwing 20 innings and 314 pitches on Friday against Oklahoma State and on Saturday against Arkansas and Oklahoma State.

"We started Bailey thinking we might be able to get a couple of innings out of her, and unfortunately she was gassed," Wichita State Coach Kristi Bredbenner said. "But Kaitlin came in and I thought did a good enough job to keep us in the game."

Sweet home

The Razorbacks finished 27-2 at Bogle Park this season. Their only two losses were to SEC opponents Alabama and Missouri.

Sports on 05/21/2018

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