Razorbacks happy to avoid Sooners in NCAA draw

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, May 13, 2019
Arkansas sophomore Danielle Gibson rounds third base after hitting one of her four home runs against SIU-Edwardsville on Feb. 23. The Razorbacks won 15-3 in five innings.
Arkansas sophomore Danielle Gibson rounds third base after hitting one of her four home runs against SIU-Edwardsville on Feb. 23. The Razorbacks won 15-3 in five innings.

FAYETTEVILLE -- When the bracket for the NCAA Tournament's Norman (Okla.) Regional was announced Sunday night on ESPN2, the University of Arkansas softball players cheered as they watched on the scoreboard video screen at Bogle Park.

The cheer wasn't because the Razorbacks saw their name. It was because they knew Arkansas wasn't going to play at Oklahoma.

Later in the show, the Razorbacks let out a bigger cheer when it was announced they will play Tulsa in the Stillwater (Okla.) Regional at 5 p.m. on Thursday at Cowgirl Stadium. The Arkansas-Tulsa game will be lived-streamed on ESPN3.

Oklahoma -- the No. 1 overall seed with a 49-2 record -- has eliminated Arkansas seven of the eight times the Razorbacks have played in the NCAA Tournament, including last season when the Sooners won 7-2 and 9-0 in the Norman Super Regional.

"It's great," Arkansas sophomore pitcher Mary Haff said of not having to face the Sooners. "I mean, having to go play in Norman, no one really wants to do that.

"With us being put out by them so many times, we were kind of hoping that we wouldn't go there."

After Arkansas (38-18) plays Tulsa (35-18) in Thursday's regional opener, Oklahoma State (39-14) will play BYU (29-24).

Tulsa, which won 2-1 at Arkansas on March 13, is the only team in the regional the Razorbacks have played this season.

"We're not too worried about going to Oklahoma State," Haff said. "It's a pretty competitive regional. It's something where we all believe we can come out on top. We're pretty confident."

The Razorbacks are making their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance -- a first in the program's 23-year history.

"It's a testament to this team -- and really the teams from the last few years -- continuing to push this program forward," Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel said. "Playing in the NCAA Tournament wasn't always a given.

"It's just a nice place to be when you sit down to watch [the selection show], and you know there's a 99 percent chance your name's going to be called."

Deifel said she didn't expect Arkansas would host a regional as a top 16 seed as the Razorbacks did last season.

"You always want to host, but I'm not disappointed at all," she said. "I'm really proud of this group.

"Four years ago it wasn't a shoo-in that we'd be in the field of 64. So I'm proud that [Sunday night] we knew there was a really, really good probability we'd see our name. That's a really exciting feat for our program.

"We didn't think we had a good shot of hosting. If we would have had a few better games down the stretch or played better [in the SEC Tournament], maybe there would have been a shot. We knew it was a slim chance."

Senior first baseman Ashley Diaz said the Razorbacks aren't worried about having to play on the road.

"It's always exciting going to a regional whether we're hosting or not," Diaz said. "We're just ready to go out there and kick some butt."

Sports on 05/13/2019

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