UA softball aims to reclaim 'bike'

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, May 16, 2019
Hannah McEwen rounds third and high fives Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel following a home run in the Razorbacks' game against Wichita State Sunday May 20, 2018 during the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. Arkansas won 6-4 and advanced to its first super regional.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Hannah McEwen rounds third and high fives Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel following a home run in the Razorbacks' game against Wichita State Sunday May 20, 2018 during the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. Arkansas won 6-4 and advanced to its first super regional.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas softball team will be out for some payback when it opens NCAA Tournament play at 5 p.m. today in the Stillwater (Okla.) Regional.

Tulsa (35-18) is 14-6 against Arkansas (38-18) since 2006, including a 2-1 victory at Bogle Park this season and a 5-4 victory in the 2017 Norman (Okla.) Regional in the teams' two most recent games.

NCAA SOFTBALL STILLWATER (OKLA.) REGIONAL

WHEN Today through Saturday

WHERE Cowgirl Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.

FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS

Arkansas (38-18) vs. Tulsa (35-18), 5 p.m. today (ESPN3 streaming)

Oklahoma State (39-14) vs. BYU (29-24), 7:30 p.m. today

TICKETS $60 for all-session and $15 for individual sessions. Tickets available online at okstate.com/tickets or by calling 877-255-4678.

NOTEWORTHY Tulsa second baseman Morgan Neal, a senior from Springdale Har-Ber, is batting .292 with 1 home run and 30 RBI. First baseman Tori Stafford, a senior from Van Buren, is batting .254 with 3 home runs and 17 RBI. … Arkansas is making its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, a program record. … Oklahoma State is hosting an NCAA regional for the first time since 1998. … Arkansas is 1-2 against Tulsa in regional games. All three of the teams’ previous postseason matchups were in Norman, Okla.

"Yeah, payback," Arkansas senior right fielder Katie Warrick said. "We want to get our bike back like Coach Yo says."

Get your bike back?

It's a slogan Yolanda McRae, the Razorbacks' hitting coach, uses to motivate the players. McRae said that when she was growing up in Dublin, Ga., her bicycle was stolen several times.

"Then whoever stole it would have the audacity to ride it through the neighborhood," McRae said. "I'd say, 'We can't let them ride it around in front of us. We've got to get it back.' "

McRae said that with the help of her older brother, Alfred, she always got the stolen bike back.

A motivational slogan was born, and the Razorbacks want to figuratively get their bike back from the Golden Hurricane.

"We know we want some revenge," Arkansas sophomore DH and first baseman Danielle Gibson. "We're ready to play."

Sophomore left fielder Hannah McEwen said the idea of taking back a stolen bike is a good visual for the Razorbacks to prepare to for Tulsa.

"Part of it is ego, and part of it is just how we get to the World Series," McEwen said. "One step at a time, one team at a time.

"They have our bike right now, so we're going to get it back."

When Tulsa won 2-1 at Arkansas on March 13, the Razorbacks had just four hits against Chenise Delce and Kassidy Scott while leaving eight runners on base.

"They had timely hitting and made the most of their chances when they had them," Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel said of the Golden Hurricane. "That's the name of the game. They just played better than us that day.

"We're battled-tested since then. We're a different team than when we played them, and I assume they are as well."

Arkansas sophomore right-hander Mary Haff went five innings against Tulsa and allowed two runs. Autumn Storms, a junior right-hander, pitched two shutout innings.

"We didn't have our best offensive game," Haff said. "But we're definitely ready to get after them this time."

Warrick, Storms and senior first baseman Ashley Diaz are among the current players who were on the 2017 Arkansas team that lost in the NCAA Tournament to Tulsa.

"We just know they're always a good team and up for a battle," Diaz said. "We're excited to have a rematch and come out on top his time."

Tulsa is 18-14 against Arkansas all-time, including 4-2 since Deifel became the Razorbacks' coach in 2016.

"Tulsa has a very good track record against us," Deifel said. "That's something we're definitely working to shift back in our favor. Hopefully, we'll start with that [today]."

The Arkansas-Tulsa winner will play the Oklahoma State-BYU winner, but Deifel said the Razorbacks aren't looking ahead.

"Tulsa came in and played us on our home field and beat us not too long ago," Deifel said. "So we've talked about getting our bike back. Our focus is 100 percent on Tulsa."

Sports on 05/16/2019

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