Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
Deifel excited about adding transfers
Tennessee's Callie Turner throws to a batter during a game against Kennesaw State on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas softball Coach Courtney Deifel expressed excitement for the future only days after her team’s season ended in a NCAA super regional at Bogle Park.
Those feelings have only increased with the addition of three transfers to the Razorbacks’ roster.
“Man, I honestly feel like we really have a really strong team coming back,” Deifel said. “And then we elevate it even more with the three additions that we’ve made. We feel like we’re in a really good spot.”
The Razorbacks lost eight players to graduation, including six who started the season finale from arguably their most successful year in program history. They claimed a share of their first SEC regular-season title, hosted a NCAA regional for just the second time and a super regional for the first time
Deifel is extremely familiar with all three of the incoming players.
Pitcher Callie Turner (Tennessee) and outfielder Kendall Beth Sides (Alabama) both played against Arkansas in the SEC. Pitcher/designated player Chenise Delce helped Tulsa defeat the Razorbacks in the 2019 NCAA Stillwater Regional.
Sides is a graduate transfer, while Delce will have two years of eligibility remaining. Turner will have three.
“With Callie and Chenise, they don’t just give us another look, they’re seasoned,” Deifel said. “They’ve pitched in some really big games. K.B., she’s won a starting job at Alabama and they’ve done incredibly well.
“She can run. She can swing for power. She can slap. She does a little bit of everything. K.B. was an All-SEC defensive right fielder, so she can definitely run it down in the outfield as well. We expect her to come in and make an impact right away.”
Delce went 29-15 with a 2.12 ERA in 57 games at Tulsa, including 8-6 with a 3.30 ERA this past season. She also hit a career-best .296 with 6 extra-base hits and 20 RBI. She earned second-team All-Central Region honors by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and was an All-American Athletic Conference first-team selection. The right-hander from Oklahoma City tossed a five-hitter as a true freshman in Tulsa’s 5-0 win over the Razorbacks in the opening round of the 2019 regional.
Sides started 143 games for the Crimson Tide and hit .314 with 11 doubles and had a .405 on-base percentage this season. She was named to the NFCA All-South Region third team and the SEC All-Defensive team. Turner totaled an 18-10 record with a 2.50 ERA over 40 appearances in two seasons for the Lady Vols.
Deifel isn’t opposed to letting Delce hit some. She’s shown that skill in addition to what she does in the circle, Deifel said.
“She’ll compete to hit. It’s something she wants to do,” Deifel said. “We are not opposed to pitcher hitting at all. If she competes and is in our top nine, then she’ll definitely swing.
“If you really dig into what she’s done as a pitcher, she’s just really consistent. She gives her team a chance to win, so that’s what we expect her to continue to do with us.”
Two of the Razorbacks’ starting outfielders graduated, so Sides should fill any gap there nicely. Deifel isn’t sure exactly what roles Delce and Turner will fill in the circle, but she’s ready to figure that out.
“I think that’s what I’m excited to see how they round out our staff and how we get to use them,” Deifel said. “I’m looking forward to getting to work this fall.”
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