Razorbacks have more hardware in mind

By: Chip Souza
Published: Thursday, May 12, 2022
Arkansas softball coach Courtney Deifel is shown during a game against South Carolina on Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Fayetteville.
( David Beach/Special to the Democrat-Gazette )
Arkansas softball coach Courtney Deifel is shown during a game against South Carolina on Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel has only one goal in mind entering the SEC softball tournament: Win every game.

The University of Arkansas will carry the SEC’s No. 1 seed into today’s 6:30 p.m. Central game in Gainesville, Fla., after winning the program’s first outright regular-season conference championship last weekend at Texas A&M.

The No. 4 Razorbacks (41-9) did not lose an SEC series this season and are in line to host both an NCAA regional and a likely top national seed, but Deifel said the team is not counting on any of those scenarios as locks.

“We want to win every game that we’re in, that’s our mindset,” Deifel said on Tuesday. “We’re not going to push anything, but we’re competitive people, so we want to win every game that we’re in. And competing sets us up for the long term.”

In this week’s USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Coaches Poll, Arkansas bumped up one spot from No. 5 to No. 4, behind No. 1 Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

The highlight of Arkansas’ season to this point came at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium when the Razorbacks swept Florida for the first time in program history. Arkansas senior outfielder Linnie Malkin said she hopes the team can use the success of that weekend as confidence heading into the SEC Tournament.

“That was huge for us,” said Malkin, who belted her 19th home run of the season in last weekend’s series at Texas A&M. “Going back in the heat is definitely something I’m not looking forward to. But just going back there and playing in that environment is something I’m looking forward to.”

Deifel agreed with Malkin that the Florida heat might be a factor for the afternoon games, but the temperatures in Bryan-College Station last weekend were also challenging. If Arkansas wins today, it will play at 4:30 p.m. Central on Friday.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as hot as it was in College Station,” said Deifel. “I hope not, goodness gracious. But you do think about the weather. You think about the park, you think about how the ball flies, you think about a lot of those things. But you draw back on experience, and the last time we played there, we were pretty comfortable.”

A year ago Arkansas entered the SEC Tournament as the No. 2 seed after it tied with Florida for the regular-season title. The Razorbacks were one-and-done in a 1-0 loss to Tennessee.

Arkansas hosted an NCAA regional and swept Manhattan, South Dakota State and Stanford to win that, then hosted Arizona in a super regional, falling in two games to the Wildcats.

Despite sharing the regular season SEC title, Deifel said the team did not feel it got the respect it deserved in the postseason, and have used that slight as motivation this season.

“I think this team plays with a chip on its shoulder,” she said. “I also think that they just look at every game as an opportunity to make a statement. So going into the tournament, do they want to win it? Yeah, they want to win it. They want to win every game that they’re in.”

Last weekend Arkansas passed a milestone as the team boosted its home run total to 100 for the season. Five players have belted at least 12 home runs, with Malkin leading the way with 19 heading into today’s game. Danielle Gibson and Hannah Gammill have 18 each.

Arkansas also has the luxury of a deep pitching staff led by senior Mary Haff, who is 17-4 with a 2.94 ERA and Chenise Delce, who won two games and saved another in the sweep of Florida. Delce is 15-2 with a 2.39 ERA and three saves.


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