FAYETTEVILLE — No. 4 Arkansas used a big sixth inning to defeat Oregon 9-3 on Sunday at Bogle Park in the finals of the Fayetteville Regional.
The Razorbacks (47-9) set a school record for wins in one season. They will now advance to next weekend’s Super Regionals also at Bogle Park against either Texas or Washington.
“I’m just really proud of the team,” Deifel said. “Proud of the team for just taking care of business all weekend. I thought they showed a ton of toughness and a ton of resilience. And just stayed the course and found a way to get the job done.”
Arkansas jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning with back-to-back home runs by Linnie Malkin and Kacie Hoffmann. The same two hit back-to-back home runs on Saturday against Oregon as well. The Hogs extended the lead to 3-0 in the top of the fourth with a solo home run from Danielle Gibson.
In the bottom of the fourth the Ducks tied the game. Mary Haff walked Hanna Delgado and then Allee Bunker singled to left field to start the inning. Ariel Carlson then followed with a single to left field. Hannah McEwen threw the ball to second trying to get Carlson going to second base. However the ball went into right field and then Hoffmann threw it away at third allowing Carlson to circle the bases and tied the game.
But it was the sixth inning that put the game away for Arkansas. Taylor Ellsworth walked, Gibson hit one to first who tried to get the lead runner at second but both Ellsworth and Gibson were safe. Then Taylor Gammill walked to load the bases. Linnie Malkin then was called out on a third strike that appeared to be several inches outside. A passed ball though allowed Ellsworth to score with Gibson and Gammill advancing a base. Oregon then intentionally walked Hoffmann to load the bases. Audrie LaValley then popped up to shortstop for the second out and the Razorbacks holding a 4-3 lead.
It was at that point Deifel opted to pinch hit Rylin Hedgecock for Marlene Friedman. Hedgecock sent one into deep center field that was just out of the reach of Oregon’s Jasmine Williams. Hedgecock got a double and all three runners scored. Then SEC Player of the Year KB Sides slapped one over the fence to put Arkansas up by the final margin. Deifel was impressed with Hedgecock’s hit that broke the game open.
“Then Rylin to come through in that moment,” Deifel said. “That is the toughest role in this sport. Just to stay level in that moment and come through was just so huge. I’m just really, really proud of Rylin.”
Haff allowed six hits, three runs, only one earned, four strikeouts and one walk to pick up the win.
“I thought Mary was very, very good today,” Deifel said. “Just staying the course when we uncharacteristically giving some runs away. It’s not what we do. We had a chance to answer and that’s what we did.”
Oregon Coach Melyssa Lombardi is friends with Deifel and had good things to say about the Arkansas coach.
“I’ve said it before I’ve known Courtney for a long time and watched her come into this program,” Lombardi said. “I knew where this program was before she got here. This program transformed year after year. You can see it’s exciting. I’m excited for her. I wish her nothing but the best. They’re an excellent, excellent team. They’ve got great pitching, explosive hitters and they’re solid on defense.”
Arkansas has now won the SEC regular season, SEC Tournament and the Fayetteville Regional.