BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
While the Arkansas softball program has been a consistent winner at home, it has also been phenomenal away from Bogle Park.
In fact, No. 12 Arkansas (37-14, 13-9) will be looking for its 12th straight series win on the road this weekend as it takes on Missouri (31-22, 5-16) on its Senior Weekend beginning Friday night at 7 p.m. on SEC +.
“I feel like our team is in a really good spot,” Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel said. “…I think it is going to be a good match up this weekend . Missouri is playing about as well as they have played well all year.
“Having their last home weekend and all the emotions that come with that, we are going to have a really big challenge ahead of us.”
It is a rematch of the 2022 SEC Tournament championship contest, which the Razorbacks won 4-0.
“I don’t know what it is,” Deifel said of her team’s road success. “I know that when we’re on the road, our team is really focused — not that we aren’t at home, but there’s not as many distractions.
“I’ve loved our approach on the road….I know that it just gets you ready for whatever the post-season brings.”
That postseason will begin with Arkansas hosting the SEC Tournament May 9-13 before finding out if its first NCAA Regional Tournament destination will be a likely home one or away.
“Right now, I feel like whether we’re home or whether we’re on the road in postseason, I feel like we’re really comfortable either way,” Deifel said. “So I don’t know what the special recipe is, I just think that they like to compete in the games that they’re in, and it’s worked in our favor.”
Arkansas took two of three games from visiting No. 3 Tennessee last week at Bogle.
“It was an incredible weekend,” she said. “I hate losing, but if we would have played the way we played and they edged us out in all three, I still would have been really pleased with our team, the way they competed and the way we played.”
Arkansas and Missouri will also meet Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. with those games laso streamed on SEC +.
Missouri has not had the SEC season that it wanted, but has won six of its last eight games.
“They’re playing with a little bit of a chip,” Deifel said, “obviously coming down to crunch time and feeling like they’re playing for something….When I look on tape, I think that they’re better than their record. I wouldn’t get distracted by their SEC record or standing.
“It’s a really long season and I think you can have some tough weeks. I think they’ve had some tough weeks, and they’re a good team, so I am ready for a challenge.”
Friday night’s game should be a rematch of Arkansas ace Chenise Delce (19-6, 1.40, 4 saves) and Missouri’s Laurin Krings (11-11, 2.53), the two pitchers who started last season’s league title game.
Delce fired a two-hit shutout in Arkansas’ victory.
Alex Honnold (.417, 13 HRs, 44 RBIs, 18 steal bases) and Jenna Laird (.339, 30 steals) head up the Tigers’ offense.
“Krings, is throwing really, really well,” Deifel said. “…So we know that, and then I think they’re swinging it better every weekend. I mean, you have Laird and Honnold up at the top who are two of the best.”
Photo by John D. James