FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After playing its first seven games on the road, the No. 24 Arkansas softball team returns to the Bogle Park diamond playing six games from Thursday, Feb. 25 through Sunday, Feb. 28 in the Razorback Invitational. A doubleheader on Thursday against North Dakota State serves as the home opener. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m.
All live stat links can be accessed via the Razorback Invitational Tournament Central page.
Last Time Out
Arkansas (5-2) went 5-1 on an eventful three-day road trip to McNeese and UTA and even won four games in 24 hours last Saturday and Sunday at the Cowgirl Classic. The Razorbacks opened the weekend winning the second-longest game in program history, a 14-inning marathon over McNeese, 6-4. Designated player Linnie Malkin hit two of the team’s four home runs, including the go-ahead two run bomb in the top of the 14th. Pitcher Mary Haff fired the game’s final 8.2 innings in relief and did not surrender a run while striking out nine. After a 7-4 setback in the nightcap to McNeese on Saturday, Arkansas responded by downing No. 18 Baylor, 7-2, Sunday morning. The Razorbacks received a trio of two out, two RBI hits from outfielder Hannah McEwen, infielder Danielle Gibson and Malkin to grab a 6-2 advantage in the second. Haff went the distance allowing just two runs, striking out seven, while retiring the final 11 hitters she faced. Malkin again powered the team to victory, hitting a sixth inning, two run homer to win game two of the day against the Cowgirls, 3-1. On Monday, Arkansas hit six total home runs to sweep a doubleheader at UTA, 10-6 and 4-3. Audrie LaValley crushed a pair of solo bombs with Hannah Gammill, Keely Huffine, Malkin and McEwen joining her in the home run department. True freshman pitcher Lauren Howell recorded her first career victory in game one.
Haff Has Impressive 24 Hours
Redshirt junior pitcher Mary Haff was sensational, excelling both in a starting and relief role, pitching 19.2 innings while going 3-0 inside the circle with a 1.07 ERA over just 24 hours. In the 14-inning marathon win against McNeese, she entered midway through the sixth inning, struck out two and never looked back. The Winter Haven, Fla. native scattered six hits over the remaining frames and won the longest outing of her career by throwing 149 pitches over 8.2 frames.
She got the starting nod against No. 18 Baylor and stymied the Lady Bears bats, allowing just three hits and two earned runs while striking out seven in the complete game gem. To close the 24-hour period, Haff again entered from the pen and inherited a two on, one out situation with Arkansas up 1-0 against McNeese. The right hander induced three straight groundouts ending the side. She allowed just one run on a weakly hit infield single in the fifth inning.
McEwen has made it look easy over the season’s first seven games, hitting .526 (10-for-19) and reaching base at a .719 clip, the best mark among any player in the country who has played at least six games. A patient approach at the dish has led to an SEC best 12 walks. She drew seven total free passes in back-to-back games against No. 10 Oklahoma State and McNeese and has walked in six of seven games this season.
Deifel Closing in on Win 150
Sixth year head coach Courtney Deifel is 147-109 over her six-year tenure as Arkansas’ skipper needs just three wins to become the second head coach in program history to reach 150 victories. Carrie Dever-Boaz who went 244-274-1 from 1997-04, attained her 150th win in 312 games. Deifel has coached 256 games so far.
Arkansas is tied for fifth in the country hitting 17 homers this season in just seven games. Malkin leads the club with four after smashing six in 25 games last season. On the Razorbacks five game road trip, Gammill made a splash hitting three homers and nine-hole hitter Keely Huffine provided pop from the bottom of the order hitting three of her own.
Razorbacks in the Polls
Following Week 2 of the season, Arkansas climbed one spot in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, earning a No. 24 ranking. It grabbed the No. 21 spot in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches’ Poll and received a top 25 spot for the 34th time in the poll’s last 35 releases.
- Gibson leads the team with five doubles and 12 hits, recording two three-hit games against No. 10 Oklahoma State and UTA. Gibson and McEwen have reached base in all seven games this year.
- Both of LaValley’s hits have been solo home runs. The Choctow, Okla. native is reaching base at a .529 clip with the help of six walks and a hit by pitch. LaValley collected two bases loaded walks against No. 10 Oklahoma State.
North Dakota State – Arkansas is 4-3 all-time against North Dakota State, winning the last matchup 7-6 in 2019 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Autumn Storms registered the win and did not surrender an earned run while Gibson was 3-for-4 at the plate with an RBI. The Bison (0-0) rule the Summit League and have won eight regular season and 10 tournament titles, including both 2019 championships. Prior to making the jump to Division I in 2005, NDSU won the 2000 Division II national championship.
Southeast Missouri – The Redhawks won the last meeting, 6-1, in the 2019 Razorback Classic, but Arkansas leads the all-time series, 6-2. Arkansas is 25-4 against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference. SEMO is 0-5 to start the year but have played a very challenging schedule at Auburn and No. 23 Tennessee. A career .422 hitter, senior outfielder Rachel Anderson is the team’s top offensive threat, and in 2019 was the school’s first ever Division I all-american.
Texas Tech – Meeting for the first time overall since 2003, and for first time in Fayetteville since 2001, Arkansas leads the all-time series, 3-2, against Texas Tech. The Hogs last won the last matchup 6-5 in a neutral site contest in San Marcos, Texas. The Red Raiders are receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll and went 3-2 in their first weekend defeating Colorado State twice and Texas A&M.