Robyn Herron Had to Navigate A Delicate Situation Before One-Upping Hagen Smith

Hagen Smith, Robyn Herron, Arkansas baseball, Arkansas softball
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

Arkansas baseball ace Hagen Smith’s epic 17-strikeout performance stood as the most impressive pitching feat for the Razorbacks for all of 15 hours.

Before the baseball team could even take the field again, Smith was already topped. In front of a record crowd for Arkansas softball at Bogle Park, sophomore and fellow lefty Robyn Herron continued to mow through the Illinois State Redbird lineup on Saturday. She had no issue stacking 1-2-3 innings on top of another.

Because of the run rule being in place for softball (leading by eight runs after five innings), the Razorbacks found themselves in a delicate situation. They were up 7-0 and, as the home team, if they scored the eighth run at any point, the perfect game would be complete, but the person most responsible for a slice of history would be in the dugout when the final out was made. 

It was almost as if the softball gods were determined not to let that happen, stubbornly refusing to allow the Arkansas softball offense to score the all-important eighth run. After scoring each of the first three innings, the Razorbacks were suddenly retired in order in the fourth. 

They got a runner to second with one out in the fifth, but couldn’t get the elusive hit to wrap it. Bri Ellis hit a deep fly ball to left field with one out, coming feet away from ending the game before the ball mercifully fell in the glove of the left fielder.

Robyn Herron’s Dominance for Arkansas Softball

None of this bothered Robyn Herron, who wasn’t just perfect, but she never came close to allowing a baserunner. No defensive plays worthy of a scorebook star, no lucky outs. Just pure domination. The sophomore had just one three-ball count the whole game and that was to the very first batter of the game. She needed just 86 pitches to retire 21 hitters.

The record crowd of 3,549 erupted after left fielder Raigan Kramer caught a routine fly ball to record the final out and log the second seven-inning perfect game in program history after Mary Haff’s brilliance in 2022.

“Just for her to keep her focus and just absolutely execute her pitches,” Arkansas softball coach Courtney Deifel said. “In this offensive game, you just don’t see that much. It was just a really, really special outing and I’m glad I got to witness it. She was quite the competitor today.”

Herron worked on her mental game a lot during the offseason, which came in handy when she was continuously tapped to pitch another inning after the offense failed to evoke the run rule.

“Just trying to stay present with each individual pitch, not trying to think about the situation or make the situation too big,” the Tampa, Fla., native said. “Staying in my own world and staying with the infielders. Just talking to each other, not really trying to think about what’s going on.”

Hogs Baseball and Softball Look Like Twins

Three weekends into the season, it’s almost uncanny how much the Arkansas baseball and softball teams have mirrored each other. The pitching has carried the load for the softball team, as well. The team’s ERA is down to 1.47.

Herron’s 1.30 ERA across 37 2/3  innings isn’t even the best on the team. That honor belongs to Morgan Leinstock, who has a 1.22 ERA across 28 2/3  innings. Mississippi State transfer Reis Beuerlein spun nine shutout innings across two appearances including a two-hit shutout of her own in a five-inning game, bringing her ERA down to 2.10.

After two weekends, a clean sweep of games has also eluded both the baseball and softball teams. The softball team now sits at 12-3, after three straight 4-1 weekends. The offense is mostly to blame in all three losses, losing by final scores of 3-2 twice and 3-1. Wichita State’s Chloe Barber struck out 15 Razorbacks in a complete game, holding the Hogs to just five hits. The Razorbacks did explode in a 13-run inning against Wichita State in the rematch en route to a 15-5 victory.

Perhaps the most exciting similarity is that both team’s crowds are already nearing midseason form. Arkansas baseball shamed Missouri by drawing more than 8,500 fans all four days against a Sun Belt team in 30-degree weather and the softball team set a home opener record of 2,824 on Thursday before setting the all-time attendance record for the perfect game.

“It’s just fun to see them show up for these players,” Deifel said. “They deserve it and hopefully they just keep coming out. It’s pretty awesome.”

Sure, the teams still have a few places to sharpen. Namely, the hitting isn’t quite clicking. Whether you watch baseball or softball, imperfection and close losses happen no matter how many times you try to convince yourself that your team is immune from the randomness of it all. 

But, really, can you ask for much more than record crowds and a little bit of history three weekends into the season from both Arkansas baseball and softball? Outside of a road upset at Florida here and a home win over Duke there, it’s far cry from what the football and basketball teams have accomplished, and they’ve had more or less a full season. It’s all relative.

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More coverage of Arkansas softball, baseball and historic performances from BoAS…

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