Arkansas Softball Heads into SEC Tournament Looking An Awful Lot Like the Guys

Arkansas baseball, Arkansas softball, SEC Tournament
photo credit: Craven Whitlow / Arkansas Athletics

Arkansas softball will open the 2024 SEC Tournament as the No. 4 seed and awaits the winner of Missouri vs Ole Miss in the quarterfinals. Regardless of who wins the game, the Razorbacks will be very familiar with their opponent – albeit with vastly different memories of the two teams.

UPDATE: It’ll be Arkansas vs Missouri, as the Tigers beat Ole Miss on Wednesday.

State of The Union for Arkansas Softball

Earlier in the year, there were interesting and exciting parallels between the Arkansas softball and baseball teams. Nearly a full regular season later, the good (and bad) parallels remain eerily similar on both sides of the ball.

Arkansas’ team SEC batting average in baseball is .240; softball is at .245. Both teams have top-caliber pitching staffs in conference play: the baseball team’s SEC ERA is tops in the conference (3.82), while softball sits third (2.39). Both also seem to be treading water just a bit as both offenses look to find their footing. Over the past 15 games, the softball team has slowly seen the team batting average dip from .254 to .245 as some of the more productive hitters have seen steady drop-offs from their hot starts. 

After starting conference play 12-for-25 (.480), Bri Ellis finished 8-for-38 (.210). Raigan Kramer has three hits in her last 34 SEC at-bats after starting the year 7-for-20. On the flip side, Cylie Halvorson has picked up some of the slack, raising her average nearly 100 points in that time span, from .217 to .313. 

Meanwhile, the pitching has remained steady and ticked up in production, mostly on the backs of the 1-2 punch of Morgan Leinstock and Robyn Herron. Both girls rank top-10 in conference ERA, with Leinstock in the top 5 at an even 2.00 while Herron checks in ninth at 2.33. The two-headed monster of Leinstock and Herron have combined to throw more than 75% of innings in SEC play.

Scouting Arkansas’ (Potential) Opponents

UPDATE: Missouri beat Ole Miss 3-1 on Thursday, so Arkansas will face the Tigers to open the 2024 SEC Tournament. All three of Missouri’s runs came in the third inning, with a two-run double by Alex Honnold starting the scoring. Laurin Krings was efficient in the circle, needing only 79 pitches to get through six innings before Taylor Pannell closed it out.

The Fighting Rebels of Ole Miss Softball

Yes, literally fighting, as in fighting for their tournament lives. Ole Miss is the only team looking over its shoulder heading into the tournament about the prospects of making an NCAA regional. College Sports Madness currently has Ole Miss as one of the last four teams in and is the only SEC squad on the bubble. While the 7-2 opening-round win over Kentucky and a win over Missouri should get them off the bubble if they do end up facing Arkansas, the Rebels will be highly motivated to defeat Arkansas and all but guarantee its spot in the Big Dance. 

Don’t let the 8-17 SEC record fool you. Arkansas softball coach Courtney Deifel already found out the hard way once with Ole Miss beating Arkansas in a three-game series in the final weekend of the regular season at Bogle Park.

“I think there’s a lot to be said about a team that’s fighting for their life and then play their best and elevate their game,” Deifel said. “I think that’s what they did this past weekend. The team I watched on video was not the team that we faced.”

Pitcher Grace Sparks continued her great run of form after pitching a three-hit shutout against Arkansas last Friday. She threw 4 2/3 innings of two-run ball against Kentucky with the season hanging in the balance. 

Red-Hot Missouri Softball

Now, let’s return to some happier times for Arkansas softball. The Razorbacks won two out of three when the two teams squared off at Bogle earlier this season. Since leaving town, Missouri softball has won three of its final four SEC series, including a sweep of South Carolina to cap off the season. 

“Missouri is playing really well right now,” Deifel said. “They have three, four, five pitchers that they count on to throw a good chunk of innings. They’re really settled into their roles and throwing really effective innings for them and they’re an offense that just keeps finding ways to win. You see that in their last series against South Carolina.”

Melissa McCann leads the staff with a 2.12 ERA and although Mizzou’s team batting average is even lower than Arkansas’ at .225, without a single qualified player ranking in the top 20, they are right behind the Razorbacks in runs scored in SEC play (Arkansas 89, Mizzou 84). Despite having almost no power with just 14 homers in conference games, they just find a way. The  Tigers lead the conference with 33 hit by pitches and are fourth in stolen bases (15).  

In the Booth at the SEC Tournament

Orioles play-by-play voice Kevin Brown and color analyst Amanda Scarborough will be on the call for Thursday’s game, a voice that should ring a bell for Razorbacks fans. Brown’s voice can be heard calling one of two Heston Kjerstad’s MLB homers (so far). 

How to Watch Arkansas vs Missouri

Dates: Thursday, May 9

Location: Jane B. Moore Field (Auburn, Ala.)

TV: SEC Network 

First Pitch: 35 minutes after the conclusion of Tennessee/LSU, which is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. CT

  • The Tennessee-LSU game will not start on time, as it is currently in a weather delay.

*Winner faces the winner of Tennessee/LSU in the SEC Tournament semifinals at 3 p.m. CT Friday*


More coverage of Arkansas softball from BoAS… 

Facebook Comments