Arkansas vs Mississippi State: Hogs Tasked with Extinguishing Nation’s Hottest Hitter

Morgan Leinstock, Madisyn Kennedy, Arkansas softball, Arkansas vs Mississippi State
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / MSU Athletics

An unstoppable force meets an immovable object in the Razorbacks’ SEC home opener, as No. 17 Arkansas (23-7, 2-2 SEC) is taking on No. 20 Mississippi State (23-6, 4-3 SEC) at Bogle Park starting Friday.

Round 1 went to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs’ 6-3 win was the program’s first victory in the series since April 2017.

The Razorbacks brings in perfect game hurler Robyn Herron and a solid pitching staff against one of the top offenses in the country, as the Bulldogs rank 12th nationally with a .341 batting average going into the series.

While Arkansas was busy picking up conference awards over the last few days, Mississippi State’s Madisyn Kennedy picked up a national award. The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) named her the player of the week after hitting seven homers and slugging 1.778 over the past seven games heading into Arkansas vs Mississippi State. She was effective on Friday night vs Morgan Leinstock and Hannah Camenzind, delivering the go-ahead double with loaded bases in the seventh inning as the Bulldogs outhit the Hogs 11-3 overall.

Kennedy has seen her stats take a quantum leap in her fifth year in the program. After hitting just .226 (24-for-106) across 41 starts in 2023, the Montgomery, Ala., native entered the series nearly equaling her hit total from a season ago in roughly half the number of starts and also has a whopping 1.612 OPS. 

She leads Mississippi State in every major offensive category and comes in a 13-game on-base streak. Outside of Kennedy, the Bulldogs have five other qualified hitters all hitting over .330, led by catcher/outfielder Jessie Blaine at .354. 

“Mississippi State’s really strong,” Arkansas softball coach Courtney Deifel said before the series.  “I think when you really dive into their numbers, they score a lot of runs. They hit for high average. They’re really disciplined.

“They have different tools throughout their lineup, and they have a really good mix of pitchers that complement each other, give really different looks. Just like any SEC opponent, we have to bring our best. They’re going to challenge us. They’re going to make us make quick adjustments.

Hog Hurlers Continue to Impress

Below published previous to Game 1

Mississippi State may have the edge at the plate, but the Razorbacks counter with an even better pitching staff. The Bulldogs rank second to last in the SEC in team ERA (2.42) and dead last in strikeouts as a staff (149). The Razorbacks enter the series over half an earned run better (1.83) and nearly 40 more strikeouts (188).

Arkansas has been led all season by the three-headed pitching monster of Morgan Leinstock, Robyn Herron and Hannah Camenzind. The three have combined to pitch 88% of the team’s 192 2/3 innings with a combined ERA of 1.65.

A week after Bri Ellis faced her old team, Reis Beuerlein, a transfer from Mississippi State, should have an opportunity to face her old team if she is available, as the sophomore right-hander has not appeared in a game since throwing a five-inning shutout against UT-Arlington in a 10-0 run-rule victory on Feb 25.

“It was just wanting to find a better fit,” Deifel said. “(Beuerlein) loved the coaches. She loved her teammates. She loved all those things. It’s not always a big storyline, but it is interesting when you have to line up against your former team.” 

Walkin’ Bulldogs

The Razorbacks will have its hands full trying to contain the humble free pass. The Bulldogs rank second nationally only behind Patty Gasso’s almighty No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners in walks drawn with 132. Arkansas also has allowed the third-most walks of any team in the SEC (68).

Outfielder Sierra Sacco leads the team with 27 walks, which ranks fourth nationally. Although the Bulldogs don’t steal much as a team, Sacco is the one threat on the basepaths, leading the team with 12 steals. 

Arkansas Softball Earns SEC Weekly Awards

Bri Ellis has done it again, picking up back-to-back SEC Player of the Week honors for the first time in program history. Boy, has she carried the team over the past nine games. In that span, the first baseman raised her average 81 points from .297 to .378 with a ridiculous 13-for-18 (.722) stretch.

She wasn’t the only one to take home honors though, as catcher Kennedy Miller showed no signs of freshman nerves behind the plate or at the dish. Carrying over momentum from a hot non-conference start, Miller picked up SEC Freshman of the Week honors after raising her team-leading .448 batting average by hitting .545 across four games. 

“(Miller) stays really level on the defensive side,” Defiel said. “She stays really level on the offensive side. You rarely see her have a bat at-bat, but if she does, if it doesn’t go her way, it’s just something to grow from and build from. For her to have that mentality so early, I think it’s huge and she’s just killing it. It was great to see her get Freshman of the Week.”

Arkansas Softball: To Sweep or Not to Sweep?

So far the Razorbacks have decided not to sweep. Six weekends down, Arkansas softball has lost six games, one per weekend. A-plus for consistency, but perhaps seventh heaven awaits the team at Bogle Park for the SEC home opener.

How to Watch Arkansas vs Mississippi State

Dates: Friday-Sunday, March 22-24

Location: Bogle Park (Fayetteville, Ark.)

TV/Stream: SEC Network-Plus

First Pitch

  • Friday: 6 p.m. CT
  • Mississippi State won 6-3
  • Saturday: 2 p.m. CT
  • Sunday: 12 p.m. CT


Arkansas softball coach Courtney Deifel meets with the media ahead of Arkansas vs Mississippi State:

YouTube video


More coverage of Arkansas softball from BoAS… 

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