Arkansas Softball Heads West Not Quite Clicking on All Cylinders

Arkansas softball, Arizona softball, Bear Down Fiesta
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Arizona Athletics

Arkansas softball is heading west for another showcase event away from home this weekend. The Razorbacks will be in Tucson, Ariz., for the Bear Down Fiesta that is hosted by Arizona softball and runs Friday through Sunday.

This trip is on the heels of a season-opening trip to Boca Raton, Fla. for the Paradise Classic, during which the Hogs nearly had a weekend sweep. Arkansas won its first four games against Marshall, Florida Atlantic, Ohio and Michigan State before dropping an extra-innings battle to Penn State.

It was a tough end to an overall solid first weekend for an Arkansas softball team still ranked inside the top 20 of each major poll. The Razorbacks will try to improve their 4-1 record with a five-game stretch this coming weekend.

What to Watch at Bear Down Fiesta

The Razorbacks hit .306 as a team last weekend, but there was one glaring hole in their lineup.

Senior third baseman Hannah Gammill went 2 for 14 (.143) in Boca Raton and had four strikeouts with one walk. She did, however, hit one of Arkansas’ two home runs and it was an important one, as her two-run shot proved to be the difference in a 6-5 win over Michigan State.

That said, it was a bit of a concerning start to the season for a slugger looking to rebound from a disappointing 2023 season. After hitting .374 with 18 home runs and earning first-team All-America honors as a sophomore, she hit just .236 with six home runs despite starting every game last year.

A veteran leader on this year’s Arkansas softball team, Gammill was one of seven players who started all five games on opening weekend. The other six combined to hit .389 and had more than twice as many free passes (18 walks, 4 HBP) than strikeouts (10). All but one of them hit .313 or better and the one who didn’t, Raigan Kramer, drew nine walks and has a team-high .706 on-base percentage.

Even if Gammill doesn’t return all the way to her All-America level, the Razorbacks would greatly benefit from their leader at least being better than she was last season. Five games into a season is way too early to hit the panic button, but it is certainly worth watching how she does this weekend to see if the trend continues or if she starts digging out of it.

How to Watch Arkansas Softball at Bear Down Fiesta

Dates: Feb. 16-18

Location: Hillenbrand Stadium (Tucson, Ariz.)

TV/Stream: FloSoftball / Arizona Live Stream

Schedule for Arkansas Softball


  • Arkansas 7 vs Long Beach State 0 — noon CT (FloSoftball)
  • Arkansas 2 vs Arizona 3 (Arizona Live Stream)


  • Arkansas 9 vs Omaha 2 — 12:30 p.m. CT (FloSoftball)
  • Arkansas 3 vs Arizona 2 — 3 p.m. CT (Arizona Live Stream)


  • Arkansas vs Omaha — 10 a.m. CT (FloSoftball)

Scouting Long Beach State Softball

2023 Record: 31-23 (21-6 Big West)
2024 Record: 0-4
All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 1-0 (10-0 win in 2022)
Head Coach: Kim Sowder (18th season)

Don’t be fooled by Long Beach State softball’s winless record. It’s a program that won the Big West last season and made the NCAA Tournament, where it went 0-2 with a pair of low-scoring one-run losses.

All three of the Beach pitchers from last season are back after posting a combined 2.20 ERA over 289 innings, but they struggled last weekend in Mexico. Facing four major programs in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Duke and Iowa State, they combined for a 4.94 ERA.

“I think that they had a tough start, but as you watched their weekend, they were playing better at the end,” Arkansas softball coach Courtney Deifel said in her Bear Down Fiesta preview press conference. “We expect Long Beach to do what Long Beach always does. They pitch it really well, they defend it really well and they create runs. They create runs by putting pressure on defense, which is going to be an interesting thing, again, with how the infield plays in Tucson.”

Scouting Arizona Softball

2023 Record: 29-25 (6-18 Pac-12)
2024 Record: 5-0
All-Time Series: Arizona leads 4-2 (last meeting: Arkansas won 2-1)
Head Coach: Caitlin Lowe (3rd season)

You couldn’t draw up a much better start to a season than the one Arizona softball had last weekend. The Wildcats won all five of their games in mercy-rule fashion and allowed just one run – which came on a home run with one out in the first inning of the first game. From that point on, they tossed 25 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

Offensively, Arizona hit .390 as a team and was led by Olivia DiNardo, who went 7 for 11 with a double and two home runs. That helped the sophomore post an incredible 2.006 OPS.

Led by former All-American Caitlin Lowe, who is in her third season as the head coach of her alma mater, the Wildcats are just outside the top 25. They are coming off a rare down year in which they missed the NCAA Tournament entirely after reaching the Women’s College World Series three straight times.

“Arizona, they swing it,” Deifel said. “They swing it big. They create havoc on the bases. They’re fast. Their field play’s very fast and bouncy, but the ball also flies. So it’s a stadium and an elevation that really fits their offense. I think their pitching, you look at this past weekend, I think they just gave up one run, which is really tough to do.”

“No matter who you’re playing in an offensive game, it’s just really tough. So I think they’re playing really well. I think they’re playing very complete. Their defense is always good.”

Scouting Omaha Softball

2023 Record: 33-17 (15-5 Summit League)
2024 Record: 4-1
All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 4-0 (pair of games in 2018 and 2019)
Head Coach: Mike Heard 

After finishing second in the Summit League during the regular season, Omaha softball made a run in the conference tournament and clinched the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Mavericks even won a game in the regional before getting knocked out.

They’re off to a 4-1 start after playing in the UNI Dome Tournament last weekend. Three different players lead the Triple Crown categories for Omaha, with Maggie O’Brien leading the way in batting average (.556), Sydney Thomason leading in home runs (2) and Sydney Ross leading in RBIs (8).

In the circle, right-handers Sydney Nuismer and Kamryn Meyer combined to post a 1.04 ERA and hold opponents to a minuscule .161 batting average on the first weekend of the season.

“Omaha had a really great first weekend, too,” Deifel said. “They had a tough schedule. They beat Northern Iowa. They beat Northern Illinois. They split with Drake, so they were challenged early.”

Deifel noted she’ll be curious to see how Omaha does in the open air, since last weekend they played indoors. “So this might be the first time that they’ve been on dirt a ton.”


Arkansas Wipes Out Long Beach State 7-0

Bri Ellis knocked in her first home run as a Razorback when he blasted a solo shot in the third inning to break up the scoreless affair.

Ellis wasn’t through going to town. In her very next plate appearance, Ellis mashed a two-run homer to put Arkansas head 4-0 in the fifth inning. They only pressed down the accelerator from there…

Arkansas Loses Tight One to Arizona

Down 0-2 in the seventh inning, Rylin Hedgecock delivered her first homer of the season to tie the game. But that wasn’t enough to stem the tide against the unbeaten Wildcats, as Arizona softball standout Regan Shockey slid across home plate with a game-winning run later in the seventh inning.

Arkansas gets its shot at revenge on Saturday at 3 pm CT.

Katie Parker contributed to the above Bear Down Fiesta preview.


More coverage of Arkansas softball from BoAS… 

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