Razorback Invitational: Potential Aces Emerging for Arkansas Softball

Morgan Leinstock, Robyn Herron, Arkansas softball, Razorback Invitational
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

Arkansas softball opens its home slate this weekend with the annual Razorback Invitational. Starting Thursday and moving through Sunday, the Hogs will host six games against three different opponents.

The Razorbacks are rolling off back-to-back 4-1 weekends. Most recently, Arkansas traveled west to Tucson, Ariz., to compete in the Bear Down Fiesta, where it split a pair of one-run games against Arizona and beat Long Beach State and Omaha (twice).

What to Watch at Razorback Invitational

When Arkansas’ bats have gone cold, Courtney Deifel’s squad has been able to lean on its pitching to save the day. The Razorbacks gave up just nine runs in five games last weekend, with no team scoring more than three in a single game.

It started out with a dominant relief appearance from fifth-year senior Morgan Leinstock, who took over in the second inning against Long Beach State. The right-hander went on to retire 17 of the 19 batters she faced, including seven via strikeout, with two walks being the only blemish in her six hitless innings of work.

Later in the weekend, Leinstock held Omaha to one earned run on one hit in seven innings. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native sent the first seven batters back to the dugout before giving up her first walk of the game. Leinstock notched a season-high eight strikeouts against the Mavericks. The Southern Mississippi transfer improved to 3-0 while racking up 15 strikeouts in her two appearances. 

Sophomore left-hander Robyn Herron took over the circle in the bottom of the first in the first matchup against Arizona and pitched six scoreless innings before giving up a walk-off hit in the seventh. The following day, Herron got her day in court. The southpaw delivered the Arizona Wildcats their first loss of the season with a 3-2 victory. She cooled a hot Arizona offense to two runs on five hits over seven innings, allowing just two walks and racking up three strikeouts in the process.

The crack of the bat tends to bring a higher cheer factor, but it’s important to also pay attention to the silence of the circle. After leaning on aces like Chenise Delce and Mary Haff in recent seasons, the Razorbacks seem to be going more pitcher-by-committee this year, but the performances of Leinstock and Herron – assuming they continue – could earn them the bulk of the innings moving forward.

So far this season, they’ve accounted for more than two-thirds of the innings for Arkansas and have a combined 1.20 ERA and 52 strikeouts to only 14 walks, while holding opponents to a minuscule.126 batting average.

Scouting Illinois State Softball

2023 Record: 30-22 (19-7 Missouri Valley Conference)
2024 Record: 0-10
All Time Series: First meeting
Head Coach: Tina Kramos (2nd season as head coach, 24th season with Illinois State)

The winless record certainly doesn’t look good, but the Redbirds have lost to seven high-major opponents and their other three losses have been by one run, including two that went to extras.

“We’re not getting caught up in their record because of the quality of their opposition,” Arkansas softball coach Courtney Deifel told reporters Wednesday. “They are always really solid. They have played a really tough schedule and they have been in a lot of one-run games.”

Despite hitting just .167 as a team, Illinois State does have Abby Knight back as a junior after she hit .333 last year and she’s off to a solid start, going 8 for 26 (.308) over the first 10 games.

Scouting UT-Arlington Softball

2023 Record: 22-30 (11-13 Sun Belt Conference)
2024 Record: 3-7
All Time Series: Arkansas leads 7-3 (last meeting: Arkansas swept a doubleheader in Arlington on Feb. 22, 2021)
Head Coach: Kara Dill (2nd season)

The Mavericks sit on the younger side, fielding a team that features seven freshmen and six sophomores. The underclassmen (13) actually outnumber the upperclassmen (11) and so far, the results have gone about the way you’d expect from a team with so much youth.

UT-Arlington has been shutout four times, but one of those youngsters – freshman Emma Lopez – has started her collegiate career scorching hot. She’s 10 for 29 (.345) and has one double and one triple. A pair of fifth-year seniors, Lindsey Franklin and Camille Corona, are hitting .286, with Franklin leading the team in home runs (2) and RBIs (9).

“They have six righty batters and three lefties with two being slappers,” Deifel said. “They are a team that puts their offense in motion quite a bit, so they are going to force us to play defense. We pitch to our defense and we play really great defense. I think our pitchers do a really good job of feeding them. Their pitching staff is solid, so I think they are very balanced on both sides.”

Scouting Wichita State Softball

2023 Record: 44-12 (16-2 American Athletic Conference)
2024 Record: 3-2
All Time Series: Arkansas leads 6-3 (last meeting: 10-2 loss in March 2023)
Head Coach: Kristi Bredbenner (13th season)

Some bad luck with weather has led to four of Wichita State’s first nine games being canceled. However, the Shockers do have a top-25 win over South Carolina on their resume, as well as an extra-innings loss to Auburn, another ranked opponent. That’s not surprising considering they’ve made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Even though it isn’t off to the best start in the circle, Wichita State does return all three of its pitchers from last season, when it won 44 games. That includes Lauren Howell, who limited the Razorbacks to two runs in six innings last year. Offensively, the Shockers are led by CC Wong (.529) and Addison Barnard (.368, 3 HR).

“They have always had explosive offenses,” Deifel said. “They have three very explosive players, Addy Barnard is one of them. She can drop down a bunt or hit one on the berm. She can steal bases. They have a mix of pitchers that give very different looks.”

How to Watch the Razorback Invitational

Dates: Feb. 22-25

Location: Bogle Park (Fayetteville, Ark.)

TV/Stream: Live stats on StatBroadcast.com // Streaming TBA

Schedule for Arkansas Softball


  • Arkansas v. Illinois State — 4 p.m. CT


  • Arkansas v. UT-Arlington — 3 p.m. CT
  • Arkansas v. Wichita State — 5:30 p.m. CT


  • Arkansas v. Illinois State — 3 p.m. CT
  • Arkansas v. Wichita State — 5:30 p.m. CT


  • Arkansas v. UT-Arlington — 12:15 p.m. CT


More coverage of Arkansas softball from BoAS…

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