For most Arkansas fans — and, quite frankly, anyone not wearing burnt orange — a disdain for the Texas Longhorns comes naturally. And yet, they continue to create more reasons to be despised.
The latest instance happened on the softball diamond, just days after plans were finalized to welcome Texas and Big 12 rival Oklahoma into the league a year early, with SEC expansion officially happening in 2024.
In one of the first few matchups between the Longhorns and a representative of their future conference, they managed to leave the NFCA Division I Leadoff Classic with a tie against Kentucky — at least that’s how it’ll go down officially.
The Wildcats actually took a 7-4 lead in extras, but a drop-dead time was in place so they could make it to a flight and Texas did not finish the bottom of the inning. That meant the score reverted back to the previous full inning, resulting in a 4-4 final.
Why should the casual fan care about a quirky rule in an early-season softball game? Well, at best, Texas softball coach Mike White used gamesmanship to escape with a tie. Most, however, would say he went too far in his efforts to “not lose” rather than win.
When it became clear that Kentucky was in control of the game, White had his Longhorns go into stall mode.
He visited his pitcher for a full 60 seconds, returned to the dugout and almost immediately came out again to make a pitching change. White was denied another visit to the circle later in the inning, so instead, the entire infield held a meeting.
In the bottom half of the eighth inning, which needed to last only eight minutes in order to get in under the 3:30 p.m. cutoff, Texas pulled out all of the stops.
A batter stepped out of the box to put eyedrops in her eyes. White brought in a pinch runner for the runner who started the inning at second base as part of the international tie breaker rules that are now available to SEC baseball coaches.
Then, perhaps the most egregious of Texas’ offenses, White decided to pinch run for the runner on first…with less than a minute remaining until the drop-dead time and his hitter in an 0-2 hole with two outs.
With the Wildcats just one strike away from finishing off a quality non-conference win, time expired before another pitch could be thrown and it officially became a tie. The softball community took notice and wasn’t too fond of how the Longhorns handled the situation.
“Gamesmanship has its limits and those limits were crossed by Mike White and Texas on Sunday,” wrote Justin McLeod of ExtraInningSoftball.com. “The ‘official’ scorebook may show a 4-4 final score, but Texas was a beaten team on Sunday. And Mike White knows it.”
Aside from having to look forward to such shenanigans when it joins the SEC during the 2024-25 school year, the Texas Longhorns’ stunt has a small impact on the Razorbacks.
Arkansas will travel to Kentucky for a three-game series from April 21-23, so the Wildcats notching a tie — rather than their rightful win — against Texas will have a trickle-down effect on the Razorbacks’ RPI, albeit a small one.
(Fans of Arkansas softball already don’t like the Texas Longhorns because they beat the Razorbacks in the Fayetteville Super Regional last year, ending their best season ever one game shy of reaching the Women’s College World Series.)
Arkansas Softball at Clearwater Invitational
Luckily for the Razorbacks, they won’t be lacking for opportunities to notch quality, resume-boosting victories this season. Playing in the SEC takes care of that, with six of their eight conference series being against current top-25 teams.
To further complicate her team’s schedule, Arkansas softball coach Courtney Deifel accepted an invitation for her team to play in the prestigious Clearwater Invitational in Florida. Over a three-day stretch beginning Friday, the Razorbacks are playing five games — three against ranked opponents and two against unranked Big Ten foes.
Arkansas — which opened the season with a 5-0 showing at the Rebel Kickoff in Las Vegas last weekend — will finally play its home opener next Thursday with the first of three games against a ranked Arizona squad. Before worrying about that, though, it must get through this weekend.
Game 1 — No. 7 Florida State 9, No. 4 Arkansas 6
A seven-run fifth inning by the Seminoles was too much to overcome and Arkansas suffered its first loss of the season Friday afternoon.
After striking first with a two-out, two-run double by Kacie Hoffmann in the first inning and retaking the lead with some heads-up baserunning by Cally Kildow in the fourth, Florida State stormed back with a vengeance.
Kalei Harding – who homered earlier in the game – put the Seminoles on top for the first time with a two-run bomb. By the time the dust settled, they had plated seven runs against three different Arkansas pitchers.
That was the difference, but the Razorbacks didn’t just roll over. In the sixth, Hoffman hit a two-run homer and Rylin Hedgecock followed with a solo shot to cut their deficit in half. Arkansas even brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but Hoffman flied out to end the comeback bid.
Game 2 — No. 4 Arkansas 4, No. 19 Duke 7
Cylie Halvorson, Hannah Gammill, Kacie Hoffmann and Raigan Kramer recorded a hit apiece against the Blue Devils. Kramer and Hoffmann doubled while Halvorson and Gammill singled.
Four Razorback pitchers were utilized against Duke with freshman LHP Hannah Camenzind (0-1) getting her second start of the season. In 1.2 innings, Duke scored three runs on five hits off Camenzind who was replaced by freshman RHP Nikki McGaffin.
The Blue Devils totaled two runs on two hits off McGaffin. Delce entered the game and hurled three innings while curbing Duke to just one earned run and four hits while accumulating four strikeouts. Turner pitched a 1-2-3 sixth that included a strikeout.
Game 3 — No. 4 Arkansas 7, Indiana 0
Game 4 — No. 4 Arkansas 7, No. 22 Louisiana-Lafayette 6
Game 5 — No. 4 Arkansas 6, Nebraska 1
Freshman LHP Robyn Herron (3-0) and redshirt senior RHP Chenise Delce (3-1) shined in the circle and the No. 4 Razorbacks (8-2) pieced together some timely hits to take down Nebraska 6-1 in their final game at the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational Sunday.
In a quick turnaround from Saturday night’s win over No. 22 Louisiana, Herron and Delce dazzled in the circle to check Nebraska to a minute three hits across seven frames. Herron (3-0) obtained her third win of the season and second of the weekend as she banked the start and hurled four innings. Herron gave up one earned run on two hits and amassed five strikeouts. Delce picked up her first save of the season after tossing the game’s final three innings, limiting Nebraska to zero runs on one hit while ringing up four strikeouts.
Junior first baseman Cylie Halvorson had herself a day against the Cornhuskers. Hailing from Sioux Falls, S.D., Halvorson went 2-for-3 with a season high four RBIs. Reagan Johnson, Kristina Foreman, and Rylin Hedgecock each tallied a hit. (via Arkansas Communications)
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