After a historic season of firsts that included the first home regional series and the first super regional appearance in program history, the Razorback softball team prepares to continue where it left off, making history.
Despite losing four seniors, the Hogs still have several big playmakers such as sophomore Hannah McEwen and sophomore pitcher Mary Haff, and have welcomed newcomers.
Freshman Maggie Hicks, a three-time state champion with the Sheridan Yellowjackets, is excited to be able to wear the Razorback red this year, accomplishing a goal of hers, she said.
“Being raised in Arkansas, I love the Hogs,” Hicks said. “As I got older and knew I wanted to play softball in college, I had my mind set on being a Razorback. It has been a dream of mine to play softball at Arkansas.”
In addition to the return of McEwen and Haff, sophomore catcher Kayla Green is looking forward to her second year, especially after the monumental 2018 season, she said.
“I’m really looking forward to our potential,” Green said. “This team has such great talent and I can’t wait for that to be shown on the field.”
Green had a .270 average and recorded 36 hits, 20 runs, six home runs and 26 RBIs. In addition to her offense, Green had 393 putouts.
Five seniors will end their time on the softball diamond this season: infielders Ashley Diaz, Haydi Bugarin, Katie Warrick and Sydney Benz and outfielder Carley Haizlip. Diaz and Bugarin were regularly in the starting lineup, with Diaz playing first and Bugarin at second. Diaz had 52 hits and six homers and Bugarin scored 28 runs and had 33 hits.
McEwen led the Razorbacks with a .339 average, 64 hits, 45 runs, 12 home runs and 57 RBIs and was Co-SEC Player of the Week and SEC Freshman of the Week.
Haff, as a starter, went 29-7 and threw only the seventh no-hitter in program history. After 249 strikeouts and allowing only 44 walks all season, she was named the SEC Freshman of the Week three times and was a part of the SEC All-Freshman and All-SEC Second Teams and was a top three finalist for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I Freshman of the Year. Haff will enter as one of three sophomores in the country to be part of the Preseason All-SEC Team.
Along with Hicks, Arkansas welcomes multiple freshman to the program. Although Valerie Ventura and Larissa Cesena will not see action because being redshirted, Sam Torres will bring top-level softball action from her California alma mater with a overall .483 average, 117 hits and a .557 slugging percentage. Taylor Green comes to Fayetteville after setting the all-time record for home runs and RBIs at her high school in Milton, Georgia.
For Green, she’s ready to see how much a freshman can change from being on campus for the first time to their debut on the college level, she said.
“I’m really excited to see Taylor [Greene] and Maggie [Hicks] play,” Green said. “They have really come a long way since stepping foot on campus and I know what they have in them to be great.”
Last season saw the Razorbacks finish 42-17 overall and 12-12 in the SEC. For regional play, the Hogs were selected as the No. 13 seed in the country, resulting in the first-ever regional in Fayetteville that included the DePaul Blue Demons, Wichita State Shockers and the Oklahoma State Cowgirls.
Arkansas swept all three of its opponents and had two shutout victories. After winning the regionals, the Razorbacks’ season ended after playing the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners in the super regionals in Norman; losing game one 7-2 and being shutout 9-0 in the second match.
When it comes to this season and all of the hype, Hicks knows that you can look back at the past but need to focus on what the future has, she said.
“We can’t get stuck on last season,” Hicks said. “We realize that we have to keep working hard and aiming to get better individually and as a team.”
The Razorback softball team’s 2019 season will begin Feb. 8 against the Campbell Camels in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The first home game is scheduled for Feb. 22 at 4:45 p.m against Southeast Missouri State. All Razorback softball games are free and open to the public.