After a tough weekend on the road, the No. 20 Arkansas softball team (29-8, 6-6) will return to Fayetteville to face the No. 15 Alabama Crimson Tide (25-11, 6-6) at Bogle Park on April 13-15.
The Razorbacks are coming off a heartbreaking series loss to the No. 11 South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia. After losing 2-1 in game one, the Hogs responded with a 4-0 shutout in the second game. In the final game of the series, Arkansas led game three, 2-0, but the Gamecocks scored six runs in the sixth inning to win the game, 6-2, and with it, the series. Fortunately for the Hogs, they are dominant at home this season with a 19-1 record at Bogle.
As for the Crimson Tide, they are also coming off a 2-1 series loss to No. 4 Florida Gators at home. The Gators beat Alabama, 6-1, in the opener. Alabama responded in game two, winning 3-2, but fell short of a huge upset in the final matchup. Alabama is 7-5 when playing in enemy territory.
The Hogs are led by three offensive juggernauts: freshman outfielder Hannah McEwen, senior infielder Autumn Buczek and junior infielder Ashley Diaz. McEwen, who leads the team with a .353 average, has 41 hits and six home runs. Against the Gamecocks, McEwen went 3-for-11 from the plate. Buczek has a .326 average along with 42 hits. She went 1-for-12 this past weekend. Diaz has 34 hits and six homers, as well, along with her .330 batting average. In her only game against South Carolina, she went 1-for-3.
One thing the Razorbacks have going for them is their defense and pitching, which is led by freshman pitcher Mary Haff and sophomore pitcher Autumn Storms. Combined, both pitchers have struck out 243 batters this season. In Columbia, Haff had seven strikeouts and Storms had four. Haff and Storms combined to give up 16 hits and eight runs in the last series.
Alabama shouldn’t be taken lightly this year. The Crimson Tide’s top batter is freshman outfielder Kaylee Tow. Tow’s batting average is .378, and she has 37 hits and eight home runs. Her eighth homer came during the 3-2 loss in game three against the Gators. She went 2-for-7 at the plate in the series. Sophomore Bailey Hemphill has a .326 average, 30 hits and eight homers. Last weekend, Hemphill went 2-for-6 with a double and a triple. With a .321 average and 21 hits, sophomore outfielder Elissa Brown went 3-for-11 against Florida, scoring two runs.
Alabama senior pitcher Alexis Osorio has a knack for strikeouts, notching 138 strikeouts this season and has only given up 48 hits and 27 runs. Against Florida, she struck out 18 Gators. Her backup, senior Courtney Gettins, is not too shabby either with 44 strikeouts. Two of them came this past weekend.
The Razorbacks are lead by third-year coach Courtney Deifel. The Crimson Tide are led by Patrick Murphy, who is in his 20th year with the program.
The first pitch of game one will be 6 p.m. April 13. Game two will begin at 11 a.m. April 14. The finale will start at 1 p.m. April 15. Games one and three will air live on SEC Network Plus and game two will be on ESPNU.