The Pitching Staff is Back
Razorback Communications Press Release
Written by Jacob Pavilack
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The No. 21 Arkansas softball team opens its season playing five games at the Best on the Bayou Classic in Monroe, La. from Thursday, Feb. 11 through Saturday, Feb. 13.
The season opener will take place one day earlier than originally scheduled, as No. 21 Arkansas and No. 10 Oklahoma State now face off on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. The Razorbacks play two games on Friday, Feb. 12, taking on Lipscomb at 11 a.m. and Jacksonville State at 1:15 p.m. Arkansas closes the weekend playing another doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 13, rematching against Lipscomb at 11 a.m. before playing ULM at 1:15 p.m.
About the Razorbacks
All but one starter returns from the 2020 COVID-19 shortened campaign where the team finished 19-6 (1-2 SEC) and earned a No. 19 final ranking in the NFCA Coaches’ Poll. The Hogs hit .317 as a team, which ranked seventh in the SEC and 34th in the country. Posting an average of 6.16 runs per game, the offense placed sixth in the league and 33rd nationally. The team’s best win of the year was a 1-0 triumph at No. 9 Alabama in the SEC opener, Arkansas’ first win in Tuscaloosa since 2000. During non-conference play the team won 10 games in a row, the program’s second such streak in the last decade.
Arkansas returns all 156.0 innings pitched and 173 strikeouts from the shortened 2020 season. Autumn Storms (72.2 IP, 1.16 ERA), Jenna Bloom (43.2 IP, 3.21 ERA), Mary Haff (37.0 IP, 1.89 ERA) and Rylin Hedgecock (2.2 IP, 2.62 ERA) all come back from a staff that ranked 16th nationally in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.84) and 26th in earned run average (1.93). Haff (1.69) and Storms (2.07) are third and fifth respectively in school history for career ERA. Haff is also the program’s career leader with a .177 opponent batting average. Storms ranks third with 59 career wins and needs 14 wins to tie Heather Schlichtman (2001-04) for the all-time program lead at 73 victories.
Trio of Hogs Named Preseason All-SEC
Braxton Burnside, Hannah McEwen and Autumn Storms were named to the 14th annual Preseason All-SEC team. McEwen and Storms are on the team for the second consecutive year, while Burnside is making her first appearance. Alongside LSU (4) and Alabama (3), the Razorbacks are one of only three squads with three or more players appearing on the team.
Arkansas in the Polls
The Razorbacks begin the 2021 campaign ranked inside the top 25 in all four national polls. The ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll tabs Arkansas at No. 21 while both the D1softball.com and Softball America polls picked placed the Hogs at No. 16. Arkansas earned a No. 18 ranking in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches’ Poll and has been ranked inside the top 25 in 32 of the poll’s last 33 releases.
- During head coach Courtney Deifel’s tenure, Arkansas is 4-1 in season openers and have won its last four.
- The Razorbacks have opened the year against a top 25 team only once before, a 7-6 loss in nine innings against No. 10 Georgia in 2006.
- Last season, the Razorbacks hit 26 home runs and went 13-1 when hitting at least one long ball in a game. When the Hogs did not hit a homer, they were 6-5.
- Autumn Storms ranks inside the top 10 in the NCAA active career leaderboard for career starts (104 – T-3rd), pitching appearances (135 – T-5th) and innings pitched (598.7 – 6th).
No. 10 Oklahoma State – (7-7) – With the all-time series deadlocked, No. 21 Arkansas meets No. 10 Oklahoma State for the 15th time and first time when both programs are ranked. The Hogs won the last meeting, 7-6, in 2017 in Stillwater. Storms went 6.0 innings, starting the first five before re-entering for the seventh and allowed five hits, four runs, two earned runs and four walks with two strikeouts. Arkansas also leads 3-1 in neutral site games against the Cowgirls and last won 8-0 in Tulsa, Okla. in 2009. Then-No. 19 Oklahoma State edged Arkansas, 1-0, in the series only prior meeting involving a ranked team in 2011 in Stillwater. Arkansas is 24-61 all-time against the Big 12.
Lipscomb (1-0) – Arkansas defeated Lipscomb, 5-0, in the only prior meeting between the two schools on Feb. 9, 2019 in a neutral site game in Lake Charles, La. Inside the circle, Mary Haff fired a complete game shutout, allowing three hits with one hit batsman and eight strikeouts. Outfielder Ryan Jackson was 2-for-3 with a run scored. The Hogs are 4-2 all-time against the current alignment of the ASUN.
Jacksonville State (7-1) – The Razorbacks have won the series’ last three games and defeated the Gamecocks, 6-2, in the last meeting on March 24, 2015. Arkansas is 25-4 all-time against the Ohio Valley Conference.
ULM (11-3) – Meeting for the 15th time, Arkansas has won six of the last seven games including the last meeting, 9-3, in 2017. Storms is the only current Razorback to appear in the game, earning the decision out of the pen throwing 4.2 relief innings. She did not allow a run on two hits and three walks while striking out three. The Hogs are 22-10 all-time against the current Sun Belt Conference schools.