No. 10 Arkansas softball jumps back into the fire
No. 10 Arkansas lost a hard-fought three-game series last weekend to No. 3 Alabama, but Razorbacks softball Coach Courtney Deifel said that’s only strengthened their resolve.
The University of Arkansas (33-5, 13-2 SEC) remains atop the SEC standings and travel to No. 20 Georgia this weekend. The three-game series begins today at 5 p.m. Central in Athens.
Arkansas struggled to hit with runners in scoring position in the two close losses to the Crimson Tide. Deifel said her team is not at all satisfied with close losses.
“I think that they can’t wait to get back out on the field,” Deifel said. “I think it’s only made them more hungry coming out of the weekend. I think they don’t necessarily feel that Alabama was the better team. They got us twice but I think they feel like we were a hit away and gave ourselves a chance.
“We just have to figure out how to be better in those moments. I think we were all mad. We were disappointed. It’s a good place to be when we’re thinking about where our program’s at. I like where we’re at. They didn’t hang their heads. They just said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
Junior Linnie Malkin, who’s second on the team with 13 home runs, agreed.
“I think we’re right where we need to be,” Malkin said.
“If anything, we’re more prepared ready this to take weekend our, and I guess, we’re built-up frustrations from this [past] weekend out.”
She said the team will continue to play with a chip on its shoulder.
“I don’t think we’ll ever lose that this year,” Malkin said. “We’ve been on a really good high and been consistent with that and not really letting that overpower us too much. We know we’re good and we know we can beat anyone they put in front of us.”
Senior Braxton Burnside leads an Arkansas offense that ranks second in the nation in home runs with 72. She’s hit 21 herself, which also ranks second in the nation, to set a program record. Georgia has actually out-homered the Razorbacks 19-17 in SEC play despite playing fewer games.
The Bulldogs (26-8, 6-6) may have more momentum than the Razorbacks after their big series win at No. 12 Kentucky.
The Bulldogs were runruled 11-3 in the opener and were down 8-1 in the fifth in the second game, but they rallied for a dramatic 9-8 win. They never trailed in Monday’s third game — a 5-2 Georgia win.
Arkansas hasn’t had much luck against Georgia lately. The Bulldogs have won 9 of the last 11 meetings since the Razorbacks took three consecutive in Fayetteville in 2013.
Deifel said pitcher Mary Haff (18-3) is feeling good heading into the weekend, after dealing with some shoulder soreness over the past 2-3 weeks. She took the loss on Friday, allowing five earned runs over 32/3 innings.
“She’s feeling as good as she’s felt all year, so that’s exciting news,” Deifel said.
The Razorbacks have nine SEC game remaining on their schedule — all against teams ranked in the top 25.