The Oklahoma Sooners will face a familiar opponent this weekend in their Super Regional as the Arkansas Razorbacks pay a visit. A team on the rise in the S.E.C., the Hogs are making their first ever appearance in a Super Regional a year after coming to the Norman Regional.
After trailing Arkansas 3-2 in the elimination game of last year’s regional, Oklahoma came back to send them packing by a final score of 5-3. The Sooners went on to win their second consecutive Women’s College World Series and the Razorbacks went home to get ready for a deeper run in 2018.
Now that the individual courses of the two teams has brought them up against each other once more we reached out to Eric Harris of Arkansas Fight to fill us in on this year’s squad.
HS: Let’s start by talking about the S.E.C. in general. The conference typically has a strong showing at the Women’s College World Series but do you feel that it was truly deep enough in 2018 to warrant so many teams in the tournament?
EH: 12 of the 13 made the regional final, and nine of the 16 teams left are from the conference so I think they’ve proven themselves well. If anyone wasn’t deserving it was Missouri who didn’t look very impressive in y’all’s regional. Week in and week out conference play is a dog fight so you won’t find me arguing for less teams.
HS: Arkansas is making their first ever Super Regional appearance. What have been some of the key factors towards the rise of the softball program.
EH: Courtney Deifel has done an amazing job turning the program around in a short period of time. The program had long been the doormat of the conference and was coming off their second straight 1-23 year in conference play just two years ago. Her coaching and recruiting has brought the program to heights that it hasn’t seen before.
HS: The Sooners attack from the plate with a strong combination of both power and placement. How deep is the Arkansas pitching staff, and what should we expect from the Razorbacks in the circle?
EH: Arkansas goes with two arms in the circle. Freshman Mary Haff and Sophomore Autumn Storms. Haff had an outstanding regional, throwing 11 2/3 innings and just giving up five hits. They both do a good job of getting swings and misses and keeping the opponents batting averages low and off base. Both of their K/BB ratio’s are close to 5:1
HS: How would you describe the Razorbacks’ approach from the plate. Are they slap hitters, power hitters, or a combination?
EH: Definitely the focus is playing for contact. They had the fewest strikeouts in the SEC and were in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories. They also are very selective about when they try and steal a base (19/21 on the season). Arkansas will try to play station to station, which may be difficult to do against such strong pitching, but it’s gotten the Hogs this far.
HS: Arkansas advances to the Women’s College World Series if…
EH: Arkansas HAS to take advantage of any openings the Sooners might give them. If there’s an error, the Hogs need to capitalize and get a crooked number on the board. They need to play sound defense and keep the bases as empty as possible.
HS: Oklahoma advances to the Women’s College World Series if…
EH: They play the game they’re capable of. The record is as impressive as it is for a reason. Arkansas has already made history for their program and is playing with house money at this point.