FAYETTEVILLE – The Arkansas Razorbacks closed their greatest women’s softball season as two more notches on the belt of their sport’s most winning coach.
After winning a piece of the first SEC title in their history sharing the crown 19-5 in league games matching Florida and then winning their 4-team double-elimination Fayetteville Regional unscathed last week over Manhattan, South Dakota State and Stanford, Coach Courtney Deifel’s nationally sixth-seeded Razorbacks followed their 10-4 Fayetteville Super Regional loss Friday to 11th-seeded Arizona Wildcats losing 4-1 Saturday at a second consecutive day sold-out Bogle Park.
By sweeping 2 of the best 2 out of 3 Super Regional, the 11th-seeded Wildcats of Coach Mike Candrea, the eight-time College World Series coach with the most wins 1,674-431-2 of any in his sport, advance to the College World Series in Oklahoma City.
The Razorbacks conclude their greatest season, 43-11 but obviously not feeling great off their final games.
Junior first baseman Danielle Gibson summed their emotions.
“ It’s heartbreaking,” Gibson said. “Kind of hard to remember all the greats when you lose like this and pour your own hearts on the field. But this season will be remembered for a long time and changed Arkansas softball.”
Deifel concurred after giving the Wildcats and Candrea their due.
“ I first want to congratulate Arizona and just give a ton of credit to Coach Candrea,” Deifel said. “They are always well prepared and play the game the right way. With our team I’m crushed for them. This is a group that had a lot of firsts and will be remembered for a lot of things they did but beyond that they are my favorite group that I ever coached.”
Senior Autumn Storms, the Razorbacks No. 2 pitcher but given the ball Saturday after the Wildcats hit hard SEC Pitcher of the Year Mary Haff, went down fighting.
Staked to a 1-0 lead on Braxton Burnside’s fifth-inning RBI double, Storms no-hit the Wildcats through four before Alyssa Palomino’s 2-run home run in the Arizona fifth followed Sharlize Palacios’s single.
Carlie Scupin’s single tallied two Arizona insurance runs in the sixth which Storms, coming of an ankle injury last week, completed with a 5-hitter.
“I’m really proud how hard Autumn fought,” Deifel said. “She had good stuff today and had that look in her eye and really competed.”