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Arkansas familiar with field

Few surprises await in softball regional

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Photographs by Jason Ivester

Arkansas infielder Madison Yannetti throws the ball during a game against Nebraska on Friday, March 3, 2017, at Bogle Park in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks' draw for their first appearance in the NCAA softball tournament in four years is a case of familiarity breeding contempt.

The Razorbacks (31-22) will play Tulsa (39-15) at 11:30 a.m. today at the Norman (Okla.) Regional hosted by national No. 10 seed Oklahoma at Marita Hynes Field. The teams split a pair of games this season, with Tulsa winning 8-0 in five innings at home March 15 and the Razorbacks taking a 3-1 victory behind freshman Caroline Hedgcock's four-hitter at home April 11.

ARKANSAS SOFTBALL

vs. TULSA

WHEN 11:30 a.m. today

WHAT NCAA Norman (Okla.) Regional

WHERE Marita Hynes Field

RECORDS Arkansas 31-22; Tulsa 39-15

SERIES Tulsa leads 17-14

LAST MEETING Arkansas won 3-1 in Fayetteville on April 11

PROBABLE PITCHERS Arkansas RHP Autumn Storms (16-14, 2.05 ERA); Emily Watson RHP (28-4, 0.96)

TV SEC Network

SHORT HOPS

Arkansas has a 2-22 record vs. Oklahoma, including eight consecutive losses. The Razorbacks are 3-3 against North Dakota State. … Oklahoma is scheduled to host North Dakota State at 1:30 p.m. (ESPN 3) today. … The same four teams played in the 2009 NCAA Norman Regional, with North Dakota State emerging as the upset winner. … Saturday’s schedule calls for the winner’s bracket game at 1:30 p.m., followed by the loser’s bracket game at 4 p.m., and an elimination game at 6:30 p.m. … The regional final games are scheduled at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. (if necessary).

In the other regional pairing, Oklahoma (50-8), the winner of six consecutive Big 12 championships, hosts North Dakota State (28-31). The Razorbacks lost 4-2 against the Sooners on April 5 in Norman, and split two games with North Dakota State early last season. Ironically, The same four teams competed in the 2009 NCAA Norman Regional, with North Dakota State emerging as the upset winner.

"It's kind of interesting at this time of year to know so much about two of your three opponents, and then we played North Dakota State last year," said Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel, who has the Razorbacks in the NCAAs in her second season.

"You look at Tulsa and our two games we had against them were both kind of lopsided. When we played them the first time we didn't play our best game and they played very well. When we played them the second time we played a much better game and they didn't play their best."

Arkansas outfielder Nicole Schroeder said the advance knowledge will come in handy this weekend.

"We know who we're going to get and we know exactly what it's going to be," Schroeder said. "We've played at OU, so we know the field and it's perfect."

Said Arkansas shortstop A.J. Belans, a second-team All-SEC selection, "I think it gives us a sense of comfortability because we're familiar with our opponents. That doesn't mean to count them out at all. They're both great teams. It just gives us a sense of familiarity in this situation."

The Razorbacks hit an SEC-high 57 home runs this season. Schroeder, a fifth-year senior, took over the team's single-season home run record with her 16th in a 4-1 loss to Alabama at the SEC Tournament last week.

"It was cool to do it at the SEC Tournament," Schroeder said.

"The long ball has been a big deal," Belans said. "I wouldn't say we live and die on the long ball, but it'll definitely help in some situations."

The Arkansas pitching staff is led by freshman Autumn Storms (16-15, 2.14 ERA), who logged 166 2/3 innings. Hedgcock (3-4, 2.86) pitched five innings of three-hit relief, allowing an unearned run in the earlier loss at Oklahoma. Grace Moll (8-3, 3.71) has thrown 71 2/3 innings.

The Razorbacks have six regulars hitting .285 or better: Autumn Russell (.335, 1 HR, 11 RBI), Schroeder (.333, 16, 48), Belans (.298, 8, 33), Ashley Diaz (.292, 3, 21) and Tori Cooper (.287, 10, 38) as well as Loren Krzysko (.353), who has made 17 starts.

Tulsa is led by ace Emily Watson (28-4, 0.96 ERA), who has 329 strikeouts and 46 walks in 217 2/3 innings.

The Golden Hurricane are led at the plate by Maggie Withee (.376, 0, 17), Julia Hollingsworth (.373, 5, 28) and Tori Stafford (.343, 4, 19).

Sports on 05/19/2017

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