BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas softball fans will get the opportunity to watch all five of the No. 6 Razorback games in the Rebels Kickoff in Las Vegas this weekend as well as many other contests this season.
Arkansas, 48-11 last season with a second consecutive SEC Championship and a Super Regional berth, will open the 2023 season with Weber State Friday at 4 p.m. CST and then play host UNLV at 9 p.m.
Those games as well as Arkansas’ Saturday games against Weber State (11 a.m.) and Southern Utah (1:30 p.m.) and a Sunday 11 a.m. battle against Baylor will all be streamed at https://unlvrebels.com/feature/2023RebelKickoff
The non-UNLV game will not have play-by-play announcers.
“I’m really just excited it is game week and we get to play somebody else,” Razorback head coach Courtney Deifel said. “I am really looking forward to it. But what to expect this weekend? I really don’t know. I wish that I knew.
“I do know that this team is ready to go. I know that they are going to battle, but I think we are still looking at what our competitive identity is going to be.
“I wish I could give you a full list of what to expect, but you can expect a Razorback team that is going to play hard and put it all out there.”
It was announced Wednesday that 15 Arkansas games this season will will be televised by the ESPN family of networks.
The Razorbacks are loaded with five pitching options in All-American Chenise Delce, Callie Turner, Robyn Herron, Nikki McGaffin and Hannah Camenzind.
“All five are looking really good,” Deifel said. “I don’t know exactly who the two and three is, but I can say that Callie Turner will get the ball at some point on Friday, if not game one.
“Robyn Herron is looking really great. Nicki McGaffin is looking as good as I have ever seen and Hannah Camenzind can just cut just cut people up. She is super crafty.
“I am really, really excited about where all five are and you are going to see all five.”
Deifel has a combination of vets, transfers and freshmen with three All-Americans in Delce, catcher/third baseman Hannah Gammill and Duke transfer second basman Kristina Foreman.
“The mixture has been good,” Deifel said. “I think we have gone the up and downs that fall will throw at you and I think we have come out of that really, really nicely.
“I think our freshmen are gamers. They have played at a high level and they know how to win. It is a really good blend with everyone returning and the ones new had transferred in.
“It is a nice blend – veteran, experience, green because they also keep things loose. They just do a really good job and are a really, really fun group on and off the field.”
Arkansas will get five games in this weekend and five more next weekend the TaxAct Invitational in Clearwater, Fla., with contests against No. 4 Florida State, No. 19 Duke, Indiana, No. 24 Louisiana and Nebraska.
The Arkansas-Florida State game on Saturday will be on ESPNU at 11 a.m while the rest of the event’s games will be available on ESPN+ or the SEC Network.
“It is really good and should be really good unless you get out and don’t play that well,” Deifel said. “…It gives us time to work through things, time to see a lot of combinations. More than anything we just get to see where we are at and then we get to make the adjustments moving forward.”
Arkansas is now consider one of the nation’s elite programs after being one of the worst before Deiflel took over on June 11, 2015.
“It doesn’t change the focus so much because I feel like we have been transitioning into this role and we have gotten a little bit more of that each year,” Deifel said. “So I think they expect that. That is why they have come here and continue to try and push that bar forward.
“It’s just not making it anything bigger than it is. We have earned expectations. You earn those. They are not given to you. It is more of a privilege and they have come here to do that.”
Photo by John D. James