FAYETTEVILLE — Courtney Deifel’s Arkansas softball team has some key additions coming to help replace a group of talented seniors.
In the early signing period for instance, Deifel inked nine players and they were highly thought of nationally. Extra Inning Softball ranks the Razorbacks as the top class in the nation. The group includes twins from Nebraska, a pair of players from Louisiana and also one recruit from Colorado, New York, Texas, Florida and California.
The pitchers are Fort Collins (Colo.) Fossil Ridge’s Nikki McGaffin (R-R) and Tampa (Fla.) Sickles’ Robyn Herron (R-L). The twins from Valley (Neb.) Skutt Catholic’s utility player Hannah (L-L) and infielder Lauren Camenzind (R-R). Other infielders are Horseheads (N.Y.) Corning-Painted Post’s Atalyia Rijo (L-R) and Chino Hills (Calif.) Orange Lutheran’s Kiki Estrada (L-R). A utility player from Mittie (La.) Fairview is Rylee Cloud (R-R). The outfielders are Lake Charles (La.) Barbe’s Nyjah Fontenot (L-R) and Karnes City (Texas) Falls City’s Reagan Johnson (L-R).
Herron is the No. 14 recruit on the Extra Inning Softball Top 100. Herron had an 0.35 ERA in 79.1 innings and struck 170 hitters pitching for Sickles High School. Deifel is pleased to have her on the mound for the Razorbacks.
“Robyn is a left-handed pitcher with elite spin and break,” Deifel said. “She has the ability to throw four pitches in any count and has incredible command and presence on the mound. Robyn will fit seamlessly into our system and we look forward to seeing her compete as a Razorback.”
McGaffie is twice the Class 5A Player of the Year in Colorado and also won the same honor from USA Today for the entire state. She was approaching 800 strikeouts in four years. Deifel likes what McGaffie brings to her program.
“Nikki loves to compete anytime, anywhere, and in anything,” Deifel said. “She is a right-handed pitcher that can keep offenses off-balance with her mix of speeds and spins. Nikki is persistent with her work ethic and preparation which will serve her well in the SEC.”
Hannah Camenzind is the No. 12 player in the nation with Extra Inning Softball. She hit 44 home runs with 144 RBIs in her career at Skutt Catholic. As a senior, she hit .648.
“Hannah is an intense competitor whose versatility is one of her biggest assets,” Deifel said. “She is crafty in the circle, has a dynamic bat, and will compete from day one. We could not see our 2022 class without Hannah and Lauren in it.”
Her twin, Lauren, is the No. 22 player in Top 100 with Extra Inning Softball. She had a .489 batting average with 11 doubles, 15 home runs, 39 RBIs and 57 runs and registered a 1.733 OPS for a 33-0 SkyHawks team.
“Lauren is an explosive athlete that has superb range on defense,” Deifel said. “One of the attributes that makes her one of the top players in the country is her consistency in all aspects of the game. Lauren and Hannah have made a name for themselves, and we are really excited to bring ‘the twins’ to Fayetteville.”
Rijo is just the second player from New York to participate in softball at Arkansas. She has had an amazing career. As an eighth grader playing in high school she hit .426. She helped lead her school to a state championship in 2019. She is rated the No. 10 recruit in the Top 100 by Extra Inning Softball.
“Atalyia is a middle infielder with some of the best hands in the game,” Deifel said. “She is a lefty hitter that swings a big bat. Atalyia has a game savviness and competitiveness that make her one of the best players in the 2022 class.”
Estrada is another infielder. She is rated the No. 13 recruit in the Top 100 by Extra Inning Softball. This past summer, Estrada posted a .439 batting average and .504 on base percentage with 43 hits, nine doubles, 10 home runs and 34 RBIs for So Cal Athletics.
“One of the top players in the country, Kiki has been a die-hard Razorback since day one,” Deifel said. “She is an explosive offensive threat from the left side and will be a staple in the middle of our order. We expect her to be one of the most feared hitters in the SEC from the moment she steps on campus.”
Cloud is a utility player and rated No. 24 nationally in the Top 100 with Extra Inning Softball. She has good power and hit .635 as an eighth grader playing varsity ball and also stole 43 bases.
“Rylee is a big-hitting infielder from Louisiana,” Cloud said. “She is known to be one of the feistiest players in the 2022 class. Rylee is extremely athletic and versatile and what separates her most is that she is a relentless competitor that would run through a wall for her team.”
Fontenot is a talented outfielder. Extra Inning Softball rates her the No. 25 recruit in the Top 100. MaxPreps named her a first-team All-America pick. She hit 11 home runs, 62 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in 2021.
“Nyjah is a high-energy player with a passion to not only work hard but compete at a high level,” Deifel said. “She is a true triple threat at the plate and has great instincts on the basepaths. We can’t wait to get her in Razorback Red.”
Another outfielder is Johnson, who is rated the No. 9 player in Extra Inning Softball’s 2022 Extra Elite 100 and has stolen 109 bases in her high school career without being caught once. Johnson is someone who should be able to make an instant impact at Arkansas.
“A standout from Texas, Reagan brings a new level of speed to the Razorback Program,” Deifel said. “She is one of the most dynamic players in the country both offensively and defensively. Reagan is a player that adds a layer to our offense and will be one of the top baserunning threats in the SEC.”
Arkansas went 48-11 this season and won the SEC regular season title without losing a single series, won the SEC Tournament and then took the Fayetteville Regional. With the talent Deifel has coming in it appears the program is on a very solid foundation.