Back in 2019 when Hunter Yurachek decided that Arkansas could start scheduling in state opponents you took a look at all the schools that the Razorbacks would start playing in various sports. The first one that brought the most attention to the fans was Arkansas State in football since the Red Wolves in the past was having a successful program during the downfall years of Arkansas football program. Little Rock baseball defeated Arkansas in the very first meeting 17-7 but the flare and the excitement has never really been there. Arkansas and Little Rock have had some really exciting games in both men’s and women’s basketball but the series between Arkansas and UCA in softball has brought everything to the table that a blooming rivalry can bring.
The attendance has been exceptional from the start and the most recent game, where UCA bested Arkansas for the second time this season, was the second highest attendance for any sporting event this year (1st Home football game). Arkansas leads the overall series 4-2 but with the rise of UCA’s softball program and the status of the Razorbacks program this could be the best thing for both teams and for the game of softball in the state.
With the level of recruiting Arkansas has been able to achieve landing the top class for 2023 that has opened the doors for teams like UCA, Arkansas Tech, and SAU to load up on the states top talent, which has exploded over the last 5 years and the emergence of the Razorbacks squad to the top of the SEC has had a lot to do with that. UCA has been able to capitalize in Coach Parsons second year as the head coach with the likes of Tremere Harris, Kylie Griffin, and Jenna Wildeman. All highly touted Arkansas kids.
UCA started raising some eyebrows last season when they split a 2 game series with LSU winning the first game 3-2 and losing a close game 2-1 the next day. Arkansas won both meetings last year making it three games in a row where the outcome was two runs or less. The Bears went on to finish the season 37-21 (17-7 ASUN) with some big D-1 wins over Kansas, Virginia, Mississippi State, and Georgia Tech. Meanwhile Arkansas went on to win the SEC regular season and the tournament and hosting their second straight Super Regional falling one game short of OKC.
Coming into this season we all knew UCA was going to play Arkansas tough and the program was on the rise. Coach Deifel had previously stated that she wouldn’t be surprised if UCA took a game from the Razorbacks and thats exactly what happend. UCA out dueled the Razorbacks 2-1 in Fayetteville giving the Bears their first win over Arkansas and set up a huge rematch in Conway. With the momentum shifting towards UCA most knew it would be another slugfest but no one could have seen a 4-0 shutout win over Arkansas and potentially launching them into the latest top 25 rankings.
Arkansas has a young but very talented team this year and is in a rebuilding phase after losing a lot of senior leadership and the first wave that Coach Deifel had at Arkansas. They signed the top recruiting class and is showing no signs of slowing down. The Arkansas athletic program hasn’t had an in state program that could could compete with them on a regular basis being the only major university. You look at all the other schools in the SEC outside of Missouri that have an in state rival. With the game of softball and the talent in Arkansas growing the timing for this series couldn’t have been any more perfect and if this series between Arkansas and UCA keeps on the path its going this could be the rivalry we have all been waiting for. Growing the game of softball and the interest in women’s sports in general is a good thing for both teams.