Hawgs Illustrated

Take Control of Your Power.

World Series berth, the clear best team in the SEC. However, the season ended for the Razorbacks in heartbreak, one game shy of making the WCWS.

After Arkansas won the first of three games against Texas in the Fayetteville Super Regional, the Longhorns notched two victories to punch a ticket to softball’s ultimate stage in Oklahoma City, where they lost in the championship series to Oklahoma.

Following the eliminating loss, a choked up Deifel deflected credit for changing the program’s trajectory to the senior class, saying, “They did that.”

“She wanted that so desperately and badly for those young women who did such an incredible job laying the foundation and helped us build the program that we’re now enjoying,” Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek said. “I think that was a goal she had for those young women because she understands the special experience it is.

“She embodies what I think we try to embody as a department, that our focus is on the success of our student-athletes and their experience as student-athletes.”

Ninemire said she was proud of Deifel’s 2022 campaign.

“Last year she got so close,” Ninemire said. “You know, it’s just so exciting to watch her coach and see the growth as a person and as a (former) player.”

KB Sides transferred from Alabama to play for Deifel in 2022, her final year of eligibility, and became the program’s first SEC player of the year. Sides said while accolades were special, the biggest thing gained at Arkansas was Deifel’s mentorship.

“She brought me out of a place that I needed to be brought out of, and she did it with so much grace,” Sides said. “She changed my entire life for the better, and I miss her every single day.

“She truly is just a one-of-a-kind human and I’m so happy for her. She deserves every bit of recognition that she ever gets.”

The successful season earned Deifel a contract extension through 2027, with a yearly base pay increase to $350,000. The news was celebrated across Arkansas’ athletics department, including by football coach Sam Pittman, who can regularly be spotted inside Bogle Park on gamedays.

“Love it,” Pittman said in wake of the news. “She deserved it … When I was here the last time (as an assistant coach in 2015), it was worse than our program when I got back. Look what she’s done. It’s inspirational to all of us coaches, and she is the salt of the earth. She is a wonderful person, and I’m ecstatic for her and more importantly for the kids she coaches.”

On home gamedays, Deifel’s two young sons, Trip and Walt, can often be seen roaming the berm, hoping to catch balls sent past the wall. Once the game is over, Deifel typically rushes over to see her boys, usually greeting them with a full embrace.

“She just is an incredible role model for the young women of our program,” Yurachek said. “One, she walked in their shoes. She played softball at the highest level. She’s now a wife, a mother of two wonderful boys, and she’s showing how you can be a mom, be a wife, be a head softball coach at the highest level, and have success in doing that.

“And I just love the example she sets

I said, ‘You changed the mindset. You went and got some pitching. You taught them how to be tough.’ And then they started believing.

Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn

both on and off the field for the young women that go through our program.”

With the heartbreak of 2022 in the rearview mirror, Deifel reloaded with the nation’s top recruiting class and a slew of veterans returning. Her team began the 2023 season at No. 7 in the USA Today/ NFCA Top 25.

“She’s changing the entire culture of our program and how Arkansas softball is perceived across the country,” Yurachek said. “We are a nationally relevant softball program, and that obviously was not the case when she arrived eight years ago.

“She just changed the entire culture and has made this a very special softball program and a place that young women want to come and play.”

Deifel began the season on the brink of yet another accomplishment, seven games shy of becoming the program’s all-time wins leader.

In February, Deifel, 42, surpassed Carrie Dever-Boaz’s 244 wins from 1997- 2004 during the Razorbacks’ 7-6 victory over then-No. 22 Louisiana-Lafayette at the Clearwater Invitational. Her 245th win put her alone at the top.

Sides was among the former Razorbacks to quickly congratulate Deifel.

“The hardest part is not being around

the coaches anymore and not being around her,” Sides said. “Also not being around her family. I think that in itself says more than anything about the program that she runs. It’s not just about wins and losses, it’s about the people that you’re around. She is the main one that has put the program together. It starts from the top, and she’s done it.”

Upon the Razorbacks’ return home, Deifel was honored during a men’s basketball game against Georgia. Yurachek presented her with a jersey, sporting the number 245 on the back, paying homage to the record-setting win.

“It was a pretty cool moment – a cool few days,” Deifel said. “I’d be lying if I told you it was on my mind going into (the game). I knew that it was something that was out ahead of us. I think we needed seven wins. I was hoping we’d get seven on the year … It literally didn’t cross my mind until after the game. Linnie (Malkin) gave me this huge hug, and I was just like, ‘What are you doing?’ … Then all of a sudden I realized that it was this pretty exciting moment. It’s been fun to celebrate it, and celebrate it with my staff and celebrate it with our current players and all our players that have played here for us, who really got those wins. More importantly, I just feel like we’re just getting started. So it’s a really cool milestone and now we get to make history every time we win a game. It’ll be fun to see how far we can push that number.”

One person who believes she will not only earn many more victories down the road, but also foresees a confetti party at the WCWS in the future, is Deifel’s former coach.

“What she’s been able to do on the field so far is just outstanding,” Ninemire said. “You know, I think one day she will bring home a national championship. I hope that she has an outstanding season and that her dream of a national championship will come true sooner than later.”

All of a sudden I realized that it was this pretty exciting moment. It’s been fun to celebrate it. Courtney Deifel