Arkansas Eliminated, Diaz Leaves Lasting Legacy Behind
STILLWATER, Okla. – As the Arkansas Razorbacks season comes to a close in the Stillwater Regional after losing to the BYU Cougars, 6-3, the Hogs bid farewell to one of its most impactful players in program history.
Senior infielder Ashley Diaz became a vital part of the resurgence of Arkansas softball as the team made history in multiple ways.
Before the hiring of head coach Courtney Deifel in 2015, the program fell into being constantly at the bottom of the SEC and not reaching the NCAA Tournament, the last time in 2013. Although a new coach was brought in, Diaz knew to stick with it to the end.
“Everything was so new I didn't really know what to feel but I knew I was sticking with Arkansas regardless of the coach and I made a great decision,” Diaz said. “Coach Deifel has always been there for me throughout my four years and I'm honored to have played for her.”
Despite a hideous 17-39 record in her true freshman season, Diaz proved from the very beginning that she was going to be an emerging leader of a new era for Arkansas. She led the team as the only starter to bat over .300 in the season and led with 53 hits, 41 RBIs and 12 home runs. The South El Monte native was named to the NFCA All-South Region Second Team and was a part of the National Freshman of the Year Top 25 watch list.
Afterwards, Deifel knew that Diaz was going to be the team’s ace-in-the-hole.
“She really started to get it early in her freshman year, then just hit the ground running," Deifel said. “She has really been an anchor for us defensive. Offensively, she is aggressively patient, and she is someone who can step in the box and do some damage every time.”
Over the next three years, Diaz continued to be very productive with batting over .300 in her junior and senior season and making big hits. Her sophomore season saw the Razorbacks return to post-season play with an appearance in Norman and the following year saw the first ever Fayetteville Regional and the first trip to the Super Regionals in history for Arkansas. As a senior, she finished .372 with 64 hits, 10 doubles, 10 homers and 48 RBIs, made the game-winning grand slam to take the series over No. 25 South Carolina and being named second-team All-South Region again.
Sophomore Danielle Gibson saw that Diaz was someone who you wanting to support because of how she always put her best effort out on the diamond.
“Ashley has been so awesome to watch,” Gibson said. “She leaves it all out on the field every game. Her presence on the field makes you want to be better. I cherish these last 5 months with her and watching her help make history in cardinal red”
Now that Diaz has put on the cardinal red uniform on for the last time, she has secured a spot in the history book. She is the all-time leader for sac flies in school history with 10, fourth in home runs with 31, seventh in hits with 214, second in RBIs with 139 and third in putouts with 1,380.
For Deifel, Diaz has been one of the most productive players that she has coached.
It has been an absolute pleasure coaching Ashley these past four years,” Deifel said. “She had an immediate impact when she stepped foot and campus and has continued to positively impact this program each and every year. She has been such a steady presence for this team on and off the field. She will be greatly missed.”
Although this is the end of her career, Diaz said that this program is near to her heart and thanks everyone for the support over the past four years.
“It's been great to call Arkansas my second home,” Diaz said. “I've enjoyed my four years here and I'm sad it is coming to an end but I will always be a Razorback at heart. Thank you to Razorback nation for supporting the program it means so much to the team. You won't find a better place than Fayetteville! Woo Pig.”
Cowgirls and Golden Hurricanes Go Back And Forth
In a thriller that saw 23 total runs scored, the Cowgirls squeaked out a 13-10 win over Tulsa in the winner’s match from yesterday’s opening day.
OSU (41-14) got going early and scored in all but one inning. The Cowgirls had built up a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the third inning.
Tulsa’s true freshman pitcher Chenise Delce got the Golden Hurricanes (36-19) going and took the lead 5-4. While OSU did tie it back up, TU regained the lead after two batters were walked and a throwing error by the Cowgirls.
Oklahoma State would not be denied and scored on a single homer to left field by sophomore catcher Raquel Dominguez and a grand slam by freshman center fielder Chyenne Factor.
While Tulsa would keep battling and put up two more runs, OSU put the game to rest with a three-run home run by senior designated player Samantha Show.
Golden Hurricanes Rebound, Eliminate Cougars
Despite falling to Oklahoma State earlier in the day in a back-and-forth match, the Golden Hurricanes avoided a trip home with a 6-4 victory over BYU (30-26) in the second knockout game of the day.
In her final game in the Cougar uniform, senior catcher Libby Sugg got BYU up-and-running with a RBI single before the first out was recorded.
Déjà vu hit Tulsa (37-19) and the Hurricanes scored another five runs and built the lead with Delce, Sarah Briers and Julia Hollingsworth collecting RBIs.
BYU second basemen Erin Miklus went 2-for-3 at the plate and was vital to the Cougars’ comeback in the fifth and sixth innings. She hit an RBI single, followed by a walk with bases loaded which led to right fielder Taylei Williams scoring on a passed ball.
The Golden Hurricanes sealed the game with a bases-loaded walk by senior catcher Rylie Spell in the sixth.