Arkansas nearly sweeps SEC softball awards, 7 named All-SEC
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FAYETTEVILLE — On the heels of its first ever outright regular-season SEC title, Arkansas nearly swept the conference’s annual softball awards, which were announced Friday morning.
Head coach Courtney Deifel was named the SEC Coach of the Year, while KB Sides and Chenise Delce earned SEC Player and Pitcher of the Year accolades, respectively, and seven total players received All-SEC recognition.
Delce, Sides, Hannah Gammill, Danielle Gibson, Mary Half and Linnie Malkin were first-team selections, while Hannah McEwen made the second team. Gibson and Gammill also landed on the SEC All-Defensive Team first first and third base, respectively.
The Razorbacks’ six first-team selections are the most in school history and were by far the most in the league this year, with no other team having more than three representatives among the 21 players. The only award that didn’t go to an Arkansas player was SEC Freshman of the Year, which went to Auburn’s Bri Ellis.
It is the second straight year Deifel has been named the league’s top coach, as she also earned the award after Arkansas shared the regular-season title in 2021. The Razorbacks went 19-5 in SEC play both seasons, a dramatic turnaround from the back-to-back 1-23 campaigns the year before she arrived and in her first season.
Sides is perhaps a surprising selection as SEC Player of the Year, as Gibson was the conference’s lone representative among 10 finalists for USA Softball’s National Player of the Year, but she has certainly put up incredible numbers in her lone season in Fayetteville.
Through Thursday’s win over Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament, the Alabama transfer is hitting .401/.513/.739 with 12 home runs, 38 RBIs and a team-high 39 walks. She is also 28 of 32 on stolen base attempts and needs to swipe five more bags to tie the UA single-season record set by Dana Gulick in 1999.
Gibson has an incredible slash line of .438/.486/.850 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. She’s on pace to shatter the UA single-season record for batting average and would also have the single-season RBI record if Malkin — who’s hitting .408/.496/.950 — didn’t have 63 RBIs.
With one against the Rebels on Thursday, Malkin now has 20 home runs this season and 48 in her career, breaking the UA record previously held by Devon Wallace (2012-15). Gibson is right behind her with 46 career home runs.
Gammill is hitting .396/.529/.866 with 18 home runs and 47 RBIs, while McEwen — the UA leader in career batting average coming into the season — is hitting .294/.375/.438 with four home runs and 30 RBIs.
In the circle, Dulce — a transfer from Tulsa — has taken over the role of staff ace, compiling a 15-2 record and 2.39 ERA with 149 strikeouts and only 33 walks in 114 innings. Her 9.15 strikeouts per seven innings ranks second on the UA single-season list.
Half had been the ace, earning SEC co-Pitcher of the Year honors last year, but was still really good for the Razorbacks as a super senior. She is 18-4 with a 2.79 ERA, 140 strikeouts and only 32 walks in 133 innings this season.
In Thursday’s win over Ole Miss, she became the second pitcher in UA history to surpass 800 career strikeouts and tied the school record with her 26th career shutout.
Ranked No. 4 nationally in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll, Arkansas — which plays Florida in the SEC Tournament semifinals at 4:30 p.m. CT Friday — is widely projected to be a top-eight national seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Razorbacks are vying for their first ever trip to the Women’s College World Series.