FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Things couldn't have broken better for the Razorback softball team this past weekend.
In addition to getting a regional win over Oregon, Arkansas not only avoided a 14-hour Saturday of spending quality time soaked in cold rain leading into minimal sleep before the championship game, but also avoided having to play No. 13 seed Washington.
The Huskies are the only Top 25 team to give the Razorbacks trouble this season, beating Arkansas twice handily in early February games in Mexico.
Not only did coach Courtney Deifel's team avoid having to exercise their Washington demons, they now get to host the Texas Longhorns.
Bogle Park typically draws a young, rowdy crowd that matches the energy of this team from start to finish.
The berm is packed, young children are screaming for the Hogs at the top of their lungs near the crowd mic, and the fans literally have to be run away in the midst of pouring rain and lightning because they have a special spot that they must be in for Arkansas to win.
It's the perfect atmosphere for this team.
What Texas will bring is the fringe, older crowd.
The 60+ crowd that just can't let a rivalry that wasn't an actual rivalry that ended literally 30 years ago go away.
Hopefully, if this is the case, their misguided hatred of the Longhorns will be enough to get them to join in with the rest of the crowd in actually being fanatics and not softball's version of the "get off my lawn" folks who sit grumpily and complain about other fans standing up and supporting their team.
The Longhorns are a team with a chip on their shoulder.
The people of Texas just can't comprehend why the school could be in the NCAA tournament as an unseeded team with the second most losses of any Top 25 team and not be a regional host.
There's also that little issue of Taylor Ellsworth leaving Austin for greener pastures and a top-notch season while catching for two of the best pitchers in all of college softball.
Throw in a former Oklahoma Sooner in Audrie LaValley and there's plenty of fodder for Texas to fill the bulletin board with to tack on top of typical competitive spirit.
While the Longhorns fell off the map a little from an overall wins standpoint for about half a decade in the mid-2010's, coach Mike White has led a resurgence at UT-Austin.
Texas is in its third straight super regional, having gone 1-4 in its last two at Alabama and Oklahoma State.
Respect for the Longhorns as a team, not as a long lost rival, is what will drive this Arkansas team.
Anyone who has watched them for even a few minutes sees that this is about what the Razorbacks can do and not about the team in the other dugout.
Having covered literally every sport from high school to the pros for 25 years, I can say I have never seen a team like this Arkansas team.
They are Willie Mays Hayes from "Major League" off the field and "Ivan Drago" from Rocky on it.
While they are a loose, fun-loving family off the field, never has a team been more cold and unstoppable on the field. Just watch Mary Haff and Chanise Delce pitch for a minute.
They barely blink, much less show emotion. They just pound strike after strike after strike, check their wristbands, and do it again.
They always seem to have the perfect pitch in the perfect place at the perfect time at all times.
Delce was told she might need a drop ball to get her to peak performance, and by the end of that very day she had it perfectly programmed into her arsenal.
She and Haff are as close to an unhittable pitching machine as humans can possibly be.
When the Arkansas hitters come to the plate, there is no stress in their eyes or tension in their muscles. They are in perfect form waiting to bring to the game what they are programmed to bring.
It's a perfect balance of speed, power, aggression and focus. There is no break in the line-up.
Watch the meltdown that happens when runners end up on second and third and an opposing coach has to decide whether to walk the next hitter.
There's not a spot in the line-up where loading the bases to get to the next batter provides a feeling of hope.
Intentionally walk K.B. Sides? She will score from first as soon as Hannah McEwen and Taylor Ellsworth rip line drives to left-center.
Dare to pitch to Danielle Gibson, Lennie Malkin or Kacie Hoffman?
You might want to send a coach to the parking lot to snatch up that grand slam ball and the solo home run that's going to follow so you two can maybe trade them in for a free drink at the concession stand 1990s YMCA style.
Throw to Hannah Gammill and the whole cycle is going to start up again and continue until you're back to Sides. It's a no-win for coaches.
Even when Arkansas brings in pinch hitters and runners, the excellence of execution is still there.
Think you're getting a break because Rylin Hedgecock is coming off the bench late in the game? Here's three RBI to rip your heart out while you still thought there might be a chance.
In the world of tennis, the best training a player can do is taking on the wall. It's literally about 36' x 15' of concrete or plywood that athletes compete against for as long as they can.
However, no matter what they do, the wall is always going to win.
The best tennis player in the world will eventually not get to a shot or the bounce is going to come off an odd angle or harder than expected and send the athlete hopeless flailing as the wall wins again.
Right now, Arkansas is that wall.
Teams are throwing everything they can at the Razorbacks, yet the home runs keep coming, the pitches keep zipping by, line drives keep falling, and the rally squirrels and Powerade cup creations keep bringing this team supernatural energy.
Texas can bring all the bluster and chipped shoulders it wants. Once the game starts, the cold, lifeless eyes of a natural killer will settle in with this Razorback team.
If that happens, what unfolds be an Apollo story, not a Rocky vengeance arc.
No motivation from a fake rivalry needed.
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