FAYETTEVILLE -- Sophomore Kayla Green has realized that playing catcher for the University of Arkansas softball team comes with an added sense of scrutiny.
She learned so quickly.
vs. South Carolina
WHEN 7 p.m.
WHERE Bogle Park, Fayetteville
RECORDS No. 16 South Carolina (20-5, 0-3 SEC); No. 17 Arkansas (19-6, 1-2)
TODAY South Carolina vs. Arkansas, 6 p.m.
SATURDAY South Carolina vs. Arkansas, 1 p.m.
SUNDAY South Carolina vs. Arkansas, 1 p.m.
• SHORT HOPS Arkansas sophomore pitcher Mary Haff has a career record of 40-11 with 341 strikeouts. … Razorbacks senior Ashley Diaz went 2 for 4 against Tulsa on Wednesday for the 45th multihit game of her career. … Sydney Parr leads the Razorbacks with three stolen bases in three attempts.
— Steve Andrews
The Temecula, Calif., native started all but one game behind the plate as a freshman, and she is again an integral part of the Razorbacks, offensively and defensively.
"I was not expecting to start as a freshman, so when I got the opportunity to start in my first year, I was just really excited and just wanted to take advantage of that," Green said. "Now this year, I am trying to continue working hard to keep up with those expectations I had as a freshman."
Green will be behind the plate when the Razorbacks (19-6, 1-2 SEC) open a three-game series with South Carolina (20-5, 0-3) tonight at 6 at Bogle Park.
She also takes on the added pressure of playing for a coach who used to be one of the best backstops in college softball.
"It's awesome, because she sees a lot of things that I don't see," Green said about Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel. "So it's really great having her feedback and helping me to become a more complete player. It's nice knowing I can trust her, and she knows what she is talking about."
Deifel was an All-American catcher for California in 2003, and a four-year starter who led the Golden Bears to the national championship in 2002 and the national runner-up in 2003.
"I have really high expectations for that position, so anytime she slips a little, she hears about it," Deifel said with a grin. "But I know how much that position can impact a game, so I expect that from her and all of our catchers."
Green, who began playing catcher at the age of 12, sported a team-high .991 fielding percentage last season and threw out 15 of 43 base runners. She already has thrown out 5 of 8 runners this season.
"Kayla does a really good job and has a really good rapport with our pitchers," Deifel said. "And defensively, she has been a big part of us shutting down the opponent's run game, and that can really affect a team's offensive game plan."
She also has become a powerful part of the Razorbacks' lineup, already swatting four home runs and knocking in 17. Her grand slam Feb. 28 propelled Arkansas to an 8-2 victory over Northwestern (La.) State.
"Sometimes you have to take a catcher with one or the other, either good offense or good defense, but Kayla has the ability to do both," Deifel said. "To her credit, she worked her butt off the fall of her freshman year, especially over the break. And that's where she separated herself from everyone else. She came back confident and ready to take that spot."
Green has fallen in love with Fayetteville after departing Southern California, but she has the comfort of playing with familiar faces on the field. She was a high school teammate of Razorbacks pitcher Autumn Storms, and she grew up playing with sophomore Danielle Gibson and freshman Sam Torres.
"It's amazing having those girls here, since I've been playing with them since I was little," Green said. "Just having familiar faces around makes being away from home so much easier."
Green and Storms developed a sisterlike relationship during high school, and they continue are each other's support system on and off the field.
"We have grown up together -- fought like sisters, loved each other like sisters -- and when we are on the field together, it's like a crazy bond that we have," Green said. "And that has been built over the years. It really is something special."
"She thought I was weird at first, then started hanging out with me," Storms said with a laugh. "Now, she is the sister I've never had. We are always there for each other, supporting each other when we need it."
After throwing out two Ole Miss base runners a week ago in the opening SEC series, Green will be tasked with trying to tame a run-happy South Carolina team this weekend. The Gamecocks have stolen 29 bases in 32 attempts.
"It's always a challenge, especially in the SEC," Green said. "But it's something that I continue to work on every day, so I just need to stay focused and stay the course."
Sports on 03/15/2019
Print Headline: Green welcomes backstop feedback