Arkansas softball focused for Mexico trip

FAYETTEVILLE — Hannah Gammill had earned a spot in the starting lineup for the University of Arkansas softball team last season as a freshman, but she didn’t get to make the first road trip because of covid-19 issues.

With a trip to sunny Mexico on the line, the Razorbacks third baseman is taking absolutely no chances this time around.

“Yeah I’m like, ‘I’m just not gonna be hangin’ out with anyone,” trip/” Gammill said. “I wanna be by myself. It’s on my mind all the time.”

Gammill was dinged last year through contact tracing when a friend tested positive right before the Razorbacks headed to Louisiana for the season opener. She missed the first three games.

“I’ll make sure that won’t happen again,” Gammill added.

Others agreed that they are being extra careful to make sure they are on the plane to Mexico in a week as the Razorbacks take part in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. They are looking forward to 80-degree temperatures, which are more conducive to softball than the ice storm forecast for Northwest Arkansas this week.

Arkansas will open the season against Rutgers on Feb. 10. That’s the first of five games in three days for the Razorbacks in Mexico. The Razorbacks went 3-1 at the same event in 2019.

The Razorbacks, who earned a share of their first SEC regular-season title a year ago, were picked to finish third in the preseason coaches poll released this week. But they have been ranked eighth in the country in the preseason polls by D1 Softball and USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association. They were picked ninth by Softball.

Arkansas will face Washington twice in Mexico. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 nationally in preseason polls.

Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel said all players and staff must test negative for international travel, which is a little change in protocols. Players or staff who are vaccinated and boosted are not currently tested regularly unless they have symptoms, Deifel said.

The team is more than 80% vaccinated, Deifel said.

Deifel said they tested on Tuesday and will test again on Sunday before leaving. Travelers must also have a negative covid-19 test within 24 hours to return to the states.

Details like having a plan in place just in case someone tests positive and has to remain in Mexico is just one of many things Deifel and the school’s administration have poured over for more than a year.

“It’s just making sure we’ve thought of everything,” Deifel said. “We’ve had meetings with our doctors, making sure everyone feels like it’s an OK thing to do. Then just making sure we have a plan for everything that could happen.”

Pitcher Mary Haff was one of the Razorbacks who made the trip in 2019. She’s not sure exactly what the itinerary will look like yet, but she’s excited to go back.

“We’re crossing our fingers,” Haff said. “We still planning on going on a little boat excursion that we went on before. Maybe less going into the general public.”

It will be teammate Taylor Ellsworth’s third softball trip to Puerto Vallarta. The graduate transfer from Texas, who will likely start behind the plate, recalls walking to the field from their hotel.

Deifel said she wants to make sure the players get some of those special experiences, while making sure they stay safe. She said one item that they had to eliminate this time was a softball clinic with local youngsters.

“That’s the one thing we feel like might be a little, too, risky,” Deifel said. “We’re bummed about that because that was literally one of our favorite things last time. Those are the type of things as we work through the itinerary of, ‘OK, what’s safe to do and what’s not in our best interest?’

“A trip like this better have some fun. It is a business trip but that’s the thing this team has always done is when it’s time they take it very seriously.”

The Razorbacks’ home opener is scheduled for Feb. 17 against Wichita State.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.