Courtney Deifel became the fourth head coach in program history when she was hired June 11, 2015. In four seasons at Arkansas, she has orchestrated the Razorbacks’ return to postseason play, capping the 2019 campaign by earning a spot in the SEC Tournament and selection to the NCAA Tournament.
Deifel led the Razorbacks to their third consecutive post-season appearance, becoming the only coach in program history to do so. With Deifel at the helm, Arkansas closed out the 2019 season, 38-20 and 12-12 in SEC play. It marks the first time since 1999-00 that the Razorbacks finished the season .500 or better in conference play in back-to-back seasons.The Razorbacks garnered their highest in-season ranking during weeks one and two, coming in at 12th and 11th in the NFCA and ESPN polls respectively.
Arkansas saw two players named to the All-SEC teams, pitcher Autumn Storms was named second team and outfielder Hannah McEwen garnered first-team recognition. McEwen’s first-team selection was the first for Arkansas since 2012 and only the second in program history. In year four under Coach Deifel, the Razorbacks also earned two SEC Player of the Week awards, three SEC Pitcher of the Week awards, and one USA Softball Co-Player of the Week. A record five Razorbacks were named to the NFCA All-Region teams, with Storms garnering the first, first-team selection of her career. Storms went on to be named NFCA Second Team All-American as a pitcher, the first Razorback since 2010.
Year four with Coach Deifel and the Razorback staff saw growth in all aspects as the game, including a team .288 batting average, which ranks second-highest in the record books. In fact, four of the top seven team batting averages in program history come from the Deifel-era.
In her third season, Arkansas wrapped up the year with a 42-17 record, the third most wins in program history; and the highest number since 2000. The team earned the program’s first-ever NCAA national seed and hosted the Fayetteville Regional on its way to securing a spot in this weekend’s Norman Super Regional. For their efforts, the coaching staff earned 2018 NFCA Division I South Region Staff of the Year. The team also finished 17th in the final NCAA RPI.
Two seasons removed from a one-win conference tally, the Razorbacks posted a 12-12 record in SEC and earned a No. 7 seed into the SEC Tournament where the team made a run to the semifinals for the first time since 2001. The Razorbacks finished the season with a 27-2 record on their home field, established a new program record for home wins in a single season. Part of Arkansas’ home triumphs included the program’s first three-game sweep of a ranked team (No. 20 Mississippi State) and its first-ever series win over Alabama.
In her second season in Fayetteville, Deifel guided Arkansas to a 31-24 record which marked a 17-win improvement from the previous season, marking the largest increase in the country among Power 5 programs. The Razorbacks also tallied seven wins in SEC play, equaling the combined total from the previous three seasons. In recognition of the team’s performance, Deifel was named the 2017 D1SoftballNews Coach of the Year.
From year one to two under Deifel, Arkansas’ pitching staff lowered its combined ERA by more than four runs (6.98 to 2.82) and added more than 20 points to its batting average (.260 to .284). The Razorbacks also led the SEC and tied for 17th in the NCAA with 59 home runs. During the year, Arkansas earned its first national ranking since 2013 when it was slotted at No. 24 in the March 7 release ESPN/USA Softball poll.
Individually, Deifel saw two Razorbacks earn NFCA All-South Region accolades with Nicole Schroeder and Autumn Storms earning second-team and third-team honors, respectively. Storms was also named to the SEC All-Freshman Team while A.J. Belans was voted to the All-SEC Second Team. Schroeder went on to be drafted by the Akron Racers as the program’s second NPF selection.
Deifel’s first win over a ranked team at Arkansas came during the 2016 season when the Razorbacks knocked off No. 23 Nebraska, 11-10, during the Easton Tournament in Fullerton, Calif.; the team added five ranked wins in 2017. The 2016 campaign also saw newcomer Ashley Diaz make an immediate impact as a member of the NFCA All-South Region Second Team. She also appeared on the NFCA National Freshman of the Year Top 25 Watch List.
During her playing and coaching careers prior to coming to Arkansas, Deifel advanced to 11 NCAA Tournaments including a four-year run to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) as an All-American catcher at California that was highlighted by winning the 2002 national title. The Bears also finished second (2003), fifth (2001) and seventh (2000) at the WCWS over her four-year run. Her postseason successes also featured a pair of Super Regionals as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma and five NCAA Regionals as an assistant at Maryland and Louisville.
As a first-year head coach, Deifel ushered in a culture of change for Maryland in 2015. Along with the program’s 16-game improvement from the previous season, the Terrapins’ offense show tremendous growth. Maryland finished 27th in the NCAA with 6.28 runs per game behind 339 runs scored, up more than 150 runs from 2014. Deifel also led her team to a .309 batting average, a 40-point jump from 2014 which also ranked 57th in the NCAA.
Individually, Deifel guided three players to all-conference accolades and a pair of NFCA all-region honors. Lindsey Schmeister was an All-Big Ten first team performer while Shannon Bustillos and Erin Pronobis landed on the All-Big Ten second team. Probonis and Corey Schwartz were also named to the NFCA All-Midwest Region Third Team. Under Deifel’s watch, the trio helped Maryland to single-season school records in doubles, home runs, RBI and walks.
Prior to taking the head job at Maryland, Deifel spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Louisville in which she helped the Cardinals to four NCAA appearances, the 2014 American Athletic Conference Tournament title and an overall record of 176-60 (.746). Louisville averaged 44 wins in that time with a program-record 55 wins in 2012. Her student-athletes at Louisville racked up four NFCA All-America certificates and 29 all-conference selections.
Deifel played in 285 games in her career at California, missing just three games behind the plate over her four years. As a four-year starter behind the plate, she was a 2003 All-American, two-time All-Pac 10 selection and caught seven no-hitters. She is still the program’s career leader with 1,969 putouts.
Aside from her accomplishments in collegiate softball, Deifel had a successful professional career following her days at Cal. In 2004, she helped the NY/NJ Juggernaut to the National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) league title. Deifel also spent three years with LeoPalac21 in Japan that resulted in a runner-up showing and a pair of third-place finishes.
Deifel and husband Joe are the parents to two sons, Trip and Walt. The family resides in Fayetteville.